As you become more successful, you will gain in power and influence. You will gain in admirers. People will go out of their way to get on your good side. They will become more deferential. Yet success can also bring about your own downfall. Take care not to live in a bubble. Many have self destructed at the top. You may start to think that the rules don’t apply to you, or that checks and balances are for others. And that is exactly how the collapse of Enron happened.
To prevent this from happening, keep the following in mind:
Be skeptical of your own genius
Nobody bats 100 all the time, and neither do you
Surround yourself with equally skeptical people
Don’t hire only sychophants. Value skeptics who double check what you do. Demand push back when there is a lapse in judgement.
Keep the friends who remind you that you’re human
The higher up you go, the less you’ll be able to have normal conversations with your peers at work. Talking about anything emotional such as mom being ill will come off as weakness. Keep friends around who you can still talk to about the everyday problems in life to remind you of your own humanity.
Have some sympathy for your victims
Executives have to do difficult things such as layoffs and cost cutting. It is important to have empathy, as these decisions will be impacting real people.
Develop interests other than golf in your leisure time
Having hobbies outside of work will remind you that the world is bigger than your corporate domain.
Remember who feeds your family
It is your customers and shareholders. Do not lose sight of this. This is who you are accountable to.
Build goodwill outside of your kingdom
Win the approval of the community, and people will think better of the company you represent. Build a goodwill reservoir that you can tap in times of drought.
- Treat the press respectfully. Work with the media instead of against it. Nixon was hostile with the media, and they unleased their pent up rage after Watergate. They are still kicking him around to this day, which is why nobody remembers that Nixon established the Environment Protection Agency, or any of his other accomplishments. It is better to to give the media access to you so you have some chance to influence the story. It doesn’t mean you must grant every interview or talk to obviously hostile reporters.
- Work very hard to make your organization successful. The public is much more forgiving of winners. Steinbrenner was hated as the owner of the Yankees. In the 90s the Yankees started to win, and it improved his reputation. The flip side is that if you are on the losing side, no one will make any allowances for you.
- Give back. Give to the community. Whether it is time, influence, or money, make sure your organization is helping the community. If not people will want you to fail. Mid scandal is not the time to do charity work, as everyone will be skeptical. Either you have a good reputation at that point or you don’t. Give where you can make the most difference. Give locally – cultivate goodwill in your backyard. Give personally using your time and money.