"Tiger mom" Amy Chua reckons success - defined in the sense of the goods of effectiveness such as power, wealth and fame rather than virtues or excellence - depends upon three things: a superiority complex, insecurity and impulse control. Maybe. But here's an alternative recipe for worldly success:
1. Don't be nice. Guido Heineck has estimated (pdf) that, other things equal, the 25% of men who score highest for agreeableness earn 7% less than the least agreeable quartile of men.
2. Be irrationally overconfident. People who have excessive confidence send out more competence cues than others - they talk louder and have more assertive body language - and others mistake these cues for actual competence.The overconfident are thus more likely to get hired and promoted.
3. Be a narcissist. One study has found:
More narcissistic CEOs who have been with their firm longer receive more total direct compensation (salary, bonus, and stock options), have more money in their total shareholdings, and have larger discrepancies between their own (higher) compensation and the other members of their team.
It takes a huge sense of entitlement to believe one deserves to earn 10 or 100 times the average salary. Narcissists, who believe this, are thus more likely to negotiate for outsized rewards.
4. Be a psychopath. Psychopaths - or at least mildly psychopathic types - seem to be over-represented in boardrooms, perhaps because charm, fearlessness and a lack of empathy or moral code are useful for career success. Manfred Kets de Vries says:
Their innate charm, their deceitfulness, their need for “thrills and regressions,” can turn into a very heady, effective package...They fit perfectly in modern, fast-moving organizations, which are ideal places for SOBs to flourish, as political skills, rather than competence, are the keys to the top.
I say all this as a counterweight to Deirdre McCloskey's claim that a market economy fosters virtues such as trustworthiness and sympathy. Maybe so. But we don't live a purely market world. Instead, we have large islands of Stalinism within a market sea. And the characteristics required to prosper within Stalinism are, well, Stalin's ones.