Coping with Sudden Power Syndrome


Wealth managers are no doubt familiar with the phrase “sudden wealth syndrome.” Its symptoms include isolation from former friends, guilt over one’s good fortune and an extreme fear of losing all one’s money.

Money and power are closely related concepts, and so I would like to introduce the related condition – sudden power syndrome (SPS) – which is what one experiences when thrust into a new position with significantly greater authority and responsibilities.

While many people are taught financial literacy while they’re growing up, few people get much of an opportunity to develop “power literacy.” Most of us start out in life being told what to do all the time. When we acquire some power for the first time and finally have a chance to do the telling for a change, it’s easy and common to screw up royally — just like sudden wealth syndrome. For many people, the first time they get put in a position of having to manage (and have power over) other people, it’s an entirely unfamiliar environment.

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I first experienced SPS when I was a young musician. My colleagues and I used to sit around after playing a concert, complaining bitterly about the people who had hired us, and how they failed to appreciate our deep artistic sensibilities. So one day I said, “Enough of working for these cretins. Let’s get some grant money and put on our own concerts!” Everyone said, “Great,” and I went out and got a grant. All of a sudden, I had power to hire and fire. My former colleagues were now my employees, and while my intention was to help my friends, our relationships changed forever. People I once adored as lovable quirky artists I now saw as troublemakers. People who were once my friends now had more interest in being hired by me than they had in my well-being.

See full article on Coping with Sudden Power Syndrome By Justin Locke, Advisor Perspective

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