I don’t know about you, but I’ve seen a lot of behavior that features just how seriously some people take themselves. One reason is that I’m around a lot of lawyers and, worse still, judges. You would not be far off to think of the latter as synonymous with self-importance.
Since I’ve been in a position to think about it, I’ve thought that judicial appointments (like many other positional achievements) cause personality changes resulting in self-important behavior. But reading Jeffrey Pfeffer’s recent book (Power – Why Some People Have it – and Others Don’t) has put an interesting twist on this chicken and egg problem.
Briefly, empirical research supports the notion that the chief characteristic of the powerful is their desire for power for its own sake – not being liked, making more money, being “in a position” to do good, or anything else. On other words, power is an end goal in and of itself. Surprisingly, there is empirical support for the notion that these types, perhaps counter-intuitively, make pretty good leaders.
It got me wondering whether a foundational quality of the quest for power is, in fact, self-importance. Makes sense to me, anyway. For starters, it’s well known that a “winning psychology” involves “acting the part” (I once heard this described as “fake it until you make it”).
Further, I know a few individuals who are clearly on a fast track to (positional) success. One of them often leaves me with the impression that the world around him is nothing more than a tedious inconvenience in the way of getting what he wants. He takes it as an enormous personal affront when event the tiniest thing gets in the way of how he’s got things planned out. For some time I’ve wondered if this transparent self-importance might get in the way of his goals. Now I’m starting to think it might well be his passport to where he wants to go.