Saturday, May 29, 2010

The Malady of Self-Delusion

Kissinger would have done well to take counsel from Calvin Coolidge's observation that "It is difficult for men high office to avoid the malady of self-delusion. They are always surrounded by worshipers...They live in an artificial atmosphere of adulation and exaltation which sooner of later impairs their judgment."
Robert Dallek, Nixon and Kissinger: Partners in Power, (New York: Harper Perennial, 2007), 488.
Absolute power corrupts absolutely the old saying says. The office of the presidency provided Nixon with untolds amount of power, prestige, and exaltation. He had government officials and government agencies at his finger tips - willing to do what he saw was right. He become the driving force behind world affairs. He experienced high approval ratings (not right away, but pretty quickly - and they stayed there until Watergate) from the American public. He was surrounded by men who in their own personal thirst for power were willing to accomodate his delusions. What Richard Nixon wanted, Richard Nixon was going to get.

Self-delusion is almost impossible to avoid when pride, arrogance, and complete freedom are given. Our judgment cannot avoid being impaired when we are surrounded by people who are our biggest fans. Pride is a natural outcome of position & title. No matter how high your position is - you have some degree of adulation from those beneath you. The problem is when that adulation becomes the voice you hear for making judgments. What to do? Cut out the worshipers. Don't look for praise when doing your job. Don't depend upon positive feedback after delivering a performance. Don't live for reassurance. Simply do what you need to do - in the best possible way to do it - and crave criticism that can help you execute better.


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