I love reading Clay Shirky. Don’t always agree, but the man makes me think…
A few days ago, he shared an essay entitled A Rant About Women that began:
So I get email from a good former student, applying for a job and asking for a recommendation. “Sure”, I say, “Tell me what you think I should say.” I then get a draft letter back in which the student has described their work and fitness for the job in terms so superlative it would make an Assistant Brand Manager blush.
So I write my letter, looking over the student’s self-assessment and toning it down so that it sounds like it’s coming from a person and not a PR department, and send it off. And then, as I get over my annoyance, I realize that, by overstating their abilities, the student has probably gotten the best letter out of me they could have gotten.
Now, can you guess the gender of the student involved?
Of course you can. My home, the Interactive Telecommunications Program at NYU, is fairly gender-balanced, and I’ve taught about as many women as men over the last decade. In theory, the gender of my former student should be a coin-toss. In practice, I might as well have given him the pseudonym Moustache McMasculine for all the mystery there was. And I’ve grown increasingly worried that most of the women in the department, past or present, simply couldn’t write a letter like that.
This worry isn’t about psychology; I’m not concerned that women don’t engage in enough building of self-confidence or self-esteem. I’m worried about something much simpler: not enough women have what it takes to behave like arrogant self-aggrandizing jerks.
Before you go nuts, the piece made a lot of interesting points. You should read it.
But, it was what was left unsaid that bothered me most.
The assumption that, regardless of sex…
You need to be an “arrogant self-aggrandizing jerk” in order to get ahead in life.
I can’t agree with this.
Does being a flagrant, public narcissist get attention?
But, to what end?
It may make certain people blink and fawn, but it makes many more vomit.
Maybe it’s the circles I run in, but most people I know are drawn in far more by a sense of quiet confidence and deep presence than showmanship. Most become convinced of an individual’s ability to contribute on a meaningful level not by what that individual says, but by the wake they’ve left behind and the things OTHER people say about them.
Indeed, the most successful people I know have built their fortunes and fulfillment not under the limelight of narcissism, but on a foundation of service to others. They’ve embodied the qualities of what’s come to be known as Servant Leaders. Quiet, confidence, purposeful, open, fearless, direct, yet kind and driven to serve others.
They elevate themselves through the process of elevating others.
What I’m saying is…whether women do or don’t have “what it takes to behave like arrogant self-aggrandizing jerks” is largely irrelevant. Because these qualities, male or female-bound, have little if any causative relationship with genuine, lasting success.
So, what do YOU think?
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