Naughty or Nice?

Many of you have raised the question –

How come there are so many highly successful assholes?

Well…(sigh),  clearly, being an asshole does not prevent you from being successful — we can all name at least a few. 

And as you know, I believe that you will be most successful and most powerful if you are being yourself.   So if who you authentically are is a brilliant asshole, it would probably not serve you as well to try and be artificially nice to people. 

The next question is:

Can you be successful and be nice too?


I know there are a lot of people out there who aspire to big success and are hoping that you can achieve it, and also be a good person who you are proud of along the way.

It boils down to this: You can’t create big success alone. 

You must win the support and loyalty of people along the way.

Choice 1: If you do it by building and earning trust, treating people like humans, creating good working environments with clear priorities, managing performance, developing people, and being generous with feedback and appreciation, you will create a motivated and loyal workforce.

Choice 2: If you treat people like crap, you still need their motivation and loyalty, so you’ll need to BUY it.

Virtually all of the successful leaders I have encountered who treat people badly — from their executives to the barista at the coffee house — and take no care whatsoever to create a positive working environment — have purchased the loyalty and motivation of their team by paying noticeably more than you can get elsewhere. 

This can work.  This does work. 

OK – reality check – in this economic environment where people are becoming more and more glad to have a job at all, more assholes will be “getting away with it”, without necessarily paying more. 

But loyalty and motivation still suffer a big blow.  As soon as things turn around, when people can find a different job for the same pay — one where they are not getting tortured, they will move on. 

And if things don’t turn around quickly, the highest performers who can always find a job, will unlikely be retained with more money, because there is no more money.

When the money runs out, you are out of moves.

If instead you have built a foundation of trust and sensible working environment, with fair pay (rewarding the stars, and managing out the low performers) people will stick with you through good times and bad. 

And you definitely can achieve big success over time.

Personal note:

Very early in my career,  I was concerned that you really did have to be a nasty person to get ahead.  Maybe even lie, cheat and steal to do it.   But I had the good fortune of finding a role model and a mentor who was not only an inspiring and hugely successful business leader, but who was a good and caring person with high integrity too.

It really defined the core of my own personal leadership strategy which is based on the premise that growing successful businesses come from growing, successful people.

This may not make me a multi-billionaire, but that’s OK with me. 

The best part of my own career and any success I achieved was when I could help people along the way achieve more than they dreamed, and the many friendships that have come out of it. 

Related Resources:

Leading vs. Managing Podcast
Investing in Strengths Podcast

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Other recent posts:

10 things to Give your Network
Don’t Be Boring
Better with Less
Does your Work-at-Home Policy Work?
Retaining Top People in this Ugly Economy

You can find Patty at, follow her on twitter or Facebook, or read her books RISE and MOVE.

Surviving 2009
10 Things to Give your Network