As a rule, we like to put our celebrities on pedestals. For a change, I thought about a different context – how about when we are placed on a pedestal and brought down (and before you call it narcissistic, let me assure you that each of us is held up to a pedestal by someone – a team member, a friend, a relative (moms’ of course don’t count!)). The pedestal can be one of many types – you can be on a “kindness” pedestal (meaning someone sees you as a very kind guy), a “fairness” pedestal (probably outcome of a few appraisal cycles sometime!), a “wisdom” pedestal (maybe you just refuse to get angry no matter what the provocation), a “generosity” pedestal and so on…Like I said, there are infinite pedestals and you can find yourself being put on one of them –  irrespective of whether want to be on one or not. Of course choosing to stay on top is your decision.

Let me elaborate with a story. Recently, a team member told me I had betrayed “his trust”. Or in other words I had fallen off his pedestal. A pedestal he assured me he had put me on for 5 years at least. Picking myself up and brushing off the dust, I asked him what made him put me down – and more importantly, how is it that I climbed that pedestal in the first place?

What he told me (first hesitantly and then fluently) opened my eyes to a whole new world. It appeared I had taken some very fair (in his view) decisions consistently over the years. Decisions he had thought I would buckle under (like putting a very able but first-class-jerk in his place and so on) I had aced. I had also stayed true to my words. And then this year, I had taken a decision to promote someone (and that too at his cost!) who he felt was surely unworthy. There was consequently a breach in the trust, but he advised me that I could do do my image a bit of good if I could promise him I’d do the right thing the next time around.

I thanked him for his candor but told him I couldn’t promise anything a year away (given the economic uncertainty, I would need an astrologer mindset to predict anything at all with some confidence!). I also walked him through the logic of my decisions (as far as was possible and as well as I could stitch it together – I suspect some unconscious embellishment to make me look rational would have figured too!) – and the constraints. I emphasized also that while I owned the decision, it was really a group call – so while the decisions could have been wrong, they were designed to reduce bias.

But the thought didn’t leave me – something big was at play here – and as I started seeking wiser counsel, I realized it was indeed. Many leaders I admired told me they had experienced “being placed on pedestals and then dropped” as well. And the following were the major inferences/ advice to avoid being crippled:

  1. Remember the pedestal is a mental construct of someone else’s. And therefore by definition it isn’t true. So just because someone puts your image on the king’s throne you are not a king – its just another doll on a make-believe seat. If on the other hand, you start believing the whole pedestal thing, you will begin to need conforming to a different morality standard. Since you are on someone else’s pedestal – to retain the position – you will need to confirm to his views and morality and that can be very limiting – as we discuss in the next point
  2. A pedestal is always finite (or in other words limited) – a few feet wide and a few feet long at most. Not enough room to move around – put yourself on someone’s pedestal and you’ll start feeling claustrophobic
  3. Pedestals require effort from the guy who’s building it. And the more effort, taller the pedestal – and greater his expectations of you. And taller the pedestal, the more impactful the fall. This is why public feels “devastated” when celebrities fail (but are ok to forgive a commoner when he does not fulfil their expectations – afterall he’s just a man!)
  4. This does not mean we should be ungrateful to the pedestal builders. We should thank them – but let them know that the pedestal is fiction. And once they understand that, they will appreciate you more for it
  5. Where possible, its best not to not build pedestals for ourselves for others – if the object of our admiration is a wise man – any pedestal failure will hurt us not the object
  6. Try new experiences, meet new friends, renew yourself afresh. Pedestals take time to solidify, so don’t give yourself the time (both ways!)
  7.  Finally, never make the mistake of building a pedestal for your self. This will mean schizophrenia – feeling betrayed and angry on yourself – can give rise to a very destructive vicious loop.

 

So that’s it for now. One leader said it best “ Once you know all the pedestals are just dolls, it takes a tremendous weight off your shoulders and the world becomes your playground – enjoy it”. Would you agree?

9 responses »

  1. pbdhivakar says:

    Oweeesomeeee indeed. Need to be watchful of it.

  2. Steven Dooey says:

    Very insightful, thanks for sharing! All the best!

  3. Kartic says:

    Read it. This is real deep stuff and a great eye-opener. It is so very true. I have been and continue to be on that path too as a pedestal builder and being placed too. (despite knowing the pitfalls). Its a human habit I guess(more driven by ego). It is wonderful that you were able to not get caught and catch the drama. Lots of powerful lessons on individual freedom. Thanks for this brilliant stuff.

    • angulam says:

      Thanks so much kartic. Oh well, was party to it many a time (and probably will be in future too!) – though once we start looking it in the eye, it tends to provide a diff view (and like you say freedom)..

  4. Nice post Subra. Completely justifiying the blog’s name Angulam- Pointing towards wisdom. A very thought provoking blog.
    Apologies, I beg to disagree with you here.
    .
    The whole blog of yours is about the shortcomings of falling from ‘Pedestal’. I believe there could be positives also of being on this arbitrary pedestal as well.

    1. Fear of falling from pedestal of ‘I know you can do it’ can push one to ditch their own boundaries which they couldn’t believe were achievable
    2. Pedestal of ‘I believe you’ can at times gives a second thought to people to break their trust
    3. Pedestal of ‘I am a High Performer’ keeps people going to explore new dimensions

    and Many more

    Indeed falling from pedestal is painful however sometimes these pedestals can take one to un-imaginable heights. I believe its not important if you fall, Its ‘what you do after fall’ that defines you. The same what you did, instead of getting hurt after falling from one such Pedestal, you invented this concept and provided food for thoughts.

    • angulam says:

      Great pointers mayank. Agreed using the pedestal to propel us forward is a lovely idea – and if we use it as such (and fully recognising it’s an artificial construct), sure to pay the right dividends.

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