Leadership Coach and Business Psychologist Jasbindar Singh discusses why having a sense of entitlement is not good leadership. Our sense of entitlement – conscious or unconscious – can blind us to the true nature of what is really going on as well as other, newer possibilities, she writes.
The universe will teach us our lessons with the tickle of a feather or the whomp of a sledgehammer, depending on how open we are to learning the particular lesson. Getting stubborn and defensive invites the sledgehammer; getting open and curious invites the feather. – Gay Hendricks
Whether you are a manager, leader, entrepreneur or an employee, having a sense of entitlement can be a dangerous thing. I am not referring to certain entitlements we all have as per legal, contractual or basic moral rights.
But more the sense that comes through one’s role and place in society, organization or political life, where one gets used to a level of position, power, privilege and perks.
“Who I am” takes precedence over “what I do” (or how I perform).
A sense of entitlement can emerge in organizations when there is a call for massive structural and cultural change. With such impending changes, employees can feel challenged.
If there has been a culture of entitlement in the organization – such as a celebrity culture or where an organization has been a dominant player or market leader – the changes hit even harder.
Employees and managers alike can go through a sense of grief and loss as they come to terms with a new way of doing things, a different set of values and cultural benchmarks.
Where there has been a culture of entitlement the pervasive expectation is for things to continue as they have been. A sense of entitlement embodies within it an unquestioning “as of right” attitude, belief and behaviour – “I have always had it this way, I deserve it and it should be mine.”
A sense of entitlement can also be seen when a person in a position of power justifies their “crossing the line” behaviour such as infidelity, using work funds for personal reasons such as holidays or gambling and abusing a power relationship in some way.
A typical justification can be, “I work hard enough, I am allowed to have some fun.”
We are only too familiar with the fall from grace of some leading business, community and celebrity figures as a result of this thinking compounded by their other unchecked desires.
Our sense of entitlement – conscious or unconscious – can blind us to the true nature of what is really going on as well as other newer possibilities.
Holding on to a sense of entitlement can become a career derailer when behaviours arising from it cross the line.
Studies in this area shows that entitlement is positively correlated with “a pattern of selfish, self-serving beliefs and behaviours, narcisstic personalities and arrogance. Conversely, empathy – the ability to put yourself in another person’s shoes – tends to be low.
Often we aren’t even conscious that we may be coming from a place of entitlement. From a sociological perspective, a sense of unconscious entitlement can be a privilege for those in a power position including coming from a dominant culture.
This is a subtle concept and can be challenging to get one’s heads around – if you come from a place of entitlement. It’s like fish in water – it’s hard to see anything else as this is the only pervasive reality known to the person or group.
And yet one thing we know about life is that change is as much a certainty as taxes and death. This can be difficult for those of us hanging on to our sense of entitlement “…but, but…” we say. Or perhaps the reaction is anger – “how dare they…” or passive aggressiveness – “I will get you” or resistance in one form or another.
Given the engrained and automatic nature of a sense of entitlement, what is the lesson here?
Watch out and catch yourself when you find yourself coming from a sense of entitlement.
This awareness may come in the form of an opposing viewpoint or “feedback” from a manager, colleague, caring friend or loved one – if they can see what is going on.
Pay attention to where you may be tempted to cross the line or experience a strong sense of entitlement. This could be exactly where your next growth edge might be.
If you don’t, long term, it could well bring you to your knees. Life is a great leveler and one thing is for sure – the very things we hold on to with dear life are exactly the things where we get tested and challenged.
To raise your awareness here, you could also make note of the things you have a sense of privilege, “taken for grantedness” and entitlement about? Some people experience a sense of privilege and make much of their fine physical attributes – yet these too change over time.
A great question to ask is “how might I feel if I was on the receiving end of what I see as my sense of entitlement being and the beliefs, attitudes and behaviors that go with that?”
Be willing to have your opinions and world view tested from time to time. The world does look and feel different when our perspective changes.
Jasbindar Singh is a Business Psychologist, Leadership Coach, Blogger and Speaker. She specialises in leading with emotional intelligence. Contact Jasbindar at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit her website. You can also connect with Jasbindar via LinkedIn , Facebook or Twitter . Jasbindar is available to speak at conferences on emotional intelligence.