self-importance-unquintessential-leadershipSelf-promotion is anything that we do or say about ourselves and our lives that is intended to draw attention to ourselves and to make people believe that we are important. Self-promotion is very much a symptom of narcissism and self-absorption, but it is also a symptom of insecurity and neediness.

Self-promotion is all around us. We are bombarded with it constantly. Technology – cable, satellite, internet, and social media – has not only enabled self-promotion, but also rabidly encourages it.

Self-promotion is a trait that all unquintessential leaders share. Increasingly, it seems, it is also a trait that the majority of the human race is irresistibly drawn to and has embraced wholeheartedly.

For those of us who are striving to become quintessential leaders, we must be aware of what self-promotion looks like, its subtle allure that draws us, sometimes imperceptibly to it, and how to ensure that we are not, unconsciously or consciously, adopting this unquintessential leader trait.

How does self-promotion manifest itself? There are many forms self-promotion takes (and sometimes these forms are deceptive because they look like the opposite of self-promotion – humility – when in fact they are not).

Boasting and bragging about ourselves and our lives (the things we have, the places we go, the things we do, who we know, etc.) is a form of self-promotion.

We may not believe that we’re boasting when we flood social media with all our neat pictures and stories of all the great things in our lives that we may be able to do and have, not because we’re all that, but simply because we’ve been more blessed and/or are more fortunate than many other people on the planet.

However, quite frankly, anytime we deliberately draw attention to ourselves, to our blessings, and to our more fortunate circumstances, we are implicitly taking all the credit upon ourselves – self-promotion – for them and are exhibiting the unquintessential leader traits of pride, vanity, and arrogance.

Showiness is another form of self-promotion. While we may have incredible skills in a particular area, it should be for others to promote those skills, not for ourselves. When we have the need to pat ourselves on the back in public for the talents and abilities we may have been given, we are also exhibiting the unquintessential leader trait of pride.

Self-aggrandizement is a third form of self-promotion.  When we have to constantly tell people how great we are (or, in the more deceptive forms, how humble we are, how long-suffering we are, how justified – this is a defensive position – we are in what we say and do, and how much we forebear with others or endure in our lives), we are practicing self-promotion.

Self-aggrandizement seeks admiration, accolades, and followers and either wants idolization or sympathy (in the more deceptive forms). In either case, we are practicing self-promotion.

A fourth form of self-promotion is one-upmanship. This form of self-promotion is obvious in the form of put-downs, general or specific comments that tear someone or something else (usually anonymous, and, therefore, defenseless) down, or in the form of “I/my are/is better than than you/yours.”

But the deceptive form can show up in the most unexpected places. For example, I recently saw a general comment on social media that condemned as stealing from their employers (there was implicit one-upmanship in the comment) anybody and everybody who said they were working and were on social media every few minutes.

The commenter showed a profound gap in knowledge with this instance of one-upmanship because there are people whose job it is to be on social media at work, engaging, commenting, and marketing, so for those people not to be on social media would mean not doing their job.

Although I am well aware that there are many people without jobs in marketing and social media that hang out on social media during work hours, I would never try to one-up them with a feigned moral superiority, because, quite frankly, I don’t know the details of everybody’s job responsibilities.

In addition, what people who are not on my teams do during their work hours is a matter between them and their consciences if they are, in fact, stealing time from their employers (on my teams, however, this would be within my scope as leader and coach and it would be handled within the confines of the team, not in a public forum).

What does self-promotion do to teams?

As quintessential leaders, we must understand the destructive effect that self-promotion has on our teams.

The first destructive effect we’ll see on our teams is in the area of morale. Allowing self-importance or allowing ourselves to become self-important will absolutely shatter the morale of our teams. 

It will emerge as weariness and will grow into a sense of apathy and defeat that is palpable.

The second damaging effect self-importance will have on our teams will be the destruction of good will. Self-importance as a way of being gets really old, really fast.

While we all applaud accomplishments and good things that happen to others in the course of life (and these, in reality, are only once in a great while), dealing with a constant and steady diet of boasting, bragging, showiness, self-aggrandizement, and one-upmanship becomes a burden too heavy to bear and we will turn away, tune out, and, eventually, turn off the source.

The final damaging effect that self-importance has on our teams is the destruction of the team. As members of the team turn away from, tune out, and turn off the source of self-importance, they also turn away from, tune out, and turn off their participation and involvement in the team.

As each member of the team goes through this process, the team dissolves and disintegrates into oblivion.

As quintessential leaders, then, we need to now look deeply into and closely at ourselves to see if and where self-promotion exists. If and where we find it, we need to immediately change, replacing this unquintessential leader trait with the quintessential leader trait of humility.

Are we boastful and bragging?

Are we showy

Are we self-aggrandizing?

Do we practice one-upmanship?

How are we doing?


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