There can be a fine line between self-absorption and self-belief. And powerful people naturally tend to tread it.
I was recently reminded of this after reading a study showing that powerful people report being more inspired by themselves than others.
We can chalk this up to a number of positive attributes of successful people—such as self-motivation and reflection. Or we can take the other view that their egos are steering the ship.
It’s likely some fragile combination of these things and others that allow people to succeed at the highest levels. But I do wonder about this study’s implications on how powerful people interact with their colleagues. If they are inspired by themselves rather than others, are they practicing the hugely important act of deeply listening to the people they’ve been appointed to lead?
This listening isn’t just about being respectful and kind, though that’s clearly important. It’s also good business. Innovations come from across the spectrum of jobs, and when people close themselves off to hearing new ideas, they run the risk of a sea of lost opportunities.
I try to keep this in mind in my own role, because it’s easy enough for people at any level to fall into the trap of their own thoughts. But the truth is, I don’t relate to how the survey’s respondents answered. The people I work with inspire me constantly, and they do so because our relationships are built on trust, respect and a shared purpose to help improve the health of the world. For this, I am tremendously grateful.