In his book Travels, Michael Crichton mentions that an Exec might not want to spend too much time in the hospital partially because they want to protect their rank at their firm. That was an astute observation, because to someone who values promotions and climbing up the Corporate Ladder protecting rank is very important. It is The Call of the Wild out there in Fortune 500 Corporate America, and if a fellow Exec smells blood it can be trouble… Which means that although I’ve always been a top sales person on my teams, and I’ve always had a pretty good instinct for strategy and have been successful at leading teams, I will likely never be a tenured Sales VP at a big firm. Why?
I’ve never cared about title or rank. When I was a VP, I never mentioned my title. WHen I was Managing DIrector, I privately winced when my team introduced me as “my managing director.” Why? It is hard to take myself or life that seriously, and I actually don’t respect people who do. But the thing about Corporate America is, most Execs *do* care about title. Jack Welch didn’t want to be *Vice* Chair — he wanted to be Chair. He obsessed about it to the point I get the impression from his book that it engulfed most of his time and energy. So then once he got it, he was obsessed about keeping it.
So although I myself don’t take things seriously like that, the people making the decisions do, often to the point it is more important than the actual work. I was honestly raised to believe that if you work hard, and you do what your boss tells you to do, and you always try to do the right things, that people will notice and you will get promoted. That is total bullshit. It happens some times, but it is the exception and not the rule. Getting promoted means playing the politics, which in high school is equivalent to being elected Homecoming King/Queen – sometimes it is the best student or the best person, but often it is not — but then keeping that homecoming title every year and fending off other people who want it. I had zero interest in any of that stuff growing up, and I don’t now. Life is too short, and none of this will matter in 100 years.