Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Not Being the Big Dog: The Value of Psychic Income

A few Sundays ago I stumbled upon one of the morning interview programs which happened to feature the Mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg, and the Mayor of Newark (NJ), Cory Booker.

Booker is a young guy and former community activist and Councilman. Bloomberg is a generation older and well known as the billionaire founder of Bloomberg, LP., a financial software and services giant.

At one point, as the two mayors were being interviewed, Bloomberg began answering a question (about crime or drugs or handguns) by saying, “Of course, Mayor Booker has a harder job than I have.”

That might or might not be true--I don’t know enough to say. But the fact that Mayor Bloomberg recognized his younger peer in such a gracious way says more about Bloomberg than it does about the difficulties of their respective jobs.

Undoubtedly Michael Bloomberg wants to be a wildly successful mayor of New York. He’s driven, and I’m sure has a healthy ego and many of the trappings that go with it. But if he makes a mess of it all, he’s still worth $16 billion dollars and the founder of a hugely successful financial services empire.  You can’t take that away from him.

In other words, Bloomberg comes to the job as Mayor with not just wealth, but with all of his psychic income needs met. He’s already successful. He’s already made it. He appears comfortable with himself and his accomplishments.

He could have been the Big Dog in that television interview and he chose not to be; instead, he made the gracious gesture of promoting the young guy next to him.

The other place you see this phenomenon is on Boards of Directors. A wise CEO does well to find Directors who have met all of their own needs for psychic income prior to joining the board.  This means finding a candidate who doesn't need to be the smartest person in the room.  One who is supportive during board meetings and saves the hard questions for a one-on-one coffee after the meeting.

Those kinds of Directors have met their psychic income needs elsewhere. Most of them have also met their real income needs.  Often, the are the smartest people in the room. 

Which is, of course, more than a coincidence.