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[Opinion] The Power of Flattery

Posted December. 03, 2005 04:48,   


Leaders, like presidents, CEOs, and generals, are highly narcissistic and experience a high level of stress, say psychologists. In other words, people in high social positions are prone to be narcissists, who believe, “I am always right, I am the most important person in the world, and the world should appreciate me.” They also possibly suffer from stress, as they feel pressured to protect the organizations they lead from any potential threat from the outside and make remarkable achievements.

Indeed, leaders sometimes feel empty, thinking that they are not getting their due recognition or admiration. In that case, no leader would dislike it if he had a subordinate who plasters him with sugared words and thus helps relieve his or her stress. The subordinate may be simply lauding the leader, but if he or she goes too far, it becomes flattery.

Chief presidential secretary for public relations and former professor Cho Ki-sook once noted in her book Korea Is Undergoing a Civil Revolution that “I will not give up my role as a fair-minded commentator because there are not many who can replace me.” She is now opening a new chapter of a chief presidential secretary for public relations in Cheong Wa Dae.

She once had an interview with a radio program in which she mainly argued, “The president is living in the 21st Century, but the public is failing to keep up with him.” More recently, she posted a story on the Cheong Wa Dae Briefing website about an old woman in Cheongju who was saved from the risk of losing her house after the president made a special order to help her. Her rental apartment had gone bankrupt.

There is nothing wrong with the idea to post the story, but it is questionable whether the public will sympathize with the part that reads, “The president’s compassion for the public never stops,” at a time like this, when their economic situation has gotten worse.

Cho’s open admiration for the president is so notable that even some of Uri Party members accuse her of “contributing to the decreasing popularity of the president and our party.” In fact, she has quite a bit of company in Cheong Wa Dae.

Throughout history, no leader of power has refused to enjoy flattery. Flattering words have power. Whether they are true or not, they help you win the hearts of those with power. There is an English idiom that goes: “kiss-up, kick-down,” that describes a flattering person. The phrase is reminiscent of people who are busy kissing up the president to fulfill his needs for narcissism, and kicking down their “enemies.”

Hwang Ho-taek, Editorial Writer, hthwang@donga.com