A number of years ago I worked for one of the UK’s top IT companies — a global player. We were meeting to discuss a major bid, and the room was filled with people who didn’t meet often — the most senior managers from a number of divisions. There were very few middle tier managers in the room, almost exclusively senior managers who were accustomed to being ‘top dog’. The atmosphere in that room was almost tangible. I wanted to bottle the air and analyze it later — I had never experienced such naked power, and it dawned on me in that moment that we are almost blind to the status signals we transmit.
That meeting was an epiphany, and led to me becoming a hypnotherapist with a particular interest in researching confidence and self esteem. Because what I discovered in that company, and in many companies I have assisted subsequently, was the startling fact that an individual’s self-esteem is a reliable indicator of how far they will progress in the organization. Some technical geniuses can buck the trend, but they are very rare. For most of us, our ability to influence decision-making is precisely limited by our self esteem.
Why does this matter? It matters because the person with the greatest self esteem is not necessarily the right person to be making the key decisions. We have all suffered foolish bosses. Perhaps we have all wondered how on earth they reached such positions of seniority, given their obvious shortcomings. If you will excuse the bluntness: that incompetent boss is there because you haven’t yet been sufficiently convincing. Your performance is perhaps the least important aspect on which you will be judged; what matters is your status in the group.
Status is a fascinating topic. We communicate our status constantly, primarily through body language and voice tone. This communication is unconscious; it is felt rather than known or consciously controlled. The way in which you behave reflects your self perception of status. This is either accepted or challenged by the people around you. A dominant person (relative to you) will cause you to back off from a challenge. A submissive person (again, relative to your own status) will make it easy for you to project your will.
And so we come to the nub. We should all seek to develop our self esteem, not because of the personal benefits which will flow from this personal growth — career enhancement, improved love life etc — but because we have a duty to ourselves and our communities. Until and unless we step up to the plate, our communities will remain vulnerable to an almost random process of leader selection. So ask yourself: ‘Am I allowing less talented people to make decisions on my behalf?’ If the answer is ‘yes’, then perhaps you should consider stepping up to the plate yourself. The first step in this process is building up your own self confidence and self esteem. Don’t be bashful; there’s nothing selfish about developing your own qualities. A community with a rich selection of potential leaders is, in my view, a secure community.