Saturday, January 19, 2013

The Path to Power and Success

One of the best ways to improve yourself is to emulate those who are more powerful and more successful.

Thus we are all interested in what Berkeley psychologists just identified as a good habit that  powerful and successful people share. To the best of my knowledge it does not show up on Steven Covey’s list of seven habits of highly effective people.

It is: thick skin, that is, insensitivity to mild insults.

If you have chosen to follow the conventional wisdom and are working to enhance your sensitivity, you are on the wrong path.

Thus, people in positions of power and authority are quick to recover from insults. They are so secure that they do not feel rejected by a mild slight. They do not sulk away or produce a grand drama. They reach out and try to reconnect.

So, if you want to succeed, get over yourself.

Science Daily reports:

A UC Berkeley study has found that people in authority positions -- whether at home or in the workplace -- are quicker to recover from mild rejection, and will seek out social bonding opportunities even if they've been rebuffed.

"Powerful people appear to be better at dealing with the slings and arrows of social life, they're more buffered from the negative feelings that rejection typically elicits," said Maya Kuehn, a doctoral student in psychology at UC Berkeley and lead author of the study. 

Note well: powerful people are quicker to recover from “mild rejection.” They do not take it personally and do not consider it a sign that they have been consigned to social oblivion. The study does not explain what they do when faced with severe rejection: one suspects that they are not so quick to ignore it.

Most mild insults are inadvertent and unintentional. If you get so offended that you strike out in anger you will have transformed the slight into a grand drama, thereby diminishing yourself, your power and your authority.

If it should happen that you do not have the power and authority that you feel is your due, developing this habit can show that you are ready for it. 

Unflappable poise and confidence tells everyone that you are or should be in charge.


David Foster said...

a)This is one reason why a lot of involvement in SALES roles (even if not in a formal sales position) is very helpful for the development of leadership skills.

b)However, the kind of "self-esteem building" that is too often practiced today acts very effectively to create thinner skins, and hence unfits many people both for sales roles and for leadership positions.

David Foster said...

In his little book Generals and Generalship, Field Marshal Lord Wavell commented on the British practice of testing military equipment by dropping it off a tower and then burying it in the mud for a few day...and continued:

"Now the mind of the general in war is buried, not merely for 48 hours but for days and weeks, in the mud and sand of unreliable information and uncertain factors, and may at any time receive, from an unsuspected move of the enemy, an unforseen accident, or a treacherous turn in the weather, a bump equivalent to a drop of at least a hundred feet on to something hard. Delicate mechanism is of little use in war; and this applies to the mind of the commander as well as his body; to the spirit of an army as well as to the weapons and instruments with which it is equipped."

Anonymous said...

So very true!!
This happens to me every so often (If it happens too often, you might consider whether or not you are cut out for the job :-)
--Just happened last week, and I had to shake it off in one hour flat, present the most confident self for the executives to see, get their approval on a major launch! ...Shook it off, and Presented, and Launched!
One important aspect is to break it down from the person throwing the punch, to "what is in the punch." (So I can address the issue). -Address the issue and move on...
That brings me to the other important point. MOVE ON. Don't hold a grudge or attempt to get back at that person. Separate the punch from the person. And move on. In my recent case, that person apologized to me, I told him it is not 100% behind us, and that will be IT...
Just a couple pointers from an exec...
(Because sometimes gender is brought up here, I will add that I don't think this issues is gender-specific, either. I am female,and I would give the same advice to my male or female mentees...)

Stuart Schneiderman said...

Thanks, Anon, for a great example of how an executive puts this advice into practice... it is important to note that it is not gender specific.

Thanks also to David, for his contributions. I agree entirely with the importance of working in sales to develop the kind of social skills and character traits needed in an executive.

Indian Divorcee said...

"If you have chosen to follow the conventional wisdom and are working to enhance your sensitivity, you are on the wrong path."

- Actually sensitivity training is not to make oneself more sensitive to one's own self, but to make us more sensitive to others.

"Thus, people in positions of power and authority are quick to recover from insults."

- What's so great about positions of power and authority that we should strive to be in them?

"So, if you want to succeed, get over yourself."

- Again, why do you equate "success" with "power and authority" over other human beings?