I’ve gotten quite a bit of feedback about my past blog post about big-egos and mediocre talent so I figured I will expand a little bit more on it with some specifics. Today I would like to talk about one of the most damaging types of people you will encounter in a startup: the folks that think too highly of themselves.
There are many terms that people often use to refer to people that think too highly of themselves: arrogant, conceited, big-headed, smug, know-it-all, vain, proud, smart-alec etc. One of my favorite terms is based on the Aristotelian philosophy “the golden mean” that refers to the idea that qualities can be overdone and underdone. In that sense, some folks refer to people that think too highly of themselves as the “golden self-esteem” J .
Hiring the right people to build a cohesive and talented team is probably the single most important focus area of a startup co-founder and CEO. Quite often, seasoned entrepreneurs compared the ups and downs of team dynamics in startups to marriages or long term friendships. I try to not use those analogies very often but there are some cases on which it absolutely applies.
One of the mistakes I made as a rookie entrepreneur was too ignore the effects of the “golden self-esteem” syndrome. I really thought that if by focusing on hiring talented people and providing a good culture we could overcome the effects of big egos within our startups. More importantly, I thought that you could leverage “golden self-esteems” as a catalyzer to drive people to achieve relevant things. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Startups are a roller coasters with plenty of moments of failures, rejections, etc as part of your daily life. A good friend of mine and super successful entrepreneur once told me that “if you are not being rejected every day you are not doing your job as a founder”. It’s not a surprised that a lot of entrepreneurs develop a very pragmatic sense of humbleness during their careers: the ones that you can only acquire by failing regularly.
The “golden self-esteem” people can’t operate within the down times. They need someone else to blame for the apparent failures because psychologically they can’t accept the emotional side-effects that come with accepting that the down-times are just part of the process of building something relevant. The “golden self-esteem” people make lousy employees because they will always be more focused on themselves than on the entire team. They will make lousy partners as they can never think on anybody by themselves during the down times and, most likely, they will make lousy husbands, wives or friends as nurturing their narcissism will always more important than the happiness and success of their loved ones.