With the id and super-ego fighting it out, should Prince Albert have played down his recent acquisition?

In an article in the Riviera Times, New jet for Prince Albert II, written by Nancy Jane Carragher, it is explained that Prince Albert II has just ‘secured’ his latest private jet, a Dassault Aviation Falcon, worth up to 50 million euros depending on his choice of interior.

The Prince says the aircraft is necessary to help him fulfil his princely duties.

The Prince and his wife unveiled the new jet at Nice Côte d’Azur Airport on 5th March 2013 in a ceremony also attended by Princesses Charlène and Caroline.

Apparently, the aircraft was chosen by the Prince as a private jet to be used on state business by the Grimaldi family. He told the press, “This aircraft constitutes for me a precious tool for the accomplishment of my role as head of state.”

As Monaco has no space to store it, it will be kept in a purpose built hangar at Nice airport.

To offset damage done by greenhouse gases emitted from the plane, the Prince has established a programme to fund humanitarian projects.

It isn’t uncommon for the ‘heads of’ organisations of all kinds, to benefit from larger ‘perks’ than their colleagues, and apart from the element of luck that is involved in most forms of success, most people would be pleased for them, knowing that they have skills and experience that have got them there. Discretionary activities, such as expensive holidays on Nekker Island supposedly hob-knobbing with the rich and famous, and discretionary acquisitions, such as the second or third Morgan in the necessarily extended garage, are fine when they are appreciated as discretionary.

However, the mistake that some leaders make is to confuse the boundary between a legitimate work-related extravagance and personal indulgence. When they compound this confusion by seeking to share their good fortune with the outside world – especially once the PR handlers get involved – then they are treading a very delicate tightrope.

Balancing personal emotional satisfaction, the id-driven desire to share it, and ‘corporate’ Public Relations is not an easy one to achieve.

Freudian psychotherapists recognise three components of the psyche: the id – seeking instant gratification and pleasure, the super-ego – the sense of right and wrong instilled in us through our upbringing, and the ego – acting as mediator between the other two. In this case, it seems that the Prince and his advisors were rather pleased with their purchase and wanted others to see this (the id at work). However, they must have known (the super-ego telling them) that many people could find it an excess.

Even when there IS a direct relationship between the experience/acquisition and our work, we lay ourselves open to accusations of ostentation, lack of empathy for those whose circumstances prevent them from indulging in far less substantial discretionary expenditure, and even ignorance. Such shows can damage our credibility far more than we realise. We compound this even further when we appear to be trying to justify the expense.

While the jet might well pay for itself many times over in savings on air-fares, flying the family around the world – supporting him in his ‘princely duties’ – it seems that the environmental cost of this is somehow being treated separately in the Monegasque mindset. These days, large corporations have woken up to the importance of incorporating their environmental costs in any decision, let alone those of ‘discretionary’ travel. When they still feel that such travel is necessary, they seek to minimize the impact and generally as directly as possible. Thus, a multinational organisation might be expected to calculate their ‘carbon footprint’, take steps to significantly reduce it directly, to invest in projects that would lead to their own and others’ footprint being reduced in the medium term, and then to offset what remains through well monitored schemes. This isn’t new territory – it’s called sustainability.

It would not be unrealistic, for example, for the Principality to become the exclusive contributor to an environmental project elsewhere in the world. Typical examples include the creation of hydroelectric power plants, reforestation, and the restoration of peat bog. While such projects generally also have a positive impact on local communities, they are not humanitarian projects.

I’m afraid that the Prince’s team might have better counselled him to explore more commercial forms of transport and perhaps the acquisition of a environmentally-refurbished multi-purpose aircraft, to plan for its remaining impacts to be minimised in operation, to establish and invest in an environmental project in a low-income country, and finally to offset the remaining footprint. Above all else, though, if the private jet approach really is justified, then I’d have been very cautious about the ceremonial stunt associated with its commissioning and suggested a more discrete delivery and introduction into service.

Dr Graham Wilson is an organisational psychotherapist and leadership confidant, who works with people in positions of power, helping them understand psycho-dynamics, politics, and behaviour, as they affect them in their day-to-day work, and navigate through them to achieve far greater things. He also provides very practical support to senior executives as they hunt for more fulfilling roles.

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