The correlation between success and like-ability

In Sheryl Sandberg's TED talk on "why we have too few woman leaders", she explains that the correlation between success and like-ability is positive for men, and generally negative for women. In other words, when men succeed they are liked more. And when women succeed, they are liked less. This works against you if you are a women who is aiming to succeed in the workplace, because you don't receive the support of the people around - both men and women.

While this wasn't her main point (see full talk below), it was the one that got me thinking the most. And now I want to depart from the context of women and touch on the issue of success and like-ability in groups of people generally. 

I think this principle applies to many groupings of people - and by 'group' I mean people who identify with one another and would see themselves as part of the same group, however they may define this. As part of a group, we're happy for other group individuals to succeed to an extent, but the less secure we are in ourselves and in the group itself, the less we're likely to support individuals success beyond a certain threshold. I'd hazard a guess that this threshold is where we start to feel uncomfortable about our own relative success and/or we become insecure about the future of the group itself, i.e. that an individual's success somehow impacts negatively on the group. And for these reasons, and probably many more that I haven't thought through (success does make some people behave badly!), so many of us stop supporting our peers when they succeed.

I realise this issue of group dynamics is much more complex than I make it out to be, but it got me thinking about my role in the groupings of people I identify with. Here are some of my thoughts:

  • I acknowledge that i'm part of groups of people who don't always support each others' success, and i'm going to strive to actively support people who succeed. It's important for them and for me.
  • I'm going to try identify with people who aren't threatened by the changing nature of the group. I'm thinking about the opposite of "clicky" Cape Town social groups specifically. If you've lived in Cape Town, you'll know what I mean.
  • As I strive to succeed, i'm going to be sensitive to friends' challenges.

Right, it's time to get back to work with the awesome group of people at GetSmarter Head Quarters!