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Tuesday, November 07, 2020

Status and its Effects

Recently, I came across an interesting comment in an article by a correspondent of the British Sunday Newspaper, “The Observer.” The article was called "We all suffer when greed is the creed". Here is the specific part that caught my eye
I quizzed one of the more thoughtful former FTSE CEOs recently who had secured an incredible pension deal as part of his golden goodbye (which he could not hope to spend in old age) on why he had done it. His answer was telling. “Of course I won't need it nor can spend it,” he replied, “but I needed to show the market that I was valued as highly as everyone else.”
I wonder how many other leaders are acting the way they do because they want “the market” (and their peers) to value them as highly (or more so) than those around them? Maybe some of the myopic emphasis on short-term profits and constantly driving up the share price has as much to do with establishing status as it has with financial gain.

Status and recognition are powerful incentives—at least as powerful as mere greed. And in a society where money has become the measure of success and public regard (look what top sports personalities and Hollywood stars earn), it is probably inevitable that ambitious people will follow their own “league table” of earnings as a proxy measure for their value compared to others around them.

Ambitious people have always wanted to stand out from the crowd. It’s how they choose to do that which makes the difference.
In itself, such behavior is probably harmless, if ethically somewhat shabby. But when such people start to allow their decisions and judgments to be distorted by their lust for recognition, even to the point where they may damage their businesses in pursuit of personal standing, it becomes more serious. I wonder how many management decisions each day are driven primarily by a wish to gain recognition and status? I suspect the number is very high. Ambitious people have always wanted to stand out from the crowd. It’s how they choose to do that which makes the difference. As the writer of the same article says:
In the long run, companies that are the playthings of their owners do not prosper because great companies, paradoxically, are about common purpose, shared endeavour and a fair distribution of rewards, not grossly enriching the owner or those at the very top. This is not a flat earth position. Of course directors should be paid more and entrepreneurs should get rich—the issue is to what extent.
Lust for status is like just about any other kind of lust. After a while, normal levels of stimulation no longer produce much of a “buzz,” and the person needs to go to ever greater extremes to obtain sufficient satisfaction for their craving. In time, this drives them beyond the bounds of acceptable conduct into some rather dark areas of human behavior.

It probably behooves each of us to ask ourselves, from time to time, whether our own wish for recognition and acceptance (plus a little greater prominence than others have) is tempting us to warp our judgment and decisions in favor what we think may push us a little further into the limelight. Some leaders seem to ignore all the fuss, even though they gain more recognition and praise than others. Others are clearly obsessed with their public image. Those that we revere most are often the ones who prefer to see their people, or their cause, in the spotlight, and do not seek it purely for themselves.

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2 Comments:

JKB said...

A far more corrupting influence results from inaction to correct a problem because the action might result in an injury to opinion if the problem is publicly named. Much will be done in the name of seeking accolades but such actions do not compare to the measures some take to avoid embarrassment. Once you seek to deny the reality of the problem, increasingly bizarre steps are taken to maintain the fantasy.

This is far more diabolical in that many guard against seeking undeserved attention but fall easily into the trap of reputation protection.

8:41 PM  
Carmine Coyote said...

Thanks for your perceptive comment, JKB. You are quite right.

Keep reading, my friend.

8:54 AM  

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