It is rare to find any person who would willingly deny to himself the temptation to seek centre stage. To remain in the spotlight is a human failing. This innate human emotion stems from an unmanageable ego. The egotistical creates conditions where the environment is made to remain in encirclement of the personality. French Historian Fernand Braudel refers to this desire as, ‘surface disturbances’ and ‘crests of foam’. These pursuits are short lived. All leaders/ managers have ego, some have it so inflated that they become a burdensome lot, for the followers; others have it in measured quantum, which allows them to carry a balanced head on their shoulders.
Fame magnifies the personality beyond original recognition. All fame hence is dangerous: good bringeth envy; bad, only, shame. Fame to infamy is the shortest distance, leaders often traverse. Fame gives managers some sort of celebrity status within the team/organisation. It lends possibilities of access to preferential treatment, and hence it is the most ardently hidden wish and desire of all to be famous. Nobody feels ashamed to express and indicate their human need to have a 1000 watt spotlight upon them. It is because fame is expected to bring associated benefits of social accessibility, validation and to some degree adoration, too.
An egotistical manager/leader, when he/she is denied attention by the working environment, starts to move along the axis of ego; from egotistical to egoistic from egocentric to egomaniac, and then to self pity. The arrival at the fag end of the spectrum of the ego axis, the leader tends to become delusional, suicidal and lands ultimately into the dungeons of self pity.
Emily Dickson, wrote, ‘Fame is a fickle food upon a shifting plate’. Fame has connotations of glory, glitz, glamour and public recognition -- it inherently has appeal of visibility and status.
To seek fame is not a disease of the mind. The quest can actually be the best serving motivational tool for achieving greater success. The only proviso to this human need is that it must not be achieved to dominate behaviour in a manner where the leader appears to the followers as a control freak maniac.
Fame has significant behavioural, mental and social impact on managerial abilities. It affects different people. It brings stress, that managers are expected to recognise and manage. Reputation is often got without merit, and lost without cause. Those managers who do not possess the necessary and required wherewithal when bestowed with fame by dame luck , fake it, and much later, because it is acquired without skill or talent, start to consume the person from within; the leader/manager then starts to show irregular behaviour. These changes can bring around volcanic responses to charged situations, where the fleeting fame’s fire starts fledging. To be pretentious about being famous is risky business. If the strive to gain fame starts to diminish, the leadership gets into a cocoon or embarks on finding dangerously challenging opportunities, that normally leads to disaster and destruction.
The impact of fame upon a manager is described by psychologists as one where it leaves the person with feelings of loneliness, insecurities; it is like living in a fish bowl, for all to see and appreciate. The reduction in attention has the potential to unleash destructive behaviour. Leaders when denied fame and spotlight, tend to slide into depression. And a depressed leader and manager of people is the most dangerous species in the organisation or even a country. From social inclusion during the era of fame to social rejection, once taken off the pedestal, renders the manager, to become mostly a wicked soul -- who becomes power hungry, and in seeking it, tends to mow down those who dare to cross paths.
Fame is dangerously intoxicating; it refuses to keep distinction between the perceived fame and the real self. The two could be poles apart. This quality renders it an addictive drug. If removed, the withdrawal symptoms usually become visible through emergence of negative traits and responses. To mount the tiger of fame is more easier than to dismount. Fame is flimsy. It is fickle. It is weaker than a cobweb. When the bright light of fame begins to dim, it brings to the fore, the real face of the manager/leader.
The nature of spotlight is that it shines only upon one individual; the best example to illustrate is the 100 piece philharmonic orchestra, when all are performing, the spotlight falls upon the one who at that point in time is lead playing, be it the guitarist, the violinist or the bass guitar. Spotlight is rarely a shared position.
There is no Microsoft without Bill Gates; no Facebook without Mark Zuckerberg (albeit sold recently) and no tweeter (now X) without Elon Musk -- these individuals live their lives in continuous spotlight and hence acquire the Fame. They are famous not for incompetence but for reasons of having sown virtue through hard work, focus and dedication. Virtue always reaps sustainable fame.
The drive to acquire fame is supported by having a sense of history. Managers, who work for recognition by posterity, usually get stardom status, whilst at work. The flip side of this attitude is to be in possession of negative human tendencies, inclusive but not limited to selfishness, deceit and suspicion. These types of managers do not subscribe to developing human capital, and in particular their own successors.
Konrad Adenauer, the German leader who resurrected the country from the ravages of World War II was famously known for his dignified humility. He did not seek fame and splendour, but it was fame that befriended him/ his persona. Henry Kissinger described him as, one who was tasked to restore dignity and legitimacy to the crushed German society; “Adenauer was by his background fortuitously cast for a role that acquired at once the humility to,administer the consequences of unconditional surrender and the strength of character to regain international standing for his country". Fame is hence the perfume of heroic deeds.
Fame and abilities must remain in tandem for them to be lasting; if they are on tangent, then Fame is the thinnest shadow of eternity.
The writer is a senior banker and a freelance columnist