Leadership – The (Not So) New Abnormal
by Julian Martin Clarke
The impact on global society of leaders who may have a “Personality Disorder”
(A Springer book chapter written during 2015 for an EBEN conference in Copenhagen, published early 2017, further discusses this topic:)
Given the considerable impact leaders can have on many aspects of organisational and even national life, from highly positive and constructive to deeply negative and destructive, John Milton’s astute observation in 1667 that
“The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven”
could be as apt today, describing the impact of strong personalities on the prevailing culture of not only the organisations they both lead and mis-lead, but even the nations.
While many leaders may be well capable of making a heaven of hell, others are more naturally disposed to making a hell of heaven. Employees unfortunate enough to work in “Counterproductively Competitive & Combative Corporate Cultures” may well describe the resulting environment as “Paradise Lost”.
Intolerance of low integrity by leaders of high personal integrity with a strong and active conscience ensures unfair, unjust and unethical acts are not condoned and are unlikely to be repeated, given the more constructive, cooperative, honest, harmonious and less adversarial culture such leaders engender throughout their organisation, being based on positivity, praise and encouragement rather than negativity, critique, fear, discouragement and blame.
However the acceptance of low integrity by leaders of a lesser calibre ensures instances are permitted and hence more likely to recur by the more combative, fearful and destructive nature of the culture prevalent within their organisation.
My compatriot Oscar Wilde wrote:
“Conscience is the trade name of the firm.”
With some leaders appearing to have a more active conscience than others, when the extremely self-centred traits associated with society’s most “illegitimate leaders” are examined, it could transpire they may not be capable of moral reasoning beyond the “pre-conventional” level of self-interest which prioritises achieving their own desires, associated by Kohlberg with primary school children, if at all.
Could it be that for some business and societal leaders, irrespective of nationality, race or gender, self-interest is not an option they willingly choose, rather is their prevailing state of mind?
What are the implications for society if some such people managing and even leading organisations and nations may be incapable of reasoning morally beyond the stage associated with primary school children, and are mistakenly chosen for leadership roles when they lack the fundamental ability to manage their own emotions, let alone accept responsibility for the welfare of those they are tasked with leading, their organisation and its role in society?
Talking the talk is no substitute for actually being capable of walking the walk. Indeed in their case there may be a deep disconnect between their talk and their deeds.
When “leaders” feel better from making others feel worse, there is clearly something wrong and questions need to be asked why they were chosen to lead in the first place.
While many people can behave in a selfish, difficult, proud and contrary manner occasionally, especially under extreme pressure, to be classified as a “Personality Disorder” the traits need to be “inflexible”, meaning can be repeatedly observed without regards to time, place or circumstance, while also interfering with a person’s ability to function well in society, including causing problems with interpersonal relationships, termed “functional impairment”.
Indeed the four core features common to all Personality Disorders, with two required for diagnosis, are
- (a) Distorted thinking patterns,
- (b) Problematic emotional responses,
- (c) Over- or under-regulated impulse control and
- (d) Interpersonal difficulties,
none of which are attributes which society needs in those with responsibility for its institutions and their people.
Yet far too frequently some or all of these are evident in the behaviour of leaders, erroneously associated with strength of character and leadership, rather than weakness of personality and an inability to manage their own emotions, let alone lead other people.
One of the definitions of a “Personality Disorder” is “pervasive patterns of perceiving, relating to, and thinking about the environment and the self that interfere with long-term functioning of the individual and are not limited to isolated episodes.”
Some can feel invincible described as “a belief in one’s uniqueness and invulnerability” and absolutely convinced about their superiority, whether with any foundation or not.
“Self-centred” has been defined by Merriem-Webster as “concerned solely with one’s own desires, needs, or interests” and “independent of outside force or influence”.
“Narcissistic Personality” is described as “a pattern of traits and behaviours characterised by excessive self-concern and overvaluation of the self.”
Amongst the traits associated with “Narcissistic Personality Disorder” are:
- “A long-standing pattern of grandiose self-importance and an exaggerated sense of talent and achievements;
- An exhibitionistic need for attention and admiration;
- Either cool indifference or feelings of rage, humiliation or emptiness as a response to criticism, indifference or defeat; and
- Various interpersonal disturbances, such as feeling entitled to special favours, taking advantage of others and inability to empathise with the feelings of others.”
They cannot properly understand other people and never will, but a major problem for society is that they think they can. The giveaway is when they discourage rather than encourage.
Yet we make such people leaders.
Their necessity to “prevail” at all costs, maximized when this is at the expense of others, preferring “win-lose” to “win-win”, irrespective of the consequences for others and extraordinarily even themselves, results in their praising and promoting themselves while criticising, disparaging and humiliating others.
Unable to accept criticism, disproportionate responses can include deep hatred and holding of long-standing grudges, not only “attacking their accuser” but also engaging in a “campaign” of invention and “distortion”, being “the conscious misrepresentation of facts”, and “character assassination”, described as “the slandering of a person usually with the intention of destroying public confidence in that person”.
While some can have fantasies of unlimited power or brilliance, this can also involve confusing fact with fiction and being absolutely convinced about their version of events, even if they bear little resemblance to reality.
“Delusion” has been described as “an often highly personal idea or belief system, not endorsed by one’s culture or subculture, that is maintained with conviction in spite of irrationality or evidence to the contrary” with examples including “delusions of being controlled, delusions of grandeur, delusions of persecution” and “delusional jealousy” which can involve being “constantly on the watch for indications that this belief is justified, manufacturing evidence if it is not to be found, and completely disregarding facts that contravene the conviction.”
People with “Paranoid Personality Disorder” feel suspicious of others, especially when their mistrust is unfounded and they can seem to be imagining threats, including in trivia.
“Paranoid Personality Disorder” is characterised by “(a) pervasive, unwarranted suspiciousness and distrust (e.g., expectation of trickery or harm, overconcern with hidden motives and meanings); (b) hypersensitivity (e.g., being easily slighted or offended, readiness to counterattack); and (c) restricted affectivity (e.g., emotional coldness, no true sense of humour).”
The associated traits include:
- Believing that others are using, lying to, deceiving, exploiting or harming them, without any real evidence.
- Doubting the loyalty and trustworthiness of others.
- Won’t confide in others due to the belief that their confidence will be betrayed.
- Looking for hidden meanings in gestures and conversations and misinterpreting ambiguous or benign remarks as hurtful or threatening.
- Holding grudges and seeking retaliation, even if unwarranted.
- Believing their reputation or character are being attacked by others, without objective evidence.
- May believe friends, family and romantic partners are untrustworthy and unfaithful, without justification.
- Can engage in outbursts of anger in response to perceived deception.
- Often described as cold, jealous, secretive and serious.
- Overly controlling in relationships in order to avoid being exploited or manipulated.
- Can tend to hold negative views of other people.
- Overly sensitive to criticism and can significantly overreact to perceived criticism.
Yet we make such people leaders, so much so that some may even consider some of these traits acceptable or “part and parcel of senior management”.
When other people consider “there seems to be something wrong here but we’re not quite sure what this may be” they may well be dealing with someone with one or a combination of the various Personality Disorders, with just two examples cited here.
While other people may consider there is something wrong, this belief may not be shared by those who consistently cause trouble for their often beleaguered colleagues.
People with many of the Personality Disorders just do not believe there is anything wrong with them, so see no need to change nor seek treatment, which they may not even cooperate with in the unlikely event that treatment transpires. Those with “Narcissistic Personality Disorder” and related disorders may not because they feel superior to others. Their inferiors are the real problem.
Those with “Paranoid Personality Disorder” also feel there is nothing wrong with them, although others may see them as being excessively suspicious and unnecessary hostile. In their mind, their suspicions of others are quite justified. It is these other people who are the real problem and they are the reasons for the degree of moderate to significant dysfunction, havoc and even mayhem which their mis-management and mal-leadership inevitably brings.
Characteristics such as these should disqualify such people from consideration for senior roles, but incredibly (meaning “hard to believe”) these traits are evident amongst people holding significant positions throughout society. One reason is too many other people (especially those with the right credentials for seniority) just do not seem to know what traits to look for, primarily to identify them to deny such people they power they need and demand but are incapable of using for the purpose intended, then become difficult to replace as they prioritise maintenance of the power they crave over all other considerations, irrespective of the cost to others.
The other main reason it becomes important to be able to identify such “disordered” people is to realise that trying to deal with them “normally” is likely to result in abject failure and a variety of countermeasures will instead need to be tactically employed in dealing with them, to diminish the damage they can do not only to the culture of their organisation (or nation) but also to the lives and emotions of those who have no choice but to work with or for them.
At the end of the day when people learn what traits to look for, the “disordered people” themselves facilitate this task of preventing them from becoming “disordered leaders”, because they actually “give the game away” themselves by way of what they cannot hide or change – their own behavioural traits.
This can take some time to notice and appreciate. Indeed it took me over 25 years in industry, working with hundreds of organisations, before a coffee with a psychologist led to my recognising that I had actually worked with or for over 50 such people and how similar much of their behaviour actually was, although they worked in different sectors, nations and even continents.
Now that I can associate many of my worst experiences in business with what I describe as “Destructive Leaders” and many of my best with the fortunately far more plentiful “Constructive Leaders”, I feel a responsibility to share what I have learned so some unfortunate experiences may transpire to be fortunate, as it becomes increasingly apparent how damaging “disordered leaders” can be, no matter what area of life they inhabit.
This is because they do inhabit a different world from the rest of us – and how important it is to be able to identify them – so they are not afforded the opportunity to damage the world the rest of us do our best to live in constructively and harmoniously, in the company of many other decent, kind and encouraging people with a genuine interest in both other people and whatever they may be interested in.
As people with specific Personality Disorders can be “found in every race, culture, society and walk of life”, one of the most critical matters to appreciate is that disordered people see things differently, experience people differently, perceive many matters differently, think differently, behave differently and inhabit a quite different world from most others in society, it is imperative that they be recognised by others as being substantially (but not entirely) different from the norm, being consummate actors hiding their true selves much of the time, hence need to be dealt with significantly differently, if they are no longer to be permitted to continue to damage the world that everyone else inhabits.
But as those with a Personality Disorder rarely see themselves as being different or as being the problem, as they blame all their faults and failings on everyone else, this places the onus to be “responsible” and “constructive” on those who, out of necessity, spend an inordinate amount of their time dealing with the whims of their unbalanced and perhaps “Disordered Leader”.
At the US IVBEC business ethics conference, held in Dublin in October 2019, I proposed that the steps the rest of society needs to take to protect itself from such leaders include:
1 Identify these abnormal people, by way of their own behaviour, as being different from the norm,
2 Adapt to respond to their sometimes extraordinary actions & reactions (evident due to their “maladaptive” inflexibility),
3 Learn how to behave differently towards them (“denying narcissistic supply”),
4 Minimise the damage & havoc they will inevitably create, and
5 Deny them positions of influence & responsibility throughout global society.
Even after their organisation has collapsed, with many people’s lives adversely affected, these people can still wonder what they did wrong, finding it easy to apportion blame but impossible to accept responsibility.
At that conference, rotated annually between the three East Coast USA Vincentian universities and now also the former Vincentian All Hallows College in Dublin, now part of one of my alma maters, Dublin City University, I proposed the following initial definition of a “Disordered Leader”:
“Someone trusted with supervisory, managerial or leadership responsibilities who, due to what may be a personality/mental disorder(s), may be incapable of responsible management or leadership, including prioritising the interests of stakeholders other than themselves, especially when these impede satisfying their self-interest.”
All comment, critique and further suggestions would of course be welcomed.
When salient advice to those who have to deal with such people includes:
1. BELIEVE THE OPPOSITE of what they say,
2. DO THE OPPOSITE of what they want,
3. ADVISE THEM THE OPPOSITE of what you want them to do,
4. Ensure the GREAT IDEA is seen to be theirs, otherwise it won’t be actioned, and
5. PRAISE THEM PROFUSELY as, not only do they need and crave praise, but they can’t deal with an iota of criticism themselves, something they are masters at dishing out, yet find it hard to praise others, especially when most warranted,
there is clearly something very wrong, especially in those who may lack an internal sense of wrong.
Others having to “walk on eggshells” in and around them just proves how inappropriate they were for senior roles in the first place.
Such a mindset and behaviour forces too many colleagues to waste far too much of their time dealing with their leader’s idiosyncrasies than doing the job they are employed to do – responsibly and constructively managing their organisation – benefitting ALL the “stakeholders”, not just the impulsive needs and personal ambitions of their self-centred, unbalanced, moody, temperamental and Disordered Leader.
Fortunately it is their very predictability and inability to amend their own behaviour which allows “us” an insight into the very different world “they” inhabit, but this predictability only becomes apparent when other people learn what traits to look for.
Those with “shallow emotions” who experience other people no differently than inanimate objects – such as shopfront mannequins – can perceive or misconceive many areas of organisational and national life being like a “game”, including business, politics and government.
It is all about the conquest, winning and possession of what they desire, being better and having more than those they see to be a rival (who frequently are not), with other far more important factors not nearly as relevant as they should be in their perception and deliberations.
- “Getting their own way”,
- “Winning at all costs, irrespective of consequences for others”, and
- Evaluating matters from the primary perspective of “what’s in it for me?”
becomes more critical for them than in the minds of most other, more “normal” people.
Smart words do not make for smart leadership when there is a deep and fundamental disconnect between words and subsequent actions. This can be especially so when leaders do not seek or listen to the astute and perhaps conciliatory advice likely to be available from their more collegiate colleagues and they show no apparent remorse nor learn from the experience when the results of their angry and impulsive behaviour, necessity to hold grudges and seek revenge, even for triviality, disadvantage other people, including those they are supposed to be leading and setting an example for, and damage relationships which someone else will subsequently have to re-build, or at least try.
Perhaps throughout human history (so maybe this piece should be titled “the not so new abnormal”?) society would appear to have mistaken charm, intelligence, smooth talking, arrogance and even callous ruthlessness for “managerial ability” due to a “leadership fallacy” associated with appointing highly self-centred people to leadership positions, consistently mistaking outwardly dynamic displays of confidence and eloquent talk of integrity for strength of character and intimidatory traits for strength of leadership, when in reality such fundamentally weak and perhaps childlike people may possess neither good character nor genuine managerial or leadership ability.
Children describe such traits as bullying, so why does adult society find intimidation acceptable in its managers and leaders, including in those who psychologists liken to primary school children?
It should go without saying that people like feeling appreciated and valued, yet too many managers and leaders do not make other people feel important.
When the only people they value and appreciate are themselves, the organisation or indeed any grouping or entity they are in charge of is likely to face problems it would not if it were instead managed and led by people with a different personality or “dispositional attribution”.
In stark contrast with situations involving inclusion, persuasion and respect, a group intimidated into only doing what the dominant leader wants is unlikely to evolve, especially when “getting their own way” is very important to their leader.
If people are afraid to “speak up” and uninspired to suggest a variety of alternative ideas or courses of action, how likely is more visionary progress?
Intimidation and aggression produce fear, anxiety and discouragement, yet somehow people who regularly rather than exceptionally put-down, humiliate and disrespect others can extraordinarily be associated with “strength” of management or leadership rather than weakness of character and indeed perhaps even a “Personality Disorder”.
What does exclusion, especially of those who would expect to be included, actually achieve?
While many people in society feel good from making others feel good, what needs to be better and indeed more globally appreciated is that there may be something wrong with those who themselves feel good when they make others feel bad.
Society needs leaders who find it easy to love and difficult to hate, rather than those who find it easy to hate and impossible to love – anyone but themselves.
At the end of the day “Disordered Leaders” demotivate and discourage people from producing their best. They may even want to bring out the worst in others as they try to turn people against each other, rather than engender teamwork and co-operation.
In the wonderful field of “Social Psychology”, when someone loses something they once had, they are all the more aware of its absence and can go to great lengths to get it back.
Losing something of sentimental value then finding it can make it better appreciated, while the satisfaction from finding a lost 50 note can exceed the pleasure from being given it in the first place.
I propose the opposite applies to those with a Personality Disorder – not knowing what they are missing – notably with those who lack what I argue is one of the key managerial abilities (as well as a mutually happy life) – empathy – especially when this extends beyond understanding other people to sharing their emotional highs and lows, showing an interest in and caring sufficiently for them to want to say or do something to make them happy, especially when they may be sad for any reason.
“Emotional Intelligence” research has shown that these are amongst the traits which endear followers to their leaders and build the kind of healthy relationships that can even transform organisations, because ultimately the strength or weakness in Constructive or Destructive leaders lies in their relationships and whether they develop or demolish them.
As well as empathy, the same can apply to guilt, remorse, conscience and the warmer emotions in general, including compassion ,”ruth” or sympathy and the capacity to love and be loved.
People lacking or deficient in these qualities do not notice the absence of something they never possessed in the first place.
How can you tell someone fundamentally unkind that they lack empathy, when not only do they have no conception of its real meaning, but can never have?
Another key feature of Personality Disorders, in effect a disordered personality, is that the disordered person often believes there is nothing wrong with them at all.
They believe other people (who they blame) are responsible for the difficulties they create throughout society, especially for other people but also for themselves, yet may not have sufficient emotional depth to appreciate that it was they who created the problems.
Indeed those with particularly extreme self-belief can even consider that they are extremely talented and adept at areas others know them to be poor or even appalling. Nor can they be told.
For some it can be beyond their personal capacity to appreciate their inabilities or deficiencies.
Combined with an inability to learn from prior experiences (especially their mistakes which they consequently repeat, sometimes time and time again), it is no wonder such people struggle to change or improve, especially when they see no necessity to do so, even if they were capable, which they may not be, given the “inflexible” or “maladaptive” nature of Personality Disorders.
Yet we make such people leaders.
Similarly how can you tell the vast majority of society’s kindest, fairest and most decent people, with an abundance of empathy, emotional intelligence and highly active consciences, that a minority actually differ fundamentally from them and have no real interest in other people at all, no matter how well they manage to mask their true inner coldness from most people, most of the time, by way of their charm, intelligence and eloquence?
One of society’s greatest secrets is the extraordinary but critically important world of Personality Disorders which makes one if its greatest challenges being to convince the majority that a minority possess significantly different minds (empathy and conscience free zones), that their self-centredness is so deep that they care little for anyone (but themselves), that their talents and intelligence are ultimately wasted when they cannot use it to genuinely want to better the lives of others, especially when their ruth-less ambition brings them to seniority of position throughout global society.
Perhaps it is as difficult for those lacking empathy to appreciate what they may be missing as it is for those with an abundance of life’s warmest emotions to consider that some of life’s most apparently charming, smart and silver-tongued people may actually be fundamentally different from them and in reality are quite cold, calculating, deceptive, manipulative and so ruthlessly mean-hearted that they can be at their happiest when making others unhappy.
In due course their words will transpire to be insincere and their promises quite empty.
Yet we let them lead our organisations, entities and, even more extraordinarily, our nations.
“When the going gets tough, the tough get going”, but does this require being tough with the people they lead when this includes being disrespectful, unfair, unjust or unnecessarily critical?
Do tough times not require the leader to encourage rather than discourage those they are supposed to be leading and setting an admirable example for?
Yet far too often when a difficult situation arises, managers and leaders “blow their top” and shout and scream at those they are expecting to be creative in solving the problems, failing to appreciate that people better respond to encouragement than discouragement and that different parts of their brain are actually activated during positive and negative experiences.
So discouraging and even humiliating people triggers quite the opposite emotional response which is capable of putting them in the right frame of mind to solve rather than deepen problems and crises.
While many people are exceptionally warm, welcoming and concerned for the interests and needs of others, a minority are far colder than others, with little real interest in anyone but themselves.
Yet a key and perhaps curious question arises when considering “selfish, difficult and proud people”.
How can they be such expert manipulators, both of people and situations, predominantly to their own advantage, if their behaviour is capable of being associated with a “profound lack of empathy”?
The answer may lie in there being a number of different forms of empathy, with some people experiencing it in quite a shallow and calculated manner and others with a great depth of emotion.
The depth of empathy some people appear to be capable of experiencing appears to be limited to (a) putting themselves in the shoes of another, understanding their situation, without necessarily experiencing this in an emotional manner, opening themselves up to the possibility of being perceived as being “cold and calculating”.
A deeper form of empathy involves (b) appreciating and sharing the feelings of other people and (c) going even further by being capable of responding to the good, bad or sad moods of others in an appropriately joyful or sympathetic manner.
“Emotional Empathy”, also known as “Affective Empathy” or “Primitive Empathy”, involves the more naturally spontaneous, impulsive and intuitive ability to build emotional connections with other people by feeling and sharing their emotions, by way of “emotional contagion”, being “the rapid spread of an emotion from one or a few individuals to others.”
Sharing emotions can be facilitated by making better efforts to listen carefully, “active listening”, including perhaps refraining from interrupting or interjecting relevant personal opinions or experiences, but does not necessarily result in expressing sympathy to others nor coming to their assistance.
Showing compassion or sympathy involves connecting with their plight in such a manner that it inspires some form of appropriate, kind and considerate (as opposed to cruel) response, with a view to somehow being of help and assistance to others.
Being capable of assessing a situation from the perspective of another or assuming many of the responsibilities associated with a specific role in society does not necessarily involve emotional or affective empathy.
This raises the question how some people, who by many measures appear to be “lacking in empathy”, can appreciate situations with such a depth of understanding that they may even be capable of taking advantage of the situation to benefit themselves?
Unlike Emotional or Affective Empathy, being a more automatic response which just happens in many people, “Cognitive Empathy” involves a more deliberate and conscious attempt to try to be able to understand what others may be thinking or maybe even feeling, but not sharing or experiencing these same feelings, emotions, perceptions or thoughts themselves.
Neuroscientific research suggests that “the human brain responds differently when either cognitive or emotional empathy is activated.”
Cognitive empathy involves an intellectual or cognitive but not an emotional understanding, which can allow those “lacking in empathy” to avail of the situation to benefit themselves, including being significantly devious and manipulative, without feeling any compassion or sympathy towards those who they may be seeking to disadvantage.
Despite the problems such people create throughout society (and perhaps have done down the centuries) from impaired relationships and damaged reputations to business failures, chaos and even wars, which they start then perpetuate, being troublemakers not peacemakers, the concept of “Personality Disorders” needs to become more widely appreciated to better understand “difficult” people and their initially bizarre, but in due course entirely predictable behaviour, to sufficiently realise that their motivations differ from those of most “normal” people.
“A chronic, inflexible, maladaptive pattern of perceiving, thinking and behaving that seriously impairs an individual’s ability to function in social or other settings”
which is one of the definitions of a Personality Disorder, should be disqualified from becoming leaders of other people and societal organisations.
Do we never seem to learn?
Unless these and many other related matters are more fully appreciated and understood, the problems and challenges which disordered people innately and perhaps uniquely create are likely to persist, to the detriment of other people, organisational life and ultimately the well-being of global society.
While some “Constructive Leaders” cope admirably with crises, other more dangerously “Destructive Managers” and perhaps even “Disordered Leaders” plot deceit and distrust, disloyalty and disharmony, disturbance and dissension, devise dramas, scheme strife, cause conflict and create crises.
These tricky and untrustworthy troublemakers and warmongers, avail of empty promises, fawningly false flattery, sycophantic insincerity and skin-deep charm to seditiously succeed (much of the time) in masking their true inner coldness, absent empathy, cloaked conscience, hidden hatreds and perhaps terrible tendencies so the disunity, dissonance and mayhem which arises from their lies, deceit, blame, delusional distortions of reality, devious mind games and mendacious mission of manipulation and character assassination of good, well-intentioned people, with the courage to stand up to and criticise them, cleverly cannot be traced back to them, at least in the short-term.
Despite being adverse to harmonious compromise and being naturally combative, preferring competition to cooperation and conflict to sensible consideration and resolution of issues, given their necessity to “get their own way” and “win at all costs”, often preferring to do the opposite of what others propose to be the optimum course of action, no matter the walk in life and irrespective of any adverse consequences for other people, groups, organisations, entities, states and nations (inconsequential to those fundamentally only interested in themselves), extraordinarily such “selfish, difficult, proud, perverse and stubborn” people, brazen bullies, consistently contrary and perversity personified, incorrigible troublemakers and wicked warmongers, exceptionally self-centred, innately insensitive to the needs of others and ultimately quite irresistibly reckless and irresponsible, frequently hold significant positions of responsibility for others throughout society.
Those whose vision is limited to their own perspective, evaluating matters by primarily considering “what’s in it for me?”, are incapable of providing a worthwhile vision for the entity they lead nor inspiring those they lead to follow their unworthy example.
Other people need to be warned not to allow themselves to fall for their external charisma which may transpire to be skin-deep, especially when one day they engage in false flattery of others for the purpose of personal advantage, which can rapidly turn the next day to the most severe character assassination of the same person, just because they disagreed with their (bizarre) point of view.
In their (disordered and distorted) mind at least, the only person that matters is themselves, incapable of seeing the merits in others, except as rivals to be defeated and fired rather than appreciated and hired.
Fractious people thrive on friction and extraordinarily even fiction, which they can confuse with the actual facts.
Yet we mistakenly trust the most delusional with responsibility for the lives and emotions of others, when they cannot even successfully manage their own.
Their way of thinking can be grossly distorted and their lives fraught with interpersonal difficulties, which like their many faults and errors they consistently blame on others as they accept no responsibility for the many problems they create, especially as they lack the ability to learn from their mistakes which they are well capable of regularly repeating.
Groundhog Day can be every day for those who have no option but to share their working or personal lives with such people, who should not be trusted with managing a street corner newspaper stand let alone an organisation of substance or (perish the thought) a nation with responsibility for all (not just some) of its people.
Despite being deeply untrustworthy, who lie easily and expertly without any semblance of remorse when “found out”, with a deep disconnect between their often impressive words and equally unimpressive actions, especially when their decisions and deeds are impulsive and contrary to the advice of others far more capable of sensible and rational deliberation, somehow we trust these deeply untrustworthy people with responsibility for the organisations, institutions and sometimes nations of our global society, despite they lacking the capacity for experiencing other people, who exist to be vindictively used, deceived and manipulated, any differently than a myriad of inanimate objects.
Those lacking a sense of wrong must indeed have something wrong with them, even if they believe they are always right and others wrong.
While capable of differentiating right from wrong in abstract terms, when their self-interest is involved this can seem to fly out the window as they insatiably seek to satisfy themselves, especially when this can be at the expense of others, thriving on win-lose rather than win-win.
Some do not experience fear as most people would know it, so can engage in risky behaviour and take speculative decisions others wouldn’t, often based on maximising reward or benefit, unencumbered by the associated downside which is simply not their concern, with their focus – like a wild predator – directed only on impetuously and sometimes quite impulsively maximizing personal gain and their self-interest which, at the end of the day, is the only matter they are interested in.
Yet we let such people lead financial institutions, the organisations in society most dependent for both their success and survival on getting the right balance between risk and reward.
How many more financial institutions need to collapse, how many more organisations fail and nations go bankrupt or to war, or both, because they chose people to manage and lead them with a hidden secret – a covertly, cold and mean hearted, perhaps cruel and certainly self-centred and disordered mind?
The necessity and indeed imperative to “win at all costs” does not make for constructive, orderly progress, given that good, healthy relationships within and between organisations and nations has been proven to be the secret ingredient towards longer term success.
Indeed those for whom co-operation, collaboration, encouragement, tact, teamwork and many related factors remain a “secret sauce” in the ingredients list which makes for sensible progress, as they prefer the alternative, failed, recipe involving intimidation, disrespect, many forms of fearful dissonance and in essence themselves to others, which inevitably results in disagreement and distrust, which they may even thrive on, simply do not have the right personality for leadership and cannot be trusted with positions of responsibility, given their innate irresponsibility and incredible internal need to feel good by way of making others feel bad, discouraging rather than encouraging those they lead to perform nearer their potential and feel welcome and included rather then unwelcome, disrespected and even humiliated by someone they have little true respect for.
When colleagues and coworkers have to spend an inordinate amount of their time tending to the whims of their leaders rather than working as a team to prioritise the goals of the organisation or entity and the needs of those it was founded to serve, such as customers or citizens, rather than the insatiable personal needs and interests of a few individuals, there is clearly something wrong and it should be evident that the wrong people are in charge.
Yet time after time we choose such people for senior roles for which they are deeply, utterly and fundamentally ill-equipped.
Do we never seem to learn?
Peter Drucker wisely asserted that “the purpose of business is to create and retain a customer” yet how many organisations seem more focused on satisfying the needs of the leadership and senior management team rather than those who ultimately guarantee its continued existence – satisfied customers who receive what they want or need, serviced by employees who really enjoy coming in to work and are allowed to feel a sense of satisfaction and purpose as they are praised and encouraged rather than belittled and made to feel quite unimportant by managers really only interested in themselves?
Intimidation can never be acceptable, especially when it is seen as a routine part of the fabric of life, whatever the grouping in society may be.
Senior people out of touch with the raison d’être of the entity they are supposed to be serving, not predominantly themselves, and indeed why they are there in the first place, should never be permitted to become untouchable.
When will key decision-makers realise that those who actively seek personal gain and acclaim may least warrant it, while those who desire little or no attention for themselves or their achievements may indeed be the most praiseworthy and the most likely to offer the most astute guidance and the best equipped to provide the most appropriate flexibility of leadership with integrity to deal with the many situations which inevitably will be faced?
The best way to give a good impression is to actually “do the right thing even when no-one is looking” and own-up not cover-up when things go wrong, as they inevitably will.
People are more likely to distrust those who try and deny the undeniable and believe they can pull the wool over the eyes of those they hope are blind to their failings.
People are not stupid and most can see through their leaders when they seek to defend the indefensible rather than own up and say “let’s learn from the experience and try and do better next time.”
People are more likely to trust those they believe are authentic, genuine, open and honest and are generally considerate of the interests and needs of those they are chosen to lead.
In the words of Ken Blanchard and Vincent Norman Peale from their very apt book “The Power of Ethical Management”:
“There is no right way to do a wrong thing.”
People of integrity are well capable of “doing the right thing when no-one is looking”, but they seem to be incapable of “doing the right thing when everyone is looking”.
Such people being chosen for seniority of position throughout global society, is also likely to result in integrity challenges, as the interests of other people let alone wider society and matters of ethics and morality are just not on the personal radar of people secretly or more overtly obsessed with themselves.
Throughout human history society seems to have mistaken confidence, charm, arrogance, apparent intelligence displayed by way of eloquent talk of integrity, for strength of character, and misinterpreted intimidatory traits for strength of leadership, when in reality such fundamentally weak and perhaps childlike people may possess neither good character nor genuine managerial or leadership ability.
Intimidation and aggression produce fear, anxiety and discouragement, which prevent our minds from thinking positively and creatively.
Yet those who put-down, humiliate, disrespect and bully others can extraordinarily be associated with “strength” rather than “weakness” of character, perhaps even a “Personality Disorder”.
At the end of the day “Disordered Leaders” demotivate and discourage people from producing their best. They may even want to bring out the worst in others as they try to turn people against each other, rather than praise, encourage, include, inspire, build teams and engender co-operation.
Yet we make such people leaders.
Then regret the predictable consequences.
When will we learn?
This makes identifying “Disordered Leaders” in advance for who they really are and denying them influence and power an absolute imperative for the safety of global society, its organisations and institutions and the welfare of its many decent, fair-minded and well-intentioned people, the kind of considerate people who naturally prefer praise to criticism, inclusion to exclusion, co-operation to unnecessary competition and harmony to disharmony.
It is such modest, “Legitimate” and “Constructive Leaders” who calmly and astutely guide many organisations along sensible and progressive paths, but remain fairly “low-key”, because they don’t feel the need to boast and are more “proud” of the achievements of the people they passionately and “constructively” lead, not themselves and their personal ego.
The most astute, “Constructive Leaders”, treat everyone the same, with esteem, irrespective of position, title, gender or race and view them as their equals not subordinates, requiring a touch of humility rather than a dose of pride and a more selfless nature which leads to treating everyone the way they would like to be treated themselves, resulting in mutual respect, reciprocity and an enthusiastic following from those they lead.
Society needs “Constructive Leaders” who prefer co-operation and collaboration to conflict, dissent and turmoil, harmony to disharmony and win-win to win-lose, ultimately preferring to peacefully resolve differences without resorting to conflict between people, within and between organisations and even war between nations when their leaders have the cold, combative, “must-win” personality and superiority disorder which results in them innately diminishing and disparaging other people and which prioritises themselves and their needs over those of the more peace-loving people they mis-lead.
Society needs to learn how to identify “Destructive” troublemakers and never, ever give up in their attempts to diminish the real damage they can do to the fabric of group life, whatever the grouping in society may be.
Society needs those capable of recognising wrong, including their own faults which they seek to learn from and rectify, who accept responsibility for the errors of those they lead, rather than those who see no wrong in words and actions which others would, do not learn from their mistakes and blame everyone else for their own failings.
Society needs those capable of hiring people more talented then themselves, rather than only those unlikely to show up their deficiencies.
Society needs those capable of firing those who do wrong, not those who try their best to put the organisation first or speak up against wrongdoing.
Society needs decisive leaders who see inclusive debate and discussion as a constructive opportunity to maximise collective progress, not “my way only”.
Society needs leaders who understand their words and deeds can significantly influence others so are careful to ensure what they say and do will encourage peaceful cooperation and never breed trouble, strife and dissent, especially between different groups of people.
Society needs leaders who appreciate that their responsibility is to unite rather than divide the people they are responsible for, including those who have never cooperated before.
Society needs leaders capable of diminishing not encouraging hatred and making friends out of former enemies, not enemies out of friends.
Society needs leaders who are peacemakers not troublemakers, encouraging by their words and deeds kindness in lieu of hatred, forgiveness instead of holding grudges, belief in goodness where there is badness, bringing hope where there is doubt and despair, lighting up people’s lives with their positivity and joy not spreading doom, gloom, sadness, despair and darkness, appreciating that it is by showing an interest in others and trying to understand them that people respond positively, rather than being exclusively interested in themselves.
Society needs leaders capable of considering the consequences of their words and actions, with the self-restraint to know when saying nothing may be more tactful and responsible, especially when they have nothing positive to say.
Society needs leaders with the self-control which prevents them from acting impulsively and irresponsibly, inconsiderate of any adverse consequences for others, including themselves.
Society needs balanced leaders capable of balancing the interests and needs of various groups they are responsible for, not consistently favouring some groups over others and even spreading dissent between them.
Society needs to learn the many lessons from the past that “Givers”, being more interested in others than themselves, make for far better leaders, especially of other people, than those “Takers” who are fundamentally more interested in themselves than others.
Society needs those who appreciate that the richness of their leadership is derived from treating everyone the same, with equal respect not prejudice, while prioritising the most needy, disadvantaged and ignored over the already wealthy, including inspiring those who have never worked to experience the many joys of the workplace.
Society needs leaders capable of persuading those considering leaving education too early to appreciate the longer term benefits of learning, while creating the opportunities for them to do so.
Society needs leaders sensitive to the needs of all, capable of favouring the most kind and sensitive over the most cruel and insensitive.
Society needs leaders who derive their primary satisfaction from making the people they lead feel better, never worse.
Society needs leaders capable of suffering criticism silently, perhaps accepting and learning from it, responding constructively not in a manner which causes others to suffer.
Society needs positive leaders capable of making opportunities from their difficulties rather than negative leaders who specialise in making difficulties from their opportunities.
Society needs to better appreciate how to identify the kind of people incapable of genuine kindness, if it is not to suffer from their fundamental lack of humanity.
Society needs leaders who appreciate that their primary responsibility is to act responsibly, preferring humility to pride.
People expect their leaders to be encouraging, show an interest in them, inspire them by words and good example to produce their best, never be discouraging and seem to want to bring out the worst in them, by words and bad example inspire hatred, seek revenge and actively encourage those they lead to be uncooperative with colleagues and peers, situations which (incredibly) happen and can even be prevalent in far too many organisations.
Of course this is totally, utterly and absolutely contrary to their being established to co-operate towards some common purpose and more likely to result in failure and perhaps bankruptcy, rather than sensible progress and successful growth.
Yet this is the unnecessarily and indeed predictably sad story which could be told by far too many unenthused employees in far too many global organisations, especially those forced to seek employment elsewhere by the “Managerial Myopia” and “Counterproductively Competitive & Combative Corporate Cultures” engendered by Disordered Leaders who covertly thrive on deceit, disagreement, dissent, distrust, disloyalty, disturbance, dissension and many other forms of dissonant disharmony and disorder, which should disqualify them from being considered for senior roles throughout society, but extraordinarily doesn’t.
Such situations can be entirely preventable, if only the sensible, rational and constructive people, with all the right credentials themselves, knew what traits to look for in advance of making the greatest mistake of their organisational lives by appointing those fundamentally incapable of prioritising the interests of anyone but themselves to senior roles for which they will transpire to be totally ill-equipped, before responding to their many failures by criticising, intimidating and blaming others.
There is an expression that “business ethics begins where the law ends” suggesting that what is legal is only the starting point in evaluating what is right rather than the sole determinant. The same applies across society. Those who have to resort to stating “we did not break any rules” are often the most culpable and (should) know they could have done better if their behaviour were to be judged as having been of the highest integrity.
“Would you do business with someone you don’t trust?” could easily be amended to“would you choose to elect or promote someone you don’t trust?”
Yet like in business, the likely impact on that critical quality we call trust appears to often not to be at the forefront of the minds of the decision-makers when they choose to try and seek an unfair advantage.
It is in situations such as these when real leadership is most required.
Treating everyone the same, no matter who they may be, is a great way of making friends and not losing any. Treating everyone as being important prevents the embarrassment when someone previously ignored or disrespected actually transpires to be important.
An integer is a whole number. The “wholeness” associated with the notion of “integrity” is displayed by people doing the right thing not just in some areas, visibly practicing what they preach, owning up not covering up, ensuring their words and actions live up to their values and inspiring a “can do” attitude with their positivity and enthusiasm.
A person of integrity – a whole person – behaves in the same manner in all areas of their life, treating everyone well both at home and at work. This may be all the more important when “work” involves being in the public eye.
Martin Luther King could have been referring to the key role which “public” people play in society and the “big picture” choices they face when he said that:
“Everyone must decide whether they will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness.”
Maybe people do not sufficiently state how they dislike the dark side of mind games and cheating which some believe is necessary, even if it may transpire to have conferred little real advantage, but instead resulted in neutrals hoping the lights go out on those who prefer darkness to light.
No-one makes a decision expecting it to backfire, yet some engage in practices which can only be counter- productive, if only their personality permitted them to see this. Winning at all costs may transpire to be far more costly than they anticipated. Surely no-one would take a decision which would result in more people wanting them to lose or fail?
One fire that needs to be lit is that in the hearts of our youth.
Who do parents want to see their children most guided by? The modest and calm or proud and petulant? Those who praise or criticise? Those who encourage or discourage? Those who include or exclude? Those who empower or intimidate? Those who prioritise the interests of others or insist on getting their own way? The kind or manipulative? The open and honest or deceitful and divisive? The peacemakers or troublemakers? The team-players or self-centred? The role models or the cheats?
Children are very influenced by society’s leaders as well as their sporting heroes, musicians and actors. They need to be set an example by everyone involved that no parent could be disappointed with should their children decide to do the same themselves.
People in the public arena have a huge and onerous responsibility to be true role models, an aspiration many manage to rise to, often admirably.
Yet this does not deter some from “crossing the line” and “pushing the envelope”. Although they may achieve little for doing so, do they deserve our respect when they do win “at all costs”?
Do they consider what the real cost may actually be? When leaders choose to “do the wrong thing” do they ever consider the impact on trust, reputation and hope?
The long term impact of their behaviour may well be that more and more hope they don’t succeed or win, as they divert their support to their opponents!
People expect high standards of those in leadership positions. They expect society’s leaders to practice what they preach and display their integrity by “doing the right thing even when no-one is looking”.
Astute, strong and courageous leaders know that “doing the wrong thing when everyone is looking” could never be described as leadership, let alone leadership with integrity.
Despite the major problems such people create throughout society, from impaired relationships and damaged reputations to business failures, chaos and even wars, which throughout history they may not only have started but perpetuated, being Troublemakers not Peacemakers, the concept of Personality Disorders needs to become more widely appreciated to better understand “difficult people” and their initially bizarre, but in due course entirely predictable behaviour, to sufficiently realise their motivations differ from those of most “normal” people.
How abnormal “Disordered Leaders” must be, because when they look out on the world, all they seem to see is their own, as if blinded to the world which everyone else shares, inconsiderate of the interests and needs of anyone and anything else, not even the entity which erroneously employs them.
Even after their organisation has collapsed (perhaps with a track record of doing so than building ventures capable of long-term, sustainable success), with many people’s lives adversely affected, trust in tatters and reputation beyond repair, “Disordered Leaders” can still wonder what they did wrong.
Yet we let them “lead”, or rather “mis-lead”.
Despite most people far better responding to encouragement than discouragement, extraordinarily some believe the intimidation they practice is indicative of some form of strength of either character or leadership, rather than a deep character flaw.
Until intimidatory traits become more associated with illegitimate management, this leadership fallacy, which may have blighted global society for generations, will continue to the detriment of interpersonal trust and the reputation of the entities who appointed them, before they may subsequently be given sufficient reason to doubt their own sanity for choosing them.
Those who gradually get to know and begin to understand, as best they can, narcissistic people and what seems to motivate them, will realise that any interest they may show in others is likely to be pure pretense. Putting others first does just not appear to be part of their psyche.
Their pride of seems to innately focussed on themselves, inconsiderate of the interests and needs of those they lead. Some can be merciless, remorseless and ultimately disrespected by their peers, who do what they demand out of fear of the consequences of failing to do so, although this sends out entirely the wrong message to those nearer the beginning than end of their careers, unfortunate to work for the wrong role models.
Victims of their insensitive callousness can include respect, honour, trust, reputation, integrity, professionalism and healthy relationships, all of which are important to those with a genuine interest in other people and the organisations which employ them, but of little real concern to those who are fundamentally cold and ruthless at heart with little authentic interest in anyone but themselves.
Which type of person makes for a better leader, not just of businesses but also political parties, governments, nations and other entities and organizations in society from schools and public bodies to charities and clubs?
Surely not those who are always right and never wrong, incapable of accepting responsibility for decisions and events with poor outcomes, who blame others for all their failings, being naturally combative, won’t be the first to offer an “olive branch” to try and build bridges with opponents and more likely to escalate than seek a solution to conflicts, which perhaps might not have arisen in the first place had they not been in charge.
When we choose for leadership positions those who may be perceived by their peers as troublemakers rather than peacemakers, who prefer disharmony to harmony, intimidation to persuasion, animosity to kindness, antipathy to sympathy, discord to accord, aggression to compassion, contention to compromise, petulance to patience, rancor to rapport, enmity to placidness, acrimony to courtesy, animosity to diplomacy, bad blood to goodwill, dissension to conformity, friction and hostility to friendship, rivalry to collaboration, disrespect to respect, competition to cooperation and ultimately malevolence to benevolence, why are we surprised when the outcome is closer to war than peace?
When we elect those who are more naturally antagonistic, contentious, contrary, controversial, pugnacious, quarrelsome and argumentative rather than agreeable and consensus-seeking, who throw temper tantrums when they do not get their own way, who hold grudges and find it difficult to forgive and forget, who are so opinionated that they find it a challenge to accept the suggestions of others and who seem to prefer conflict, trouble and strife to calm co-operation, disputes to compromise and disagreement to agreement, are we committing the “leadership fallacy” of mistaking strength of will for strength of character?
Ultimately when we permit those who are innately more cruel than considerate to achieve their goal of reaching senior positions, are we succumbing to the “leadership fallacy” that somehow seems to assume or accept that ruthlessness is a valid managerial or even leadership trait?
Management and leadership are supposed to be constructive processes, yet we continue to commit the “leadership fallacy” of choosing fundamentally destructive people to manage and lead our organisations, mistaking conflict and exclusion for an acceptable alternative to cooperation and inclusion, and being bullied into misinterpreting aggression and intimidation as a satisfactory and even admirable alternative to praise and encouragement.
Some lack the tact to realise that most people better respond to humility than humiliation, because somehow they feel better when they make others feel worse.
Yet time and time again we appoint such spiteful, vindictive, unforgiving, merciless and malicious people to seniority of position, trusting them with important roles in society despite their deep and utter untrustworthiness, perhaps scared of their retribution if we don’t grant them the power they insatiably crave but ultimately can only abuse; power which their self-centred focus switches to maintaining at any cost, rather than using astutely and constructively for the purpose granted.
Those whose expertise includes denying the undeniable and defending the indefensible need to be denied the opportunity to create situations which they will later deny as either not having happened, defend as having been appropriate when actually deeply inappropriate or pass the buck as having been someone else’s fault.
Society most needs people capable of accepting responsibility for the faults of others as its leaders, not those who blame everyone but themselves for their many failings, like the emperor’s new clothes apparent to everyone but themselves.
Remedial action will inevitably be required arising from the destruction associated with “Disordered Leaders” before it is too late and the damage they inflict becomes irreparable, evidenced by the multitude of defunct corporations in global business graveyards, as well as other organisations and even nations which also no longer exist.
And yet for centuries we have chosen such people to lead our organisations and even nations.
Indeed more and more must wonder how such inappropriate people were allowed mis-lead in the first place when they make rational progress difficult, posing considerable challenges to those who have no option but to do what they cannot in trying to responsibly deal with their irresponsibility – adapt and amend their own behavior.
Prevention is preferable to the improbability of cure.
This though is not a new abnormal, as throughout history from as early as this has been recorded, we seem to have let similarly “disordered” people mis-lead, with entirely inevitable combative, uncooperative, soul-destroying and destructive consequences, being troublemakers not peacemakers, starting then arrogantly justifying and perpetuating conflicts between colleagues, organisations and even nations, without a semblance of remorse or suspicion they may have learned from their mistakes, making this the most significant mistake which humanity seems doomed to repeat, time after time again.
The behaviour and indeed mindset of such “selfish, difficult and proud” people, especially when they prefer cold-hearted meanness and even cruelty over consideration for others and being disruptive to constructive, is totally and absolutely predictable, being “maladaptive”, with warning signs well displayed, which we do not seem to heed.
So when will we learn to instead choose the most responsible people for the most responsible roles, from business to politics, government, education, charities, sport and religion, indeed across global society in all its nations and branches, those with the talent and interest in others to drive the entity they are responsible for tactfully, constructively and sustainably forward, rise to not create challenges and by word and deed set an admirable example involving inclusion, encouragement and harmonious collaboration, not the most irresponsible who innately seem to prefer discouragement, dissonant disharmony and (most importantly to them) themselves and their insatiable personal goals to those they are supposed to be leading, guiding, cajoling and persuading, not intimidating, immune to their interests and needs, irrespective of the consequences?
Those only capable of loyalty to themselves lack the fundamental ability to inspire and lead others, unaware of personality deficiencies blatantly apparent to others, unable to set an admirable example for those they should be role models for, incapable of showing a genuine interest in them or even the organisation whose future they are entrusted with yet risk, being so innately and incredibly consumed by their self-interest and having to personally prevail in every situation that nothing else seems to matter in their peculiar version of reality and truth.
There is though one aspect of “management” at which they excel. Although poor at managing their own emotions, especially when their self-interest is challenged, no matter how well they do “manage” to hide their true inner coldness and insensitivity behind a “mask of normality”, often composed of Intelligence, Charm and Eloquence, eventually others begin to realise that their talents can be wasted when all they are really interested in is – themselves.
When organisations, entities and even nations are managed and led by the wrong people with the least appropriate self-centred personality, irresponsible by nature and fundamentally incapable of being trusted with significant positions of responsibility, Disordered Leaders ultimately disappoint those who appointed them believing them to be capable of far better, before instead realising how difficult they are to remove when they transpire to be more capable at causing harm than doing good.
We need Constructive Leaders with the vision to realise how great the group they are responsible for could be, the insight to know how to get there, integrity to set the right tone at the top, moral compass to guide everyone in the right direction, creativity to explore new opportunities, interest in others to willingly provide support, perception to offer astute guidance, wisdom to know what to change and when, courage to tackle the issues others might ignore, tact to deal with matters diplomatically, modesty to deflect praise to others yet accept responsibility for their mistakes, with the enthusiastic personality which creates the positive culture and sets the admirable example which encourages and maybe even inspires everyone to want to follow their leader in top gear. There are many such people in many roles throughout global society, but we just don’t hear too much about them, certainly not from themselves.
What we do not need are Destructive Leaders, so short-sighted they can only see matters from their own perspective and so pre-occupied with finding every opportunity to personally prevail that they instead drive down cul-de-sacs which only they believe are the right direction, ignoring the advice of their management team who end up as mere passengers, then are too proud to engage the non-existent reverse gear, so crash and burn not only the entity they mis-lead but perhaps its reputation too. Fortunately there are far fewer such people in the world, but unfortunately far too many in senior roles throughout global society, promoted beyond the capabilities of their personality (although a secret to them, if no-one else). But we hear far too much about them, especially from themselves, as they loudly promote their own abilities and demote, diminish and demolish the abilities and reputations of people far more talented than they, with many more credentials to provide the responsible leadership required, which becomes all the more apparent when mis-led by the arrogant and self-centred.
The Constructive Leaders they criticise and belittle have the last laugh when they overtake them and not only remain in the fast lane but construct new roads where no-one thought possible, possessing the imagination and enthusiasm to collaborate with all involved, building the required bridges to make the most appropriate progress, given that their mindset is innately win-win and they treat everyone else with the degree of respect which makes them feel appreciated, included and part of the team, no matter their role.
The divisively negative impact of Destructive Leaders who at their core are selfish, difficult, proud, hateful, mean-hearted, lacking in empathy and emotional depth, well capable of holding long-standing grudges (whether warranted or not), spreading malicious rumours designed to damage the reputation of those they see as opponents or rivals (even if not) or have merely disagreed with them publicly, adept at covering-up and passing the blame for their mistakes to others while failing to encourage those well worthy of praise and ignoring those they do not deem to be sufficiently important or influential; experts at disrespect, discouragement and disloyalty and thus damaging relationships and breeding distrust, may suggest that ruthlessness, meaning an inability to be sympathetic, kind and express remorse, perhaps with a tendency toward being intimidatory, needs to be further recognised not as a personal strength and managerial requirement, as some mistakenly perceive it to be, including by those Disordered Leaders who derive satisfaction practicing it or by those adversely influenced by the wrong role-models, rather should be increasingly associated with a self-centred weakness of character, a cold, calculating, impersonal, devious, destructive, manipulative and possibly disordered mindset, as well as an unnecessary and inappropriate implement in the toolkit of successful leaders, who are well capable of taking difficult decisions without being innately cruel or unsympathetic.
The contagiously positive impact of Constructive Leaders who in essence are generous of spirit, most certainly not mean-hearted, well capable of owning up to mistakes, forgiving those who may have wronged them and moving on from such experiences, experts at appreciating and acknowledging the value of other people by way of praise, encouragement, loyalty and showing an interest in them and hence building trustworthy relationships, may suggest that warm emotions including kindness, compassion and the ability to love and be loved, alongside empathy and interest, are most certainly not a weakness, but a strength required in leaders, needed to permit them to properly, purposefully and constructively evaluate options and make fair, just and balanced decisions, with integrity and the selfless courage to “do the right thing when no-one is looking”, modestly avoid self-publicity and short-term expediency or narrow-minded popularism in favour of the longer-term benefit of those they were chosen to lead, not prioritising themselves and their self-interest and approaching all matters from the perspective of “what’s in it for me?”
The world needs to decide which it needs.
Most people throughout society feel good from making others feel great. What needs to be better and indeed more globally appreciated is that there may be something wrong with those who themselves feel great – when they make others feel bad.
Those being led know that those who are rude, crude, unkind and disloyal, insensitive to the needs of others, practice disrespect yet seek popularity, are not themselves respected and deeply unpopular.
Those being led know that humility beats humiliation, any day,
Too many leaders evidently do not, prioritising making themselves feel good at the expense of making those they are supposed to be responsible for feeling bad, who are simply not their concern, ultimately only being interested in themselves.
Their self-interest does not just appear to be an option they persistently prioritise, rather it can seem to be their sole child-like state of mind, overriding all other considerations when the opportunity arises to “get their own way” and “win at all costs”, irrespective of the consequences for anyone or anything else, with their fixed focus fixated on “what’s in it for me?” and “we” or “us” not even on their personal radar.
Fortunately there is a consistency in their apparent inconsistency, so their bizarre behaviour and mindset may with greater familiarity be seen to be entirely predictable.
Given the harm, havoc, trouble and strife which fundamentally destructive people create and thrive on, indeed perhaps have done throughout human history, global society needs both to better appreciate how to identify essentially infantile people and prevent them from attaining positions of responsibility, while simultaneously recognising what positive and responsible traits to seek in appointing leaders.
As people better respond to praise, encouragement, inclusion and persuasion than criticism, discouragement, exclusion and aggression, what will it take for those with sufficient influence to appreciate that the selfless, positive, constructive, encouraging, just and modest “givers”, more interested in others than themselves, with a true moral-compass, can actually make far better leaders of people, organisations and nations than the self-centred, negative, unjust, critical, discouraging, discourteous and arrogant “takers”, more interested in themselves than others?
Being in essence a “viability liability”, unstable seekers of power, fame, persecution and sympathy, extraordinarily impulsive and deeply untruthful, highly combative troublemakers with huge and unwarranted self-belief, little real interest in anyone or anything else, quite irrational who live a different version of reality, indeed in their own special delusional world, thriving on dissent, disorder, disharmony and injustice, prioritising reward irrespective of the risks, they are more likely to bring failure than success yet remorselessly blame others when this transpires, self-interested to their core believing themselves to be the centre of their own universe, threaten the emotional welfare and sanity of coworkers, the future of their organisations and ultimately the moral fabric of society.
Incapable of learning from their mistakes, the rest of the world needs to by no longer trusting the most untrustworthy and irresponsible people in society with any positions of responsibility. Experts at deception, manipulation and intimidation, they bullying their way into positions beyond the capabilities of their personality needs to be resisted, incapable of responsibly and harmoniously running a street stall let alone an entrepreneurial venture, multinational, public body, religious order, charity, restaurant, sports club and most certainly not financial institutions or (perish the thought) nations.
“Disordered Leaders” who practice “Destructive Leadership” inhabit a different world from the rest of “us”. But unless “we” begin to understand what “their world” is, we cannot prevent them from causing havoc to the world that the rest of us inhabit.
What a mistake a group and even nation makes when it appoints people with such a “Personality Disorder” to any senior role as the outcome is entirely inevitable, except much of society appears not to understand what behavioural traits “give the game away” to identify what may be the true, cold, impersonal and self-centred personality behind the charm and eloquence.
The wonderful world we share no longer needs irresponsible, self-centred and “Destructive Leaders” who struggle to be agreeable and encouraging, thrive on disagreement and dissent, even subtle or more overt havoc and turmoil, believing they are superior and failing to realise that disharmony in its many guises, especially intimidation and fear, can not only be extraordinarily counterproductive but deeply divisive and destructive.
In continuing to choose such incredibly irresponsible people for positions of responsibility, everyone else in authority needs to better appreciate that such a scenario is not only quite the opposite of the behaviour expected of leaders, but also contrary to the fundamental purpose of forming an organisation or indeed any group of people coming together, from business to government, to cooperate towards achieving some common purpose, prioritising the benefit of those it was established to serve, not the single-minded ambitions and self-interest of its “Disordered Leaders”, before it is too late and the damage they invariably do becomes irreparable.
Extraordinarily, as the arrogant are often promoted over the modest, the many successes of lower profile leaders, collaborative, tolerant, kind and altruistic peacemakers more proud of the achievements of their people and the progress of their organisation than their own vanity, who seek little publicity for themselves, thoughtful not impulsive, experts at praise and encouragement who avoid humiliation and discouragement, need no longer be one of the world’s best kept secrets as they bring integrity, inspiration, vision, wisdom, cooperation and safety, not to be taken for granted, as they make sensible, just, rational and considerate decisions which balance risk and reward.
Another best kept secret which needs to be revealed and better understood internationally is the peculiar, hidden and abnormal world of Personality Disorders, confirmed by the numbers of covert, intolerant, self-centred “Disordered Leaders” evident throughout global society, most certainly not the new abnormal as people with this personality type would seem to have caused havoc down the centuries.
At the end of the day, it isn’t all about them, although they persist in believing that it is, often appearing to be unaware of their inadequacies and immune to the real damage they do, given the opportunity.
People like feeling appreciated and valued, yet too many managers and leaders do not make others feel as important as they should.
Their extraordinary sense of invincibility and their delusional self-belief convinces them that they can do (and get away with) anything they want, even if fundamentally ill-equipped for many of the tasks they are mistakenly trusted with, including responsible, constructive and visionary management and leadership.
Talking the talk is no substitute for being capable of walking the walk.
The greatest talent of those with a disconnect between talk, deeds and reality can be an ability to frequently mask their total lack of consideration for the interests and needs of others and their necessity to dominate, control and damage them emotionally.
While we can see what they cannot, especially when they confuse fact with fiction, hold grudges and seek revenge, why are we so blinkered we allow them to mis-lead the organisations and even nations of our global society?
When they surprise us with their incompetence, inability to be loyal to anyone but themselves and transpire to be more self-centred than selfless and cruel than kind, we need never again be surprised.
Forewarned is forearmed.
Yet extraordinarily we trust the coldest and most self-centred people possible – expert actors but ultimately lacking any genuine interest in other people at all, indeed in anyone but themselves, whose often considerable charm is skin deep and lacking any sincerity, whose often ample intelligence is misused, being cunningly calculating and anything but emotional, those lacking the core essence of humanity, perhaps amongst the most irresponsible people on earth – with responsibility for the lives of employees, volunteers and citizens throughout global society when they hold positions of power, which they inevitably can only abuse as they prioritise competition and conflict over co-operation, disharmony over harmony and themselves over everyone and anything else.
Appreciating that their conscience-free mind may be disordered, thinking distorted and emotional depth shallow, could be a critical first step on the road to progress, otherwise a frustratingly fruitless exercise.
Any attempts at trying to deal with them “normally” may well be doomed to failure.
When those unable to control their own emotions are accompanied by a necessity to “control” other people and situations, especially when their need to control becomes uncontrollable, they cannot be trusted to be in charge or control of other people at all, in any shape or form.
Lacking the vision required of leaders, but being incessant pity-seekers (best described as “poor me”), they nevertheless somehow manage to see persecution where there is none, or none intended, just different opinions which in the minds of most normal people are a healthy part of deliberation and debate, the give and take which results in the most sensible path to progress by way of decisions which weigh up risk and reward and try to consider and balance the interests of the most appropriate “stakeholders”, or the most relevant groups of people involved or impacted by the decision, not the self-interest and pride of the leader.
Being sympathy-free (“ruth-less”), insensitive to the interests, needs and emotions of others, yet highly sensitive to any form of criticism or rebuke, producing a totally disproportionate response, feelings of hatred towards those who may have offered them tactful advice or constructive criticism, and the imperative of having to retaliate and extract revenge, even for trivia, are not qualities which endear leaders to those they lead, or indeed to anyone else.
Those who consistently engage in almost unforgivable words and deeds are the very same people who time after time expect to be forgiven for the anger and hatred they practice, preach and instil in others, yet are incapable of forgiving those they perceive to have wronged them, even when they didn’t.
My fellow Dubliner Oscar Wilde could have been referring to destructively “Disordered Leaders” who, being “takers” more interested in themselves than others, with self-centred minds that can be empathy, remorse, conscience, fear, love, sympathy and truth free zones, incapable of genuine praise, accepting responsibility, changing, apologising, learning from their many mistakes which they repeat, nor properly understanding other people, who they experience as objects, nor being kind to them, being at their happiest making others miserable and thriving on cold-hearted meanness, depravity, blame, discouragement, dissent, disloyalty, grudges and hatred, yet “poor-me” seekers of pity, despite feeling superior and invincible can see persecution and threats where there are none, delusional liars expert at deceit, manipulation and criticism yet cannot cope with rebuke directed at them, innate troublemakers who thrive on disharmony, irresponsibly creating unnecessary challenges while making dramas out of crises and difficulties out of their opportunities, consummate actors capable of hiding their true traits much of the time by way of their ICE characteristics of Intelligence, Charm and Eloquence, until their self-interest is challenged, yet see nothing wrong with themselves and blame anything and everyone else for their failings, as well as their polar opposite, the genuinely charismatic, considerate, decent and fair “Constructive Leaders” who, being “givers” more interested in others than themselves, generous of spirit, peacemakers who build rather then damage relationships, lead with integrity, responsibly rise to and harmoniously resolve challenges and make opportunities from their difficulties, fortunately the vast majority of global society, when he quipped that:
“Some cause pleasure wherever they go, others whenever they go”.
No matter the walk of life, we expect the managers and leaders of our society, from business to government and sport, to bring people together by way of co-operation, collaboration and consensus-finding, praise and encouragement, not drag them apart with insulting and combative words and deeds, seek conflict at almost every opportunity, behave impulsively, impetuously and be moody rather than cool, calm and collected, as they innately prioritise their own self-interest and divide rather than unite the people they are supposed to be leading and setting an admirable example for, breeding hope not fear.
Those only capable of appreciating and valuing themselves do not have what it takes to successfully manage and lead other people.
Indeed there must be something wrong with those lacking a sense of wrong, especially when this only consists of believing they are always right and everyone else wrong.
Just because “Disordered Leaders” cannot seem to learn from their mistakes, doesn’t mean the rest of society shouldn’t from theirs, notably when deeply irresponsible and untrustworthy people are appointed to significant positions of responsibility, beyond the limitations of their personality.
When the need and priority is building and maintaining rather than significantly damaging trust and eroding reputation, organisational and national, which Socrates likened to a fire, being easy to keep lit but difficult to relight when permitted to be extinguished, fundamentally responsible and trustworthy rather than irresponsible and untrustworthy leaders who specialise in lighting fires of dissent are even more required.
Do we never seem to learn?
Maybe it is now opportune that, collectively and globally, society does, given the absolute predictability of the consequences when those with the wrong personality, when cruel the most inappropriate possible, are chosen for positions for which they are extraordinarily ill-equipped, which eventually becomes apparent to almost everyone else, except themselves, given that they believe there is nothing wrong with them.
As people with a Personality Disorder rarely see themselves as being different or as being the problem, as they blame all their faults and failings on anything and everyone else, this places the onus to be “responsible” and “constructive” on those who, out of necessity, spend an inordinate amount of their time dealing with the whims of their unbalanced and perhaps “Disordered Leader”.
Even if “those who abuse power, lose power”, this is usually far too late and at some considerable cost.
People with identifiable Personality Disorders can be “found in every race, culture, society and walk of life”, so one of the most critical matters to appreciate is that as “Disordered Leaders” see things differently, experience people differently, perceive many matters differently, think differently, behave differently and inhabit a quite different world from most others in society, it is imperative that they be recognised by decision-makers as being substantially different from the norm, being consummate actors hiding their true selves much of the time, hence need to be dealt with significantly differently, including denying them positions of power which they can only abuse, if they are no longer to be permitted to continue to damage the world that everyone else inhabits.
Because they, the rest of the world would benefit from appreciating the importance of being able to identify them, to deny them the opportunity of damaging the world in which many others, including Constructive Leaders, do their best to live in collaboratively and harmoniously, in the company of many other decent, kind and encouraging people, with a genuine interest in both other people and whatever they may be interested in.
When the potentially more wonderfully fair, just, co-operative, united, harmonious, caring (for people and planet), calm, tranquil and peaceful world we share, including the unnecessarily combative, individualistic, disconnected, divided, unfair and unjust branches of global society, led by the wrong type of people, troublemakers in disguise, better learns how to identify such ICE cold people, often Intelligent, Charming and Eloquent, but ultimately primarily Interested in themselves, Cold (maybe Cruel) and Empathy-free, to deny them the power they will inevitably mis-use, it will perhaps better appreciate that:
“Prevention is infinitely better than the improbability of cure.”
The gaelic expression “mé féin” or “me myself” is not that which should be associated with leaders.
Indeed so many of the world’s problems, little and large, local and international, could so readily be prevented, or constructively solved, if collectively we better appreciated how to choose the right people with the right intentions and the most appropriate personality for the responsible roles we trust them with, not the most irresponsible, untrustworthy and destructive people possible, with entirely predictable and inevitable consequences, not their concern or responsibility, as they always find someone or something else, or both, to blame, criticise, disparage and diminish, without remorse, as they deny the undeniable and defend the indefensible.
So why can we not predict the predictable?
There is an expression from the world of finance, especially advocated by professional accountants, being experienced business advisors, that “turnover is vanity, but profit is sanity”. Sometime the wonderful world we share may benefit from differentiating between vanity and sanity, being less attracted by the claims of the vain in favour of the greater merits of the sane, even if less apparently exciting.
Mark Twain apparently observed that:
“It is easier to fool people, than convince them that they have been fooled.”
Surface level appeal can transpire to be shallow, like the emotions of the most charming who ultimately can disappoint, especially when they favour short-term expediency, narrow-minded popularism, their own ambitions, giving the impression of doing right rather than doing it and taking credit for the achievements of others, given that their peculiar sense of right and wrong is limited to believing that they are always right and everyone else wrong and can see no wrong in their own words and deeds when these fall far short of what society would expect of them.
Integrity may be less apparent, especially as those who epitomise it frequently seek no acclaim for themselves, pass the credit for achievements to others yet accept responsibility for their failings, fully appreciating that “there is no right way to do a wrong thing.”
Perhaps Plato was right to suggest that those who do not desire power may be more fit to hold it, capable of being trusted to use it constructively for the purposes intended. Calmness can be contagious.
Society will always need trustworthy leaders who find it easy to love and difficult to hate, not those for whom hatred comes easily, yet find it impossible to love – anyone but themselves.
As far as “Constructive Leadership” is concerned, all the intelligence in the world is of little or no value, if none of it is emotional.
Copyright Julian Martin Clarke 2020
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