Corporate success is as much about relationships and managing the emotions of others as it is about hard work, attention to detail, persistence and execution.
The Power Climb Rules are designed to help you master the psychological aspect of climbing the corporate ladder. Based on Robert Greene’s The 48 Laws of Power, this series will attempt to give you tools for navigating and mastering the emotional side of corporate success … both yours and of those around you.
Robert Greene’s first law of Power : NEVER OUTSHINE THE MASTER
We’ve all heard this before – “Your goal is to make your manager more successful. When you make her life easier, career success comes automatically.”
Equally important, is to avoid bruising your boss’s ego by making yourself look better than them. You’re smart, talented and maybe even better at the job than your boss. But don’t let them see that. Avoid attracting attention to yourself at even the tiniest expense of your boss. What they need to see and feel is that you’re there for their benefit, not yours.
Everyone has insecurities. When you display your talents and start attracting attention, you naturally stir up all kinds of resentment, envy and other manifestations of insecurity. A boss who gets angry at your mistakes will forgive them and move on but when a person’s ego is challenged or bruised, he will not forgive.
Here’s an example from Robert Green’s book:
Nicolas Fouquet was French king Louis XIV’s finance minister. His intelligence and cleverness made him indispensable to the king. But he lost everything because he once threw a most spectacular party in honor of the king. He wanted to demonstrate his loyalty by spending an insane amount of money in tribute to the king. He also wanted to gently remind the king of his indispensability showing off his deep political connections and social popularity.
Instead, Louis XIV, who was vain and insecure, felt that Nicolas was flaunting his wealth and power. It also seemed to the king that his own subjects and friends were more charmed by Nicolas than the king himself. Jealousy ensued.
The next day, Nicolas Fouquet was arrested on trumped up charged of stealing from the country’s treasury. He was found guilty and spent the last twenty years of his life in solitary confinement at the most isolated prison in France.
Don’t fool yourself into thinking that much has changed since the days of Louis XIV. Those who achieve high standing in life are like kings and queens. They want to feel secure in their positions and superior to those around them in intelligence, wit and charm. You become a threat as soon as you challenge that notion, even if inadvertently.
A more contemporary example is the story of Sarah. Sarah was an operations manager at a large company. Over time, she had built a reputable team that set the bar for high performance. The team was close-knit and greatly respected Sarah as a leader and boss.
Then her company merged with another and Sarah was layered under Amy, a senior manager from the other company. It became quickly apparent that in addition to having a loyal team, Sarah was just better at the job than Amy. Senior leaders, who kept bypassing Amy and going directly to Sarah with issues, showered her with praise.
A couple of months later, Sarah was called into the HR office and fired.
Her firing had nothing to do with her performance. In fact, she had received the highest ratings in her latest employee reviews. She was fired because her greatness highlighted Amy’s shortfalls and flared her insecurities.
Amy realized that she couldn’t match Sarah’s knowledge and work ethic. She also just couldn’t build the same rapport with the team that Sarah had. Her only course of action was to remove Sarah from the competition. Sarah was promptly replaced with someone less intelligent, less attractive and ultimately, less threatening.
Always make those above you feel comfortably superior. Make your [leaders] appear more brilliant than they are and you will attain the heights of power.
– Robert Greene
By making your manager look good in front of others, you strengthen his position which can only help your own career. It doesn’t take more than following two simple strategies.
First, be good at your job and at anticipating his needs. I’m serious here. Being good at your job is a fundamental requirement. Then get to know your manager and become familiar with his goals. Make it a priority to understand the goals, numbers, projects, and other deliverables he is accountable for so you can support them as much as possible.
Second, occasionally stroke that ego. This doesn’t mean that you need to be a brown nosing, suck-up. You just need to sprinkle bits and pieces of emotional boosts from time to time.
Look for and shower her with minor compliments from time to time especially regarding how she’s doing in her role.
Let him … no … give him credit for your work and ideas. Not all. Some. If you have ideas that are better and more creative than your boss, figure out a way to talk to him about it first and let him take the credit for their success. Make it clear that your idea was merely an echo of his idea. Who doesn’t love the limelight?
Make her appear more intelligent than you. Take every chance to seek advice and guidance. Act naive once in a while. Make it seem that you need her expertise. Even if you know the solution, ask for help. Boss’s love feeling needed and giving advise. Seeing themselves as your mentor is a natural ego booster.
Robert Greene says:
It is not a weakness to disguise your strengths if in the end they lead to power. By letting others outshine you, your remain in control, instead of being a victim of their insecurity. If you can make your [managers and leaders] shine even more in the eyes of others, then you are a godsend and you will be instantly promoted.
Why does this work?
Because as your boss, who’s already at a higher position than you, gets promoted, will naturally look to surround herself with the person(s) that helped them get there i.e. you!