Psychology of Leadership –
Great Women (and Men) Leaders
“Great Man” Theory
Everyone needs their heroes. Even those who may not admit to having heroes or heroines may at least acknowledge that there are role models who (positively) influence them.
Just as many aspects of life may be attributed to nature or nurture, or a combination of the two, people’s suitability for leadership has also often been debated along similar lines.
“Constructive Leadership” (we suggest) is epitomised by harmonious, open, honest & less adversarial cultures created by selfless, co-operative, modest & agreeable leaders, genuinely kind with bona fide charisma;
Being based on positivity, encouragement, inclusion, openness, confidence, empathy & emotional intelligence, they are more capable of motivation, praise, encouragement & stimulation.
“Constructive Leaders” emphasise teamwork & team-building, create & maintain more welcoming, harmonious, encouraging, tolerant, agreeable, inclusive, creative, fun-loving, “playful”, righteous, loyal, generous, collaborative, cooperative, more stable & safer organisational cultures.
Their positive, open, progressive & constructive traits contribute to accountable, trustworthy & responsible management with integrity, of both people and organisations.
“Destructive Leadership”, in stark contrast, is epitomised by combative, dishonest & adversarial cultures, created by selfish, difficult, proud, perverse & disagreeable leaders, unkind, insincere, displaying shallow charm, lacking interest in others, empathy, remorse & conscience;
Being based on negativity, critique, fear, discouragement and blame, even subtle or overt cruelty, thriving on unhappiness, they are more capable of critique, demotivation, deceit, conflict, control, grudges, DISloyalty, DIScouragement, DISruption, DISagreement, DISunity, DIScord, DISharmony & DIStrust amongst other inevitable consequences of their DYSfunctional mindset and behaviour.
“Destructive Leaders” create & maintain more competitive, cold, unwelcoming, discouraging, intolerant, disagreeable, uncreative, mean, competitive, unstable & less safe organisational cultures,
Perhaps even the “5C’s” of “Counterproductively Critical and Combative Corporate Cultures”, which ultimately achieves little as it is more likely to bring out the worst traits in those who (unlike their “destructive” and perhaps “disordered” leader) do not seek conflict nor thrive on disagreement and disharmony nor get a personal kick out of seeing colleagues at each other’s throats rather than constructively collaborating
Such Combative Cultures are Counterproductive because they do not seek to motivate and bring out the best in those who ultimately are mis-led, who find the workplace experience unnecessarily harrowing and maybe even terrifying, rather then welcoming and constructive whereby they feel inspired to give and produce their best.
While Combative Cultures are far more common than they should be, do they achieve anything other than satisfying the ego of Narcissistic Leaders more interested in themselves than the people they are trusted to lead and the organisation (or even nation) which they see as their personal plaything given their gargantuan “sense of entitlement”?
“Executives developed a ‘sense of entitlement’ which is “an aspect of a narcissistic personality who comes to believe that he and the institution are one. So this produces a sense of entitlement: that he can take what he wants when he wants it” (Zaleznik, 2002).
“A substantial body of research has documented that grandiose narcissists are characterised by high self-esteem, a sense of personal superiority and entitlement, overconfidence, a willingness to exploit others for self-gain, and hostility and aggression when challenged. They also often assume leadership positions in organisations.
These dispositions affect their decision making. Grandiose narcissists’ overconfidence, impulsivity, willingness to ignore expert advice and tendency to rely on their own intuition to make decisions, results in a higher likelihood of making a bad decision. In addition, after getting the wrong answer, grandiose narcissists are more likely to externalise fault, blaming others for their errors while remaining self-confident in their judgment. These tendencies can put the organisations they lead at risk” (O’Reilly & Hall, 2021).
Their self-centred, arrogant, negative & destructive traits contribute to unaccountable, untrustworthy & irresponsible management lacking in integrity, of both people and organisations
What is the difference between Constructive and Destructive Leaders? “Dispositional Attribution”
Dispositional Attribution refers to the “personal traits & internal characteristics as opposed to the situational or external influences which arise from environment or culture”.
Extraordinarily, although “peacemakers” are respected for bringing cooperation & harmony and “troublemakers” are disrespected for bringing conflict & disharmony, somehow throughout global society we keep electing troublemakers (in disguise) to supervisory, managerial and even leaderships roles for which they are totally, utterly and fundamentally unsuited, with entirely inevitable and predictable consequences, mistakes from which we seem incapable of learning.
Society’s Greatest Mistake?
Rather than choosing people as managers & leaders who include, inspire, encourage & motivate , are modest, tactful, diplomatic, agreeable, astute, loyal & constructive peacemakers who build teamwork, cooperation, collaboration & harmony, have an abundance of empathy, emotional intelligence (EQ) & really care for others (surely amongst the reasons organisations are formed for people to collaboratively achieve some common purpose?)…
…we appear to consistently & erroneously choose people who exclude, discourage & demotivate those unfortunate to work with or for people who are disagreeable, rude, crude, mean, impulsive, disloyal & destructive, being innate troublemakers thriving on pride, arrogance, criticism, conflict & disharmony, lack empathy, remorse, conscience & only care for themselves, who as a result of their innate attitudes, mindset and behaviour destroy teamwork, cooperation, collaboration & harmony (surely the opposite traits & outcomes expected of those chosen to manage & lead not mis-manage & mis-lead?).
Which begs the question – why?
Why do we elect the wrong leaders for the wrong reasons?
There are many reasons including (for the moment) just the following two:
Some fool us they are good people & mask their true traits
Society appoints highly self-centred & narcissistic people to leadership roles because we:
- Mistake dynamic displays of confidence & talk of integrity for “strength of character”
- Mistake charm & wise words for “managerial ability”
- Mistake intimidatory traits & ruthlessness for “strength of leadership” (rather than a fundamental character flaw).
We are unfamiliar with Personality Disorders
We mistake charm, intelligence, eloquence and (extraordinarily) even intimidatory traits as being indicative of “strong leadership”… rather than a fundamental character flaw entailing bullying & exceptional self-centredness, partially due to societal ignorance of PERSONALITY DISORDERS.
Clearly we need to consider what “personality disorders” are if people with them are to be identified and denied leadership roles in society before being given the opportunity to cause various forms of disruption, sometimes even mayhem and havoc when given managerial and leadership responsibilities.
Before we do so though, perhaps we need to have a very brief consideration of leadership and evaluate whether some of the many traits and styles most associated with successful leadership are capable of being consistently displayed (especially when under pressure) by people whose peculiarities may suggest “something is not right here, but we’re not sure what”? or “something seems to be be wrong here, but I can’t quite put my finger on what this may be”?
Perhaps the “not quite sure what is wrong here” could be what is now referred to as a “Personality Disorder”, which given the number of people apparently so afflicted seeming to be mistakenly chosen for senior roles throughout global society (and it would seem throughout history, not just in the world of today) would appear to be one of life’s “best kept secrets”?
Hopefully this may no longer be the case…
Are some people “born to lead”?
Or are they made?
Amongst those who believed they were born was Thomas Carlyle, known for his “Great Man Theory” which suggested that only those men with some form of heroic potential could become leaders. This was very much in line with the historical thinking of the writers (or should that be the historical writing of the thinkers?) from Rome, Greece, China and Egypt, all of whom admired the special and perhaps divine qualities associated with leaders who seemed to be able to naturally inspire their followers to great successes, predominantly military.
Indeed this raises the question “why does so much of human history appear to be about conflict and wars?” including for reasons as basic as “I/we want what you have” (which can vary from toys amongst children to land and mineral resources amongst infantile adults, never satisfied with what they have and always wanting more, especially when someone else owns it) and “I’m / we’re right and you’re wrong”, notably when the opposite is true.
Indeed when both parties believe they are more right and neither is capable of apologising or (even more difficult) forgiving, human history would suggest that at the least an argument between two or more people or organisations is inevitable and, at worst, a war between two or more nations can develop for such simple reasons as having to be seen to be right, personally prevailing, wanting something the other possesses or an inability to apologise or find mutually agreeable compromise.
Indeed those who prefer win-lose to win-win will be unlikely to be the peacemaker and more likely the protagonist, who prefers to prolong than end the conflict.
Could this be because organisations and nations have been led by those who are or were fundamentally combative by nature, with impulsive personalities thriving on conflict and disharmony rather than co-operation and harmonious progress?
Could this be because such people lack the core essence of humanity including empathy, being cold and self-centred to the core, with little real interest in other people at all, indeed in no-one else but themselves? (Yet we appoint such people to leadership roles in society).
Could this be because they lack a conscience and the ability to learn from their prior experiences, especially their mistakes, so for those who have to deal with them, every day can seem like Groundhog Day? When they seem to stubbornly refuse the seek or act on the sensible, rational and responsible advice of their peers, few might appreciate that this could be due to a psychological inability to learn from prior experiences, which can seem to compound their very apparent irrationality and irresponsibility. (Yet we appoint such people to leadership roles in society).
Could this be because they lack the ability to experience remorse, so never feel guilty when they do wrong, especially when they harm other people? (Yet we appoint such people to leadership roles in society).
Could this be because they believe they are the greatest person ever born, when those who have to deal with them regularly would privately prefer they never had been? (Yet we appoint such people to leadership roles in society).
Could this be because they seek constant praise and when not being praised by others will praise themselves? (Yet we appoint such people to leadership roles in society).
Could this be because they thrive on criticism of others, yet cannot take an iota of criticism themselves? (Yet we appoint such people to leadership roles in society).
Could this be because they use and manipulate other people to help them achieve their personal goals, which can include the necessity to extract significant revenge against anyone they considered may have wronged them, even if they didn’t, motivated by “getting their own way” and “winning at all costs”, irrespective of the consequences for anyone and anything else? (Yet we appoint such people to leadership roles in society).
Such people are well capable of managing to convince others that they are Great Men, until it transpires they may be what I refer to as “Disordered Leaders” who (innately) practice “Destructive Leadership”, with their greatest success perhaps being their ability to hide or mask their true tendencies and deep inner coldness, at least much of the time from most people, especially from those who don’t know them well. (Yet we appoint such people to leadership roles in society).
Would the world we share not be more harmonious if we learned in advance how to identify this type of person – with a personality disorder – and NOT appoint such people to leadership roles throughout global society, denying them the opportunity to become “Disordered Leaders”, given that they are more likely to prioritise themselves and their insatiable personal needs over those of the people they were chosen to lead, but may instead mis-lead and set anything but an admirable example?
Perhaps the greatest legacy of Disordered Leaders, when they eventually are deposed from the positions of power which they squandered because they lacked the vision and interest to see the needs of their people and how best to serve them, is that it makes everyone else seem great?
Working with and for a Disordered Leader can make others appreciate the more selfless, generous and kind characteristics which many people who have been appointed to managerial and leadership roles in society actually do possess, often in abundance, but who very few outside their own organisation or arena get to hear about, because they prefer to keep a low personal profile, not needing to be seen to be Great, although this is precisely how those they actually do provide leadership for perceive them?
Perhaps those leaders who themselves need to believe they are Great, and desperately need the affirmation of others to believe they are Great, may not be at all, quite the contrary as psychologists suggest they may even be deeply insecure and lacking confidence in their abilities, which may be more minimal than their outward displays of bravado may convey, hence needing everyone else to regularly tell them how brilliant they are, when privately they don’t rate them at all and certainly would never consider them to be Great and might well wonder how they were ever chosen for seniority of position in the first place?
Vanity is no substitute for sanity.
Those that dare tell them will find themselves not only criticised, ridiculed and diminished but probably unemployed, or in some societies, far worse. Yet time after time again throughout human history this is the kind of person that others allowed to become leaders, even if sometimes they had no option such as in the case of dictators, both of businesses and nations.
How Great can they really be if they believe that discouragement, fear, intimidation, disharmony and conflict is preferable to encouragement, praise, harmony and cooperation?
Are they missing something if they consider that is the right way to lead and what people best respond to? Such as the core essence of Humanity?
One “tell tale sign” or “giveaway can be the manner in which they display their genuine interest or disinterest in those they are tasked with leading.
Truly Great Leaders possess Humanity in abundance, recognising that without their follower’s enthusiastic commitment towards achieving whatever their common cause may be, the entity as an entirety is likely to underperform and underachieve.
In essence the Great Man Theory is the belief that some people are born to be leaders, while others are not. In 1847 Carlyle stated that
“Universal history, the history of what man has accomplished in this world, is at the bottom of the history of the great men who have worked here”.
Advocates of the Great Man theory believe that Great Leaders are born with traits which result in specific patterns of behaviour, consistent across different situations. They use these traits to lead instinctively, especially when the need is greatest when they come into their own and display their natural leadership prowess.
Great leaders were often portrayed in heroic and mythological terms and they were ordained to rise to greatness when situations most needed them.
In an 1880 lecture William James proposed that Great Men of genius brought about societal change, even if their initial leadership role may have been accidental, as they subsequently grew into whatever role the situation required.
The Great Man theory suggests that gifted people are more likely to influence and advance society, including those who make great scientific breakthroughs.
Although the theory is often associated with military leaders who achieved success in battle, Carlyle’s six types of heroic leaders as well as kings included prophets, writers, poets, priests and the divine, with history being made by those with appropriate personal leadership traits.
Such natural born leaders possess characteristics including social and communication skills, charisma, intellect and confidence.
Sidney Hook, author of “The Hero in History” which cited the example of many influential people, proposed a difference between “eventful” and “event-making” people, with the “eventful” people playing important roles but not changing the course of history, something which “event-making” people did. Without their involvement and without they possessing outstanding abilities, society may not have progressed or history been made. Their role was based on “the consequences of outstanding capacities of intelligence, will and character rather than the actions of distinction”.
The more black and white nature of the Great Man theory, that on the one hand leaders are born not made, suggesting that on the other hand people cannot learn to become effective leaders, that copious amounts of coaching or training cannot make a leader out of someone without any appropriate innate traits, or nature without any role for nurture, would not be as fashionable today.
Critics suggest that many useful things also happened throughout history which were not the result of great individual leaders, who were as likely to be products of their social environment as well as any innate personal qualities, and that many other people who worked in effect in teams with the Great Men could also have played a significant role in successes and achievements, especially those who sought no publicity for themselves.
The wide availability of courses in business schools including MBA programs as well as many other sources of education, including online, would suggest that people with a reasonable level of ability can improve their performance and better reach their potential, including managerial and leadership, with appropriate training and application.
Advocating nature while dismissing nurture and learning may have been more appropriate in the 19th than 21st century. Nevertheless it is evident that some people clearly do possess traits which make them more likely to become successful managers and leaders.
However I will later argue that what I describe as the “ICE “characteristics of Intelligence, Charisma and Intelligence may on the one hand make for many highly successful leaders, but on the other hand can also mask fundamentally negative and even destructive tendencies, more likely to cause harm than do good, which I will refer to as “Destructive Leadership” which is mal-practiced by “Disordered Leaders”.
In essence they are the polar opposite of that advocated and researched in the many leadership theories, all of which describe the predominantly positive role which the leader plays in motivating and perhaps inspiring both individuals and groups achieve their goals.
Perhaps Great Leaders see the potential in those they are tasked with leading, want to see this fulfilled and do wherever it takes to do so, knowing that not only do those individuals benefit personally and professionally, but so too does the group at large.
None of the leadership theories suggest that the role of the leader is to prioritise themselves and their self-interest over their organisation, followers and indeed all other stakeholders, nor that one of their primary functions is to demotivate, belittle and humiliate, indeed quite the opposite.
Yet this is what too many managers and leaders do and why I felt compelled to write about this, having worked with and for far too many people more interested in themselves than those they are supposed to be setting an admirable example for, yet who they criticise, diminish, demean and discourage when all the research at its most basic suggests they should be encouraging and motivating, and maybe even inspiring to produce their best.
Society needs leaders who derive their primary satisfaction from making the people they lead feel better, never worse.
Although happiness is not advocated as preferable or admirable by any of the Leadership Theories, perhaps because it is such a basic assumption that no researchers thought it necessary to state something so fundamental, this is a “situation” which many followers could suggest is far too prevalent throughout global society and something this paper was written to address, or redress.
With most people in society being at their happiest making others happy, there are a minority who derive deep satisfaction from making others unhappy.
At its most basic, society needs leaders who are happy making others happy and not those who may be at their happiest when making others unhappy. Yet this is precisely what motivates too many managers and leaders within far too many of global society’s organisations, something which their co-workers are likely to fail to understand.
Society also needs leaders well capable of love & incapable of hatred, not those well capable of hatred & incapable of loving, anyone other than themselves, which also describes a minority of Disordered Leaders.
While this paper strongly argues such people should not be afforded the opportunity to become supervisors or team-leaders. let alone managers and leaders, incredibly (meaning hard to believe) far too many are permitted to reach seniority of position in far too many organisations, in every sector in every nation, with entirely inevitable and predictable consequences.
If only we better knew what to look for in advance, they could be denied the opportunity to do their best to make other people miserable and ensure that the highlight of their working day being going home.
Every leadership theory in some manner suggests the role of the leader is to motivate their people to achieve common goals, while none suggest their role is to bring out their worst traits, one of the goals of Disordered Leaders which many may also fail to comprehend.
Good Leaders do a great deal of of good. But those we should regard as Great Leaders do that little bit more, including having the ability to see the latent talents in those they are tasked with leading, want to see their potential fulfilled and contribute to this happening, knowing that not only do those individuals benefit personally and professionally, but so too does the group at large.
The Great Leader is perhaps the person who does inspire and guide great achievements, but does not want or need to be thought of as great themselves, indeed quite the contrary.
Leaders who need to believe they are great, may not be.
Leaders who need others to believe they are great, may not be.
Maybe those who actually are great, but don’t need to be reminded of this, will achieve far more, especially in terms of the enthusiasm and commitment of their followers, the foundations upon which really great achievements are built and without which mediocrity can be the norm.
No matter what leadership theory, style or approach is being discussed, if the only person who believes the leader is great is themselves, despite all the rational evidence to the contrary, they clearly are not, except in their peculiarly self-centred, difficult and proud mind, which may differ significantly from that of truly Great Leaders, especially those far more interested in those they lead than themselves, who they really want to be the best they can be, contributing to making their organisation the best it can be.
In dealing with the imperiously impulsive and insidiously impatient, the maliciously manipulative, the consistently challenging, the scurrilously secretive, the instinctive initiators of vindictively vengeful vicious vendettas, with enough experience of their typical traits, other people learn that when they can remain cool, calm and collected, that polite persistence pays.
From often bitter experience others need to learn how to deny disordered people, innately infantile and surreptitious sympathy seekers, with their inevitable inability to forgive and forget, the opportunity to seek revengeful retaliation arising from their fundamentally fractious and mendacious mindset, difficult and demanding demeanour, super special self-esteem, horrible habits, hidden hatreds, heightened haughtiness and narcissistic necessity to prioritise praising themselves but harm, hurt and humiliate others, arising from their clandestinely cruel cognition and covertly cloaked conscience, which with other appallingly absent attributes notably consideration, compassion and kindness, empathy and emotional intelligence, results in their dangerously destructive, deviously dishonest and bizarre blaming behaviour including scurrilous scandalmongering and remorseless rendition of false facts, especially when no longer obsequiously obscured and cunningly concealed by their charming confidence and arrogant attitude, nor deviously disguised by the moderate mask of normality they wear much of the time, decidedly delusional and potentially paranoid – until challenged when their disguise drops disclosing their no longer invisible insidiousness, dreadful disloyalty, coldly casual cruelty, seditious sadism, malevolent masochism, easily aroused agitation, awful anger and particularly pernicious penchant for shamelessly stirring up tantalisingly tactless trouble, antagonistically alienating particular people and damaging or destroying relationships, while their terribly thin-skinned visible veneer vanishes to rapidly reveal their craving for control, crafty cunning and other truly treacherous traits, predictably proving what unreliably untrustworthy and disgracefully dangerous people they actually are, dreadfully difficult to deal with due to their frustratingly futile inability to consistently change from their self-centred secrecy and self-serving selfish streak, making them most likely to mercilessly, mendaciously and alarmingly abuse positions of power.
Pride comes before a fall and what a fall those who lacked humility but like humiliating and specialised in ridicule, retaliation and retribution can have when people finally see them for what they are and their incredibly intense efforts to maintain power fail, no matter how many people they threaten during their downfall.
It is far better and indeed healthier for others, perhaps in mind and body, that such people be removed from positions of influence before the damage they inflict becomes irreparable. Even after the organisations start failing and collapse, with many people within and beyond adversely affected, their gargantuan self-belief, lack of emotional warmth and inability to see beyond their own perspective can convince them that they actually did nothing wrong.
Such scenarios makes it imperative that such fundamentally and incredibly irresponsible people be as a matter of priority be prevented from attaining positions of responsibility, as in such instances prevention is far preferable to cure, improbable as this may be.
Yet somehow global society can seem to mindlessly mistake their cocky confidence, arrogant attributes and reckless ruthlessness for “leadership ability”, when their tough traits are more likely to prevent people from trusting or respecting such perniciously prickly people and may even contribute to their deeply disliking these deficient delinquents and tricky troublemakers, while failing to follow the erroneous example they seditiously set.
Society Needs “Constructive Leaders” who prefer co-operation and collaboration to conflict and turmoil, harmony to disharmony, win-win to win-lose, ultimately preferring to peacefully resolve differences without resorting to war.
The wonderful world we share no longer needs irresponsible and self-centred leaders who struggle to be agreeable and encouraging, thrive on disagreement and dissent, even subtle or more overt havoc and turmoil, believe they are better than everyone else and fail to realise that disharmony in its many guises, especially intimidation and fear, can not only be extraordinarily counterproductive but deeply divisive and destructive.
These combative people, who seem to take pleasure in being unkind and some even cruel, would seem to have been around for ever, perhaps being responsible for many troubles and conflicts in society throughout human history, potentially both causing and then perpetuating wars, given their inability to be the “peacemaker”.
Their inability to see themselves and their real abilities for what they really are (more limited than they may appreciate), combined with their inability to experience guilt for wrongdoing (someone else is always to blame), nor experience the degree of fear and anxiety which permits most people to know where to “draw the line” between acceptable and unacceptable behaviour or caution and gambling, means that instead of avoiding situations which may be harmful to other people or their organisation, they may actually derive pleasure from taking extreme risks, apparently oblivious to the potential downsides.
Yet we permit such charming, eloquent and apparently “smart” people to manage and lead financial institutions, with their whole business model and very existence based on a constant balancing of reward and risk, despite the fact that even after their organisation has collapsed, with many people’s lives adversely affected, they can still wonder what exactly they did wrong.
Just like one of their most extraordinary inabilities – to learn from prior experience – does the rest of society never seem to learn from it’s prior mistakes with such people?
Appearing to be oblivious to the downside risk associated with hazardous situations and the potentially serious or even catastrophic implications for both other people and their own organisation, entity, financial institution (or nation) which may arise from their decisions and actions, does not spread confidence that when crunch comes to crunch they will prioritise any factor other than their self-interest, their own own pride and their extraordinary sense of infallibility, which extraordinarily they can maintain even following the collapse of the entity they were erroneously chosen to mis-lead.
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 co-operate 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 the “Destructive Leadership” they invariably practice (or malpractice) becomes irreparable, lacking the “vision” which many “Constructive Leaders” possess as they successfully take their organisation to places others may not have thought possible.
This is something which “Destructive Leaders” are also well capable of doing – taking their organisation (and its perhaps far more capable and responsible people) to places no-one considered possible – but unsuccessfully and in quite the opposite direction, indeed (unless they are replaced) maybe even to a place beyond which there may be no return, as evidenced by the number of previously successful entities now long forgotten in business graveyards, also overflowing with leaders who really thought they were more important than the people they mis-led and those the entity was founded to serve.
We need to be able to identify these self-centred people for what they really are – deeply divisive, destructive, deceitful, disordered and possibly emotionally disturbed and delusional, with little real interest in anyone but themselves, no matter their apparent Intelligence, Charm and Eloquence because they can be ICE-cold – before they make a spectacle of themselves and the entities they work for, manage and (incredibly) even (mis) lead.
If only everyone else better knew what traits to look for in advance, they could be denied the opportunity to do their best to make other people miserable and ensure that the highlight of their (excessively long) working day is actually going home.
Almost everything written about leadership in some manner suggests that the role of the leader is to motivate their people to achieve common goals, not that their role is to bring out their worst traits, one of the goals of Disordered Leaders which many may also fail to comprehend.
Good Leaders do a great deal of of good. But perhaps those we should regard as Great Leaders do that little bit more, believing that they had a responsibility to society which extends beyond their own organisation or entity.
They may also have the ability or “vision” to see both opportunities for their organisations others may miss and the latent talents in those they are tasked with leading, want to see their potential fulfilled and contribute to this happening, knowing that not only do those individuals benefit personally and professionally, but so too does the group at large.
The Great Leader is perhaps the person who does inspire and guide great achievements, but does not want or need to be thought of as great themselves, indeed quite the contrary.
Maybe those who actually are great, but don’t need to be reminded of this, will achieve far more, especially in terms of the enthusiasm and commitment of their followers, the foundations upon which really great achievements are built and without which mediocrity can be the norm.
If the only person who believes the leader is great is themselves, despite all the rational evidence to the contrary, they clearly are not, except in their own peculiarly self-centred, difficult and proud mind, which may differ significantly from that of truly Great Leaders, especially those far more interested in those they lead than themselves, who they really want to be the best they can be, contributing to making their organisation the best it can be.
Leaders who need to believe they are great, or need others to believe they are great, may not be, especially when they seem to make difficulties out of their opportunities rather than opportunities from their difficulties.
Somehow too many (including business school students) somehow believe that “ruthlessness” has not only a role to play but may even be “necessary” to be “successful” in business. Perhaps if they were consistently on the receiving end of the unnecessary ruthless callousness practiced by “Disordered Leaders”, they might change their opinion and prefer to work for those who specialise in encouragement rather than discouragement.
Ruthless-ness is more indicative of “Destructive Leadership” and a cruel and self-centred mindset which takes pleasure in the misery of others, than any realistic belief that it can either motivate others or lead to anything other than damaged relationships. Even it it leads to a “one-off” victory, any further business between the parties is likely to be hindered or rendered impossible.
“Constructive Leaders” who are strong and courageous as well as kind, considerate and empathetic, are more than capable of taking “tough” decisions when so required. It is a misnomer that people need to be “ruth-less” meaning “sympathy-free” and maybe even lacking in remorse to be able to take difficult decisions. Indeed. quite the contrary.
Unlike those more ruthless, unkind and even cruel by nature, who may thrive on causing upset for others, because they “understand people” and are “emotionally intelligent”, “Constructive Leaders” are capable of “weighing-up” the options and the impact on all concerned, even if negative, as they will try to minimise any deleterious impact to the degree possible on the entity and it’s people.
There is a major difference between being “strong and courageous”, not shirking required actions nor running away from problems as they arise, and being “ruthless” which involves a lack of compassion and consideration for the interests, needs, feelings and emotions of other people, all of which are required of leaders.
While the most mean and cold-hearted can “get their kicks” and derive their own pleasure from diminishing and humiliating other people and trying to “win” at the expense of others in both relationships and transactions, they somehow seem to lack the “nous” required to appreciate that such a policy may result in the other party not only never wanting to deal with them ever again, but even more damaging, they may even choose to “bad-mouth” the ruthless to other current or potential business partners, customers and suppliers.
One-off gains do not lead to longer-term success or even survival, especially when they result in impaired trust and damaged reputation. Seeking to actively harm others and damage relationships in business (or elsewhere) is not a policy that rational people would consider, only the most irrational. The “win-win” preferred by Constructive Leaders ultimately achieves more than the “win-lose” sought by “Destructive Leaders, especially when their incessant need to achieve “personal victories” can damage morale and the very fabric or culture of the organisation, causing the best employees, customers and suppliers to take their talents and business elsewhere, even to their most ardent rivals.
When performing the not so pleasant task of considering amongst the worst people we have met during our careers and indeed lives, perhaps doing so makes us appreciate the many far finer and more admirable qualities of the very best, who even thinking about lifts us and brings a smile to our faces, those who do have the talents and skills to manage, lead and maybe even transform whatever organisation or entity is fortunate to count them as one of its own.
Perhaps it is considering and describing the far too prevalent “Destructive Leadership” most associated with “Disordered Leaders” which makes us appreciate the many merits associated with those I describe as “Constructive Leaders” . It is this larger cohort of people who undoubtedly would “make the world a better place” if somehow they were able to respond to the unspoken wishes of those led by “Destructive Leaders” and walk in the door next Monday morning, having replaced them, treating everyone the same, with the respect they would like to be treated themselves and by way of their enthusiastic positivity, praise and encouragement, far better motivate those they manage and lead to perform far nearer to their potential and contribute to the group at large, whatever it may be, doing the same.
That is why national and international business and indeed global Society Needs to ditch and no longer appoint “Destructive Leaders”, no matter how otherwise talented, intelligent, charming, eloquent, dominant, fearful or intimidatory, as when the decision makers assess their contribution, they are likely to realise that they have been self-serving in their own decision-making (“what’s in it for me?”), prioritising their own interests and needs over those of the entity itself and its people, and have probably done more harm (covert and overt) than good.
At the end of the day there are often equally if not more talented people available, more committed to the cause and mission of the entity, with a genuine concern for and interest in all the various people involved or “stakeholders” (especially employees, customers (or citizens) and suppliers) but who may not have been selected because they were less aggressive or “pushy” and perhaps more modest and self-effacing, preferring cooperation to conflict, relationship-building to destroying and indeed harmonious collaboration and consensus-seeking to troublemaking, yet who may have lost out to those who displayed the more problematic traits, only for those who made the decision to subsequently realise what a mistake they had made.
One of the many lessons arising from working with or for those who practice “Destructive Leadership” is that being agreeable beats being aggressive any day and practicing humility and respect rather than humiliation and disrespect is what endears leaders to followers, not the opposite, no matter how effective the worst leaders in society who innately have to promote themselves and disparage others believe such an approach to be. It isn’t and never will be.
Organisational progress, customer/public service and many measures including profitability, along with many “intangibles” like trust, respect, reputation, goodwill and even “world peace”, can all be enhanced when organisations (and nations) as well as Boards of Directors and Voters learn to appoint “Constructive Leaders” with the
- vision to realise how great the group they are responsible for could be, with the
- strategic insight to know what direction(s) to take,
- perception to not only know how to get there, but when a change of direction may be needed,
- integrity to set the right tone at the top,
- moral compass to guide everyone in the right direction and avoid short-term gain which may result in longer-term pain,
- honesty to speak truthfully, not deceptively, and only make promises likely to be able to be met,
- remorse to be able to know when wrong has or could be done,
- courage to avoid wrongdoing and own up and say “sorry” when things do go wrong (as they will) or promises can’t be met, rather than make the mistake of covering up and “denying the undeniable”, hoping no-one will ever find out (although they do), and
- creativity to explore new opportunities,
- (emotional) empathy to understand people in all their humanity,
- interest in others to encourage and willingly provide support,
- perception to offer astute guidance and appreciate the importance of trust and reputation,
- wisdom to know what new opportunities to explore and what to change and when,
- patience not to impulsively over-react to situations as soon as they arise, to wait for results rather than curtail prematurely, or know when the timing may be right to initiate change or introduce new policies,
- humility to seek no personal acclaim and (being the opposite of pride) ability to admit to error rather than persist with doing the wrong thing,
- strength to tackle the issues others might ignore and own up to rather than cover up mistakes or wrongdoing,
- persistence to surmount obstacles and “never give up” on worthwhile matters which may be in the longer term best interest of all involved,,
- resilience to tough out difficulties, remain positive and constructive in seeking to find optimal solutions,
- tact to deal with matters diplomatically rather than rudely and crudely, and knowing when saying nothing may be preferable, especially words now could cause damage later or when there may be nothing positive or constructive to say,
- attitude of gratitude to be able to genuinely praise and know when to do so, especially when people have tried their best even when the outcome isn’t as good as it might have been,
- modesty to deflect praise to others. yet accept responsibility for their mistakes,
- emotional intelligence to know how best to deal with the wide variety of people and situations which arise, supporting and pointing them in the right direction, with the
- charisma which endears people to their leader and makes people feel important, warmly welcomed and appreciated,
- 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, as they build bridges and roads to places that people with less vision and insufficient understanding of the mission never even considered. Together and unified.
Fortunately there are many such positive and “can do” people in many roles at all levels throughout local, national and international society.
Yet, although they set an admirable example for not only those they work with, manage and lead, but many others too, we somehow just don’t seem to hear too much about these role-models, especially not from themselves, not feeling the need to speak about themselves, just the group they inspire to produce their best, whose success built on respect and cooperation gives them their greatest personal satisfaction.
Irrespective of size or type of organisation or nature of their specific leadership styles, entities in society led by selfless, cooperative leaders often appear to be singing off the same hymn-sheet and to be playing to the same tune.
Self-centred leaders do not appear to appreciate the benefits arising from unity. Their sheet music, like their disordered and often child-like minds, not only differs from the rest of the band or orchestra but, because they refuse to share the music with others, not unlike a child refusing to let others play with its toys, thrive on confusion and everyone playing to quite different tunes, quite the opposite of what is required of a leader.
Ultimately they are only capable of being a one-man band. Yet we trust “Disordered Leaders” with responsibility for the lives and emotions of other people, when they cannot even properly manage their own.
Society Needs the kind of leaders who can sense the temperature of the moment and know when best to provide either overt orchestra style leadership or appreciate, like guiding a jazz band or Irish ceilidh music session along the right path, that just being a member of the team, using a few well chosen words and setting a good example for others to follow may be the most apt way of calmly dealing with situations.
No matter how laudable some of their other talents may be, society and its organisations ultimately suffers from appointing leaders with an insatiable personal need to be seen to be the hero or heroine, who proactively seek praise when unwarranted and deflect blame for their many failings to others, eventually driving the musicians who perform for them to seek greater harmony by leaving for pastures new, in effect allowing their rival bands and orchestras to avail of their talents because of the myopia, intransigence and intimidation practiced by the illegitimacy of their self-centred leadership.
Yet we continue to elect them to leadership positions, due to what I refer to as “The Leadership Fallacy” which misinterprets some of their less admirable traits, including their more combative qualities such as fear-inducing intimidation and humiliation, as actually being appropriate to those which a “strong” leader could or should possess, while falling for some of their finer qualities, especially their Intellect, Charm and Eloquence, even if they transpire to be ICE-cold, their Intelligence being self-serving lacking and semblance of Emotional depth (or EQ), their Charm insincere, skin deep and used to engage in false flattery of those they believe to be (temporarily) useful to them and their Eloquence transpires to be utter meaningless, especially when there is seen to be a deep disconnect between their words, promises, deeds and actions, which can change at a moments notice.
Conflict has never been nor ever will be an acceptable alternative to mutually agreeable compromise, although when organisations and nations are led by fundamentally combative people with little real interest in anyone but themselves, disagreement and conflict in their many forms will be inevitable given that they much prefer “win-lose” to “win-win”, whether the matter be trivial or hugely significant.
As it is actually their own challenging behaviour which makes it easier to identify such people for what they really are, covertly or overtly disordered, when other people learn what traits to look for they can do what their “Disordered Leader” cannot – adapt to their peculiarities to diminish the degree of harm such people can do to other people (which they can seem to enjoy, especially when they seek to humiliate and diminish those perhaps much better equipped than them) and the dreadful damage they can do to the levels of interpersonal trust, culture of honesty and integrity and prevailing sense of right and wrong, as well as the organisational (or national) reputation so necessary for continued responsible and rational progress, apparent to almost everyone but themselves.
It is extraordinary the number of organisations who go to great lengths to devise laudable Values Statements, communicate and inculcate these Core Values with their employees, then undo all this good work by (unwittingly) appointing amongst the most covertly unethical people in society to manage and lead them.
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?
So why don’t we choose more such trustworthy, modest and responsible people of integrity for important roles, especially when trust and reputation may need to be restored, improving not only “business ethics” and long-term profitability, growth and stability, but indeed peaceful cooperation, employee and stakeholder satisfaction and harmonious progress across global society?
We can tend to ignore the merits of the more calm, rational, astute, wise and talented, but modest, who appreciate there is no humiliation in humility nor humility associated with humiliation, who seek no significant acclaim for themselves, more proud of their people and their achievements than themselves or their own, deflecting praise to others yet accepting responsibility for their failings, as they prefer to praise, encourage and motivate those they lead and prioritise the interests and needs of the group at large over their own.
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.
Only over the last decade or so have I been able to recognise that I have worked with or for over 50 “Disordered Leaders” who (mal)practice “Destructive Leadership” during my own diverse career, although I failed to properly understand them for 25 years. Perhaps that is why I feel a responsibility to explain what I have learned since I started studying Psychology, Neuroeconomics and Neuroscience from 2010 and Personality Disorders in particular from 2013 with you.
If it took me 25 years in industry to finally begin to understand what may be the mindset and motivations of the most “selfish, difficult and proud” people I had met, or encountered, during my own career, I share these thoughts and what I have learned so others may more readily identify some of the most challenging people in society for what they really are – self-centred troublemakers who thrive on disagreement and conflict with little real interest in the entity they manage or lead or its people – and not only deny them the responsible positions they are too irresponsible to use astutely for the purposes intended, but instead hire, promote or elect the total opposite kind of person – “Constructive Leaders” – and appreciate the many fine qualities they bring to managerial and leadership roles throughout global society.
Fortunately there are many such “Constructive Leaders” in many positions and indeed at all levels including team leaders, supervisors and junior and middle management, all of whom provide leadership to those fortunate to work with and for them, but we just don’t tend to hear so much from them nor about their many achievements and successes, and certainly not from themselves, given that they are neither arrogant nor excessively proud, rather astute, tactful and modest, good listeners who others in many ways find to be inspirational and good role models who set a good example for others to follow or aspire to themselves.
Much of this seems to come from their being far more interested in the people they lead than themselves and far more proud of their achievements than their own, which they can tend to downplay rather than advertise loudly as they praise and encourage those who they are expected to motivate and never, ever demotivate, which can seem to be one of the driving forces of their total and utter antithesis – “Disordered Leaders”.
As people with identifiable Personality Disorders can be “found in every race, culture, society and walk of life”, one of the most critical matters for global society 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 potentially even more wonderful world that everyone else inhabits, which would be far safer, fairer, cooperative, just, harmonious, pleasant and simply much better off if it were exclusively led by “Constructive Leaders”.
Such a utopian ideal may actually be quite achievable, but only when global society gradually begins to better appreciate how to identify potentially “Disordered Leaders” in advance and deny them the opportunity to practice their not so unique form of “Destructive Leadership”, in which case the world we inhabit and share really could be a far, far better, safer and more welcoming and cooperative place – for everyone else.
None of the acknowledged “Leadership Theories” suggest that the role of the leader is to prioritise themselves and their self-interest over their organisation, followers and indeed all other stakeholders, nor that one of their primary functions is to demotivate, belittle and humiliate, indeed quite the opposite.
Yet this is what too many managers and leaders actually do and why I felt compelled to research and write about this, having worked with and for far too many people more interested in themselves than those they are supposed to be setting an admirable example for, yet who they criticise, diminish, demean and discourage when all the research at its most basic suggests they should be encouraging and motivating, and maybe even inspiring, to produce their best.
Although happiness is not advocated as preferable or admirable by any of the Leadership Theories, perhaps because it is such a basic assumption that no researchers thought it necessary to state something so fundamental, some managers and leaders deriving their pleasure from making others unhappy is an unfortunate “situation” which many followers could suggest is far too prevalent throughout global society and something this paper was written to address, or redress.
With most people in society being happy when making others happy, there are a minority who derive deep satisfaction from making others unhappy and this should disqualify them from supervisory, managerial and leadership roles throughout global society, no matter the nature or location of the organisation or entity.
At its most basic, Society Needs leaders who are happy making others happy and not those who may be at their happiest when making others unhappy. Yet this is precisely what motivates too many managers and leaders within far too many of global society’s organisations, a matter which many of their their co-workers are likely to fail to understand.
Society also needs leaders who are well capable of hatred & incapable of loving (anyone other than themselves) which also describes a minority of “Disordered Leaders”.
While I strongly argue such people should not be afforded the opportunity to become supervisors or team-leaders, let alone managers and leaders, incredibly (meaning hard to believe) far too many are permitted to reach seniority of position in far too many organisations, in every sector in every nation, with entirely inevitable and predictable consequences.
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, indeed 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.
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 which results in “Destructive Leadership” would seem to have caused havoc down the centuries, starting conflicts within their own peoples and then between other tribes, regions and even nations.
Being innate troublemakers and not seeking agreement or compromise, a sign of weakness and failure given their imperative of having to ‘win at all costs”, they leave it to the more moderate, tolerant and probably far more emotionally intelligent peacemakers in their group to seek a mutually agreeable end to disagreements and conflicts which should probably never have been allowed to have arisen, especially if the instigating group had instead been led by those with the “dispositional attribution” and more harmoniously used talents associated with “Constructive Leaders”.
Society sometime needs to learn the many lessons from the past that “Givers”, being more interested in others than themselves, make for far better and more “Constructive Leaders”, especially of other people, than those “Takers” who are fundamentally more interested in themselves than others.
Great Women and the role of Vision and Change
When the Great Man theory was at its most popular, prior to the 20th century, the role of women in society was very much secondary to that of men, so the achievements of female leaders were discounted or ignored and leadership was perceived to be more of a male role.
One wonders what seems to have changed as society has in many other respects undoubtedly progressed? In many nations women play an equal role even if they have not yet progressed in sufficient numbers to senior managerial positions. In too many other nations women still play a very much subservient role to men in many respects, including some very fundamental aspects of day-to-day life.
If roles were reversed, how many men in such societies would find such scenarios acceptable, fair or just when denied the opportunity to be involved in making the decisions which affect them most and the freedom to live their lives in the same manner those of the opposite gender take for granted?
The cited characteristics of leaders were historically those most associated with “strong”, aggressive and highly competitive men, who were seen as assertive and decisive, indeed what some refer to as “Alpha Male”.
Many such people thrive on being competitive in almost every area of their lives, even when co-operation, collaboration, compromise and teamwork may have been more apt.
Their engaging in a variety of fear-based, intimidatory and demotivational behaviours somehow led to such a managerial style becoming associated with “strength” of both character and leadership, rather than counterproductive and indeed counterintuitive when one of the primary roles of leaders as well as managers is widely accepted to be motivational. Psychiatrists and psychologists could well diagnose the related behaviours to be due a “personality disorder” and thus a fundamental character flaw, not a strength rather a weakness, as many victims of their bullying could attest.
Whether these were the characteristics that made for an effective leader, or rather were those associated with “leadership” because these were the kind of people who wanted most to be leaders and would do anything it took to achieve their ambition, irrespective of the consequences for others or the success of their organisation is open to interpretation. Compared with quite the opposite more constructive behaviour, the discouraging and fearful nature of intimidatory behaviour is more likely to be deemed to be ineffective if not outright destructive, especially in terms of interpersonal relations and motivation.
This is especially when this type of person perceived themselves to be more important than the organisation they were supposed to be setting an admirable example for and motivating everyone else to produce their best towards achieving common goals.
For too many such people this was just not their concern. Once they had achieved their goal of a senior managerial or even leadership role, although capable of giving the impression of being interested in the organisation, they weren’t, only themselves.
No wonder so many organisations and their people fail to fulfill their potential when some leaders are so full of their own importance that they choose to discourage and diminish those they are supposed to be inspiring. When they get a thrill out of being aggressive and making other people fearful of them, which they believe contributes to respect, they fail to appreciate the degree of discomfort and disrespect which this actually engenders given their probable emotional shallowness or coldness.
Perhaps the degree of the aggression they displayed determined whether these typically male traits led to a highly competitive environment, with colleagues believing they had to be combative with each other to make progress, especially when they could describe the “culture” as being typified by blame and fear, most associated with what former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan referred to as “macho leaders”.
They can display severe mood swings, ups and down and intense reactions, which may seem rapid, exaggerated and disproportionate to the circumstances, described by psychologists as “emotional lability”. Their behaviour and emotional responses may appear to others to be easily triggered, impulsive, unstable and potentially even dangerous, causing (unnecessary) distress to others who have to “walk on eggshells” and adapt how they deal with their “emotional incontinence”.
The fact that those lacking emotions which most people possess have been shown to so readily (perhaps innately and unwittingly) engage in high levels of pathological lying and deceit, cunning manipulation and egocentric, callous and impulsive behaviour, characterised by a lack of responsibility, empathy and remorse, are also well versed in using their charm, confidence and arrogance to hide their true traits even from experienced psychologists poses many challenges for society, especially when we allow such people drive our organisations and entities down roads inevitably leading to chaos and disharmony rather than aspiring to genuinely collective progress based on harmony and co-operation.
Perhaps one of our greatest challenges is to “see through” such challenging people and no longer employ, promote and elect them to positions for which they are so fundamentally unsuitable, displaying what psychologists term “consistent irresponsibility”, capable of routinely acting against the common good and doing so with what they describe as “emotional impunity”.
No matter how well they manage to disguise their true inner coldness, eventually their maltreatment of others, allied to the degree of lies, deceipt, manipulation and character assassination they engage in does become noticed.
No matter how subtle they try to be (not usually their strength) eventually the absolute degree of their self-centredness and necessity to control can no longer be masked by their skin-deep charisma.
No longer should those who bring out the worst in other people, who derive their own happiness from damaging the happiness of others and who can even be unhappy seeing people happy with others (in any walk of life), ever be given responsibility for managing or leading people, given their inability to constructively manage their own emotions let alone those of others.
Yet society continues to choose such (possibly “disordered”) people for senior positions, despite their track record throughout human history being truly abysmal. Just like one of their greatest cognitive inabilities, do we never seem to learn?
In the short video link below, former UN Secretary General and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Kofi Annan addresses the key question whether leadership is all about the individual leaders themselves – as leadership is perceived by takers (being more interested in themselves than others) who he describes as “macho” – or the welfare of the people they are tasked with serving – as leadership is perceived by givers (being more interested in others than themselves)? Kofi Annan on “Macho Leaders” – BBC Tribute 18th August 2018
“Leadership is not about the individual. When you have macho leaders who believe they have to shine and it all has to be about them, forgetting that what is required is the welfare of society and the people they serve”… And previously he said that: Ethical leaders are those “…who strive to do what is right; who also realise that the power they hold in the office that they occupy is not something personal. It is something they hold in trust for the people…” His family also commented: “Whenever there was suffering or need, he reached out and touched many people with his deep compassion and empathy… He selflessly placed others first, radiating genuine kindness, warmth and brilliance in all he did”.
When leaders respect other people, treat them fairly and behave selflessly with integrity, showing a genuine interest in everyone else involved, sometimes referred to as “stakeholders”, the critical quality of trust is more likely to be developed, enhanced and remain healthy.
But when their focus is primarily and innately on themselves, there may well always be trouble around the corner, with trust and even reputation amongst the many casualties of their disrespect and resulting mis-management, erroneously described as their “leadership” of businesses, organisations and even nations.
Less overtly aggressive (and perhaps more empathetic) male leaders could well engender a more collaborative and even collegiate culture, with executives and employees engaging in a great deal of cooperation as they seek to work together, rather than against each other, which can not only be the outcome of macho leadership, but even one of their personal ambitions – to see managers engaging in overt or covert combat with each other rather than working together to achieve common goals.
It is in such environments that women believed that they too had to be aggressive, competitive and domineering if they wanted to achieve seniority of position. Indeed it was such women who were either naturally competitive or learned how to become more aggressive that seemed to break through the barriers posed by all-male management teams, given that the belief was that leadership was or is a predominantly Male prerogative
That was the thinking in the 19th Century when the Great Man Theory was formulated and it could be argued that in many respects little seems to have changed, given the huge number of women playing successful managerial roles throughout society, indeed in many cases perhaps the majority of managerial and supervisory roles.
Yet the paucity of women who have broken through the “glass ceiling” to become members of the most senior team or actually lead their organisations and nations could appear to the outsider to be an extraordinary anomaly.
This is all the more extraordinary given that women are often seen to be better at co-operative rather than combative management, building bridges rather than unnecessarily damaging relationships purely to show who is boss, building consensus rather than engaging in “divide and conquer” and sharing power and information rather than trying to keep both for themselves.
Indeed women’s more innate traits better match the more modern managerial and leadership thought which considers the importance of building emotional bonds between colleagues, showing an interest in the people they lead and empowering them to produce their best.
Women are often seen to be better at encouragement – or caring, sharing and asking – while the most macho men are more expert at being assertive, dominant, commanding, ordering, even bullying, and ultimately at discouragement and demotivation, all quite counterproductive in that people will do what they are told to do but may not really feel that they want to do it when they have been treated with disrespect, disinterest and maybe even derision.
Yet many descriptions and theories of leadership stress the critical role of motivation, which seldom happens when the boss is far more interested in himself than those he is tasked with leading and treats people with contempt, aspects of mis- management and mal-leadership more associated with men than women.
Although it is human nature that anyone in any situation responds better to being asked politely to do something, with the task being well explained to them, why it is necessary and how it fits into the big picture, too many managers and leaders still believe it necessary to engage in some form of intimidation as they try to persuade people to perform the tasks they want done. This is an aspect of human nature far too prevalent in management which is usually quite unnecessary except perhaps when people consistently fail to perform the role expected and do not put their best effort into the task, but it does give the intimidatory manager a thrill in seeing subordinates fearful of them, attributes more associated with men than women.\Indeed why are more aggressive and competitive people, arrogant and proud, chosen over the more cooperative and modest?
With followers generally accepted to better respond to leaders who give them their respect and show a genuine interest in them, who generally engage in far more praise and encouragement than criticism and discouragement, why are so few women employed in and promoted to the most senior roles, despite they possessing more of the traits associated with successfully motivating people, especially greater emotional rather than purely cognitive empathy and a more natural and innate concern for the interests, needs and indeed feelings of those they are tasked with leading?
Social psychology research suggests that groups of people often tend to choose new members quite similar to themselves, whether this be gender, race, educational or societal background or whatever traits or demographics make up their common denominators, trends more likely to be broken by more courageous or visionary leaders, especially those less accepting of long-standing status quos who are constantly seeking better ways of doing whatever they do.
Groups composed predominantly of men may be more disposed to adding more men to their grouping than women and of course vice versa, which is why throughout most of my career I have proposed that decision-makers either ignore or look beyond gender to other characteristics and abilities when hiring or promoting.
With women considered to possess more empathy than men, the deficit of women as members of senior management teams or Boards of Directors, or their equivalent elsewhere in society, may be all the more surprising and perhaps a major societal error, especially given the number of male leaders who are not only perceived to be ruth-less, but actually admired for being cold and uncaring, even if those who cross their paths are less likely to applaud them for their less admirable traits.
Many of the most creative suggestions I have heard during my career have come from those who somehow were different or a minority from the mainstream, most notably women. For instance while serving on a committee of senior chartered accountants, some of the most apt observations came from the two members of the team who were not professional accountants – a partner in a legal practice and the former head of a government department. Their ability to see matters from a different perspective often proved invaluable as we considered issues which could impact on our entire profession or the future members – our students.
The ability to “see things differently” from the group at large is important and does not require the person to be visibly different, just possess a more “progressive” mindset, which at its best could even be seen to be “visionary”. Their vision just happens to be clearer, less short-sighted and better equipped to imagine the future rather than be stuck in the past.
To those who have a tendency towards worry, especially due to matters that have already happened, I often ask them “what did you do yesterday?”. When they describe this I then ask them to “change this”! When they say that they can’t I suggest “all we can change is today and tomorrow, so move on from the past and build on your good and bad experiences to make your today and tomorrows better”. Apart from the fact I suggest that “worrying about something beyond your control is counterproductive, so don’t”, if being concerned about a matter you can actually do something about results in change for the better, it may serve a useful purpose.
The key point is that people or groups which remain stuck in the past, especially as others are evolving, may result in them being left behind. Whatever it takes to start changing is worth contemplating, including seeking opinions from or even employing or promoting those who are not members of whatever majority the group consists of, including people of the opposite gender or with experiences gained with different groups, including women in predominantly or traditionally male organisations.
This particularly applies to organisations who only tend to seek new hires amongst those who have already worked in their particular industry sector, perhaps one of the least visionary decisions an organisation will ever take. People with bright minds adapt quickly to new scenarios (and industries) and can bring a wealth of knowledge and ideas from other perspectives which could be lost or foregone when the ambition is limited to “more of the same”.
Consider all the organisations who hired a new CEO from a totally different industry and made rapid progress, especially when the new leader was able to view many matters from a different perspective from the prevailing group. So why does this not apply lower down the organisational hierarchy too?
With the industry sector people work in often determined initially by chance, many talented people are never afforded the opportunity to try other fields of endeavour to which they may be well or even better suited, purely due to the limited imagination of too many “safety first” employers.
The same can apply to gender and race. If half the world is women and many organisations sell their products and services both to men and women, nor solely to people of the same gender as the management team, why are so many of the senior management teams predominantly male? Why are so few people from a different ethnic background from whatever the prevailing majority may be not members of senior management, especially if many of the customers or clients are from such a background?
That is why I argue that the Great Leader both sees and treats everyone the same – with respect – irrespective of class, gender, nationality, race, language, age, prior industry experience or whatever other reason more limited managers and leaders use as an excuse, either not to hire somebody or not to promote them to the most senior levels within their organisation.
With many of the leadership theories advocating Vision as one of the most desirable traits, this can go far beyond seeing and persuading others how great the entity could be as it evolves, but to also see in every person their innate abilities, talents, personality and potential and then recruit and promote accordingly, irrespective of whether they may be men or women. It is such decisions which can lead to the entity making more rapid progress than it might otherwise have.
The group which keeps choosing the same type of new member is likely to remain just that – the same.
The group which keeps choosing people who favour the status quo is more likely to be bypassed by those who do not. That is one of the beauties of competition.
While I argue that excessively combative competition – both within and between organisations – can be counterproductive if it engenders unnecessary conflict between coworkers or an outright war between organisations, which may damage both from prioritising win-lose over win-win, undoubtedly fair and open competition has many benefits, especially if it results in improvements which may not otherwise have arisen.
Considering the number of businesses that do not survive one generation, say thirty years, questions need to be asked about how they were managed or led and whether they stuck to “the way we have always done things”.
Perhaps those who survived longer were managed and led by those with the interest and ability to see what was happening elsewhere, seek opinions and advice which differed from their own, while also employing and promoting those different from themselves in mindset and gender.
The really progressive organisations, so called because they have a track record of doing just that – making progress – choose their people based on a combination of talent, ability, personality including enthusiasm and experience, and most certainly not gender, race or any obviously physical trait.
This paper strongly advocates hiring and promoting “constructive” people and firing or not promoting “destructive” people, but nowhere does it mention whether these be men or women.
Although there are undoubtedly far too many intimidatory men in charge of too many departments, organisations and even nations with quite predictable consequences, of course women can be bullies too and when they rise to the top their personality traits can be just as damaging for both everyone else involved and their organisation.
In many respects the principles associated with management of (a) business and other organisations and entities, (b) families and (c) sporting teams and clubs (amongst other such groupings) are remarkably similar, with employees, spouses and children as well as athletes better responding to encouragement than discouragement.
With many children (boys and girls) best responding to their warm mothers rather than their cold fathers (and vice versa), while building better longer term and indeed lifelong relationships with their more empathetic, progressive and constructive (even visionary) parent, why are so many managerial and leadership positions still apparently chosen on gender grounds rather then the abilities and talents of the candidates?
With managers and leaders being tasked with responsibility for the working lives and emotions of many other people, especially those who are expected to perform the work in the direction they deem necessary, why are so many managers chosen for such roles who are incapable of successfully managing and controlling even their own emotions?
Why are so many people incapable of setting the admirable example desired by subordinates and advocated by leadership theories appointed to seniority of position for which they are fundamentally ill-equipped?
At its most basic, why are so many cruel and mean men (and some such women) chosen over many kind and generous women (and men) for senior roles throughout global society?
Why are “tough” women disrespected when too many are not chosen for senior roles (by men) because they are “not tough enough”?
Of course “being decisive” when required is a critical ability needed by managers and leaders, especially when accompanied by the ability to weigh up the options and consequences which may arise from situations, sometimes rapidly. As women have often been seen to be well capable of taking astute decisions in the home environment, why is “being decisive” still associated with being a predominantly male ability and prerogative?
If the requirement were instead “being decisive and considerate of the consequences for both people and organisation/nation”, would men really still be more frequently selected over women?
With emotional intelligence being one of the many differences between “constructive” and “destructive” people and their personalities, and those lacking in it as capable of doing as much harm as good, for people and organisation or nation, why are strengths like emotional warmth and empathy, kindness, compassion, generosity and a genuine interest in other people, which the leadership theories suggest people best respond to and are motivated by, not higher up on the list of factors those who assess people for hiring or promotion are tasked with considering, especially when these are qualities which throughout history have been more associated with women than men?
It surely is an anomaly that so many women are seen as being successful in supervisory and middle-management roles, but are overlooked (by men) for the most senior positions requiring greater responsibility, especially when some of those “tougher” (and colder) men chosen instead are amongst the most irresponsible in society.
The organisation which requires its newest members of senior management to be “tough and ruthless” is probably led by the wrong type of person or people, although if this is how their followers best describe them, as well as “arrogant and unapproachable”, they may be the last to see this for themselves, even when alerted to this by others.
When I have asked CEOs “would you like the word ‘ruthless’ engraved on your tombstone?” they have often been speechless.
Maybe society better needs ruth-full rather than ruth-less managers and leaders, whether they be men or women?
How many women have been responsible for huge corporate collapses, especially from seeking significant reward without sufficiently evaluating and minimising risk?
For some of the men who were responsible, notably those who failed to accept responsibility, not even after their organisation had collapsed with many people’s lives adversely affected did they realise what they had done wrong. In their (blinkered) eyes, nothing. Everyone and anything else was to blame, as was the case throughout their lives every time they made a mistake or did something wrong.
No wonder the corporate cultures they engender are based on blame and fear, not something advocated by any of the leadership theories. They are Great though at introducing and developing conflict, destroying confidence, diminishing cooperation, demolishing trust and damaging reputation.
Perhaps it was such emotionally deficient men who chose not-so-great-men over potentially-great-women for senior positions from which they really could have made a difference, but were denied the opportunity?
We will never know, especially if the organisation did not live much longer (relatively speaking) itself.
It too may be buried in the graveyard of redundant businesses and organisations which never evolved, alongside the graves of their “ruthless” leaders for which “much loved and missed” would not even have been contemplated to be engraved on the tomb of those “destructive leaders” who ultimately were far more interested in themselves than those they mis-led.
When the engraving says “he did it his way” because doing it “my way” was so important to him, he may have lacked the vision to seek and act on the opinions and advice of people just a little different from him, whether age, gender, race, background, nationality or anything else he noticed and thought important to diminish them by, matters which many far more astute and “constructive” leaders didn’t and don’t, because they value people from all backgrounds and see their differences as assets to be appreciated and availed of fruitfully, not liabilities to be disrespected and diminished.
Perhaps it is those who meet our criteria for “Constructive Leadership” who select people for positions at all levels within organisations purely on merit, based on their abilities and strengths of (lively not dull) personalities, depth of (genuine) charisma, (infectious) enthusiasm for the tasks at hand as well as a greater interest in others than themselves, including a genuine interest in all the people the organisation employs; in essence for their selflessness than their self-centredness.
For employees at all levels to be the most motivated they need to believe that anyone from any background has the opportunity to eventually become a member of the most senior management team, on merit.
When the current senior managers and leaders possess a passion to see them become the best they can be, based on a plethora of warm emotions and ’emotional intelligence”, the organisation which benefits just might evolve to survive or live well beyond the current generation, especially when they visibly practice inclusion rather than exclusion.
This can involve matters as basic (but too often uncommon) as a senior manager seeking opinions and suggestions from those who actually do perform much of the day to day work and service those who the organisation could not exist or grow without – their customers.
Those senior managers who live in their ivory towers far removed from the daily service which brings in the sales revenues would do well to be reminded what Peter Drucker said was the purpose of business – to create and retain a customer.
Drucker certainly did not say the purpose of business was to create and retain senior managers who were so out of touch with reality that they believed it acceptable to laud themselves and discriminate against minority groups and people different from themselves, most notably women, a situation that exists and prevails in far too many organisations in every possible sector of global business.
Those that do survive beyond the current generation are more likely to have recognised that as far as leadership is convened, all the talents and intelligence in the world are of little real value, if none of them are emotional.
This form of intelligence excludes ruthlessness and includes empathy, factors often better associated with women than men, as those organisations with the vision or wisdom to include many women in senior managerial roles well know. Yet given how few they can be, both women in senior roles and organisations so employing them, this seems to be a secret they keep all to themselves.
Perhaps this is because they want to become Great organisations and deny their male-only led competitors this opportunity to broaden their horizons and benefit from the creativity, perception, intuition and other traits which many women are well capable of contributing, if only they were afforded the opportunity which many more visionary men recognised as a necessity many years ago and which their entire entity profited from in many respects well beyond the merely financial.
Isn’t it extraordinary that there are so many entities worldwide that half the world’s population are excluded from (or rarely considered for) senior roles for which their empathy and other qualities may make them even better suited than the other half?
There are even some global organisations with the most admirable mission statements based on their initial leader’s inspirational and motivational teaching and practices based on inclusion and certainly not exclusion, who facing increasingly significant staff shortages because of an ageing workforce and too few younger new recruits, yet feature men ruling out women from employment, although they have performed a not unrelated role admirably for centuries, because “we have always done things this way”, even when they didn’t.
If a management consultant were asked to consider such a matter, one wonders would the response be to consider opening their eyes and recruitment to consider change rather than tradition (as most great organisations and leaders innately do, even without crises) and choose people on merit, not gender?
Indeed if the consultants examined, as they do, what their closest competitors employment and work practices are, if they were to report that women had been playing a comparable role without any noticeable drop in service levels, or even improvement, what would the response be as they have to close more and more of their premises because there are insufficient staff to “man” them?
There are even some organisations which throughout their history have had so many “reforming leaders” that a management consultant would have to enquire why this was so necessary, especially when they would still seem to be in great need of change for the better?
If the noun “crisis” comes from the Latinised form of the Greek word “krisis”, meaning “turning point in a disease”, the critical moment when the person with the disease could get better or worse, one wonders when the disease of appointing people purely on grounds of gender (or race or nationality or social background or anything else which may be seen to be less relevant or irrelevant when more such people are included rather than excluded) will be found to be readily curable by leaders with imagination, courage and vision?
“Ostrich Leaders” with their heads buried in the sand have not been known to transform their organisations to the degree that they prevented themselves being passed out by their more creative and inventive competitors, as some survive and some die because they insisted on doing things “the way we have always done them”. RIP.
Comfort Zones are not places that Great Leaders inhabit, even if that is what some of their less imaginative employees prefer, those that rebel against change but have no real ideas for improvement themselves, other than maintenance of long-standing and miserably failed status quos.
While those who actively fight or even campaign against change may not be bad people per se or troublemakers by nature, indeed many are not, when they pose barriers to “constructive” progress they can be nearly as damaging to an organisation as those we describe as “destructive leaders”.
Insisting that “the way we have always done things” is better than any alternatives, no matter what they may be and whether they are given serious consideration or not, is a very human characteristic. Psychologists tell us this is a form of “cognitive bias” and neuroscientists explain as being part of the “habits” or mental short cuts which we have formed in our brain circuitry to save us having to expend significant energy learning something new every time we perform the same task.
Experienced managers and leaders know well how difficult change is to introduce and appreciate the importance of inspiring people with amongst the two most important qualities any good employee posses – their imagination and enthusiasm – which allows them to share their vision about how great the future organisation could be allied to their enthusiasm or passion to explain this so well that everyone, whether with a traditional or more progressive mindset, all of whom contribute to the success of their entity as it evolves, becomes excited at joining their crusade for positive and constructive organisational change.
Just like the person that never changes can become staid, the organisation that never changes and sticks rigidly to many long standing status quos, which may have been appropriate at some time in the past, never evolves. It too can become staid. When it fails to excite the most dynamic and maybe charismatic employees, it is likely to come across similarly to customers with the option of taking their business elsewhere to organisations which better interest and excite them and satisfy their changing needs.
When the status quos prioritised the employees over the customers, treating some better than others and even excluding some totally from some of their products and services, they would seem to have forgotten the reason they were founded.
When the status quo featured some managers believing they were invincible and more important than other managers, employees and customers, especially when the mission statement advocated humility over pride, questions need to be asked why were they chosen or allowed to remain when their presence did more harm than good?
When some managers believed their internal rules were more important than society’s laws and thought covering up would benefit rather than damage “reputation”, only because they hoped no-one would find out about wrongdoing and whistleblowers who really cared were silenced, like many other such managers in many such organisation’s they discovered – too late – that trust and reputation are very hard to rebuild when (like their employees) they are disrespected and allowed to crash and burn, like the house built on foundations of sand. And what a fall they had.
Perhaps that is why Socrates likened trust and reputation to a fire – easy to keep kindled but difficult to relight when allowed to be extinguished. The only fire that such organisations need to be spreading like wildfire are the fires of change which need to spread so rapidly that no-one can extinguish them, especially as status quos and rules which have long served their purpose are burnt to cinders to be replaces by modern, progressive policies administered by people of every race, background… and gender.
Ultimately as many astute managers know, if people are commanded and ordered to do something, they will only half-heartedly do it, if at all, given that they generally respond far better to encouragement and reasoning why the task is important, if indeed it can still be justified on such grounds.
Likewise, Great Leaders have realised that people cannot be told to change, they need to be inspired to change and be involved in the process, not only for “buy-in” but also given they may have many useful ideas themselves, when included not excluded.
When those that benefit most from an organisation’s inability or refusal to change are its competitors, something really does need to change, while this actually remains an option.
Great Leaders ensure their organisation is constantly evolving and proactively prevent crises arising, rather than reacting so late to them that no-one ends up winning, whether ostriches or reformers.
The organisation which consistently excludes is more likely to be bypassed or even taken over by its more imaginative and inclusive rivals, especially those who have learned the benefits of treating everyone – the same.
Perhaps we need to be more focussed on the common ground between people, organisations and nations, and be less concerned with inevitable differences (“them and us”) as one of the extraordinary facts of human life is that no two people are the same?
Another aspect of life is that every group seems to be believe that they are right and the others wrong and perceive themselves as being better than their rivals, even if not. Not everyone can be right and better and everyone should be capable of learning from others and adapting accordingly.
Great Leaders are perhaps those with the ability (and emotional intelligence) to not only wisely lead their own group and people, but also make efforts to understand other groups and their people, perhaps also considering that in some or many respects “they” may be right or better and “”us/we” may be wrong or not as effective as “we” could be, and so may actually be able to learn from “them”? Wouldn’t there be a great deal less disagreement and conflict and a great deal more agreement and compromise based on compromise and a “win-win” mindset if this were the case?
Certainly in situations involving discussions, negotiations and in due course compromise, when both parties take the view that “they may be right and we may be wrong” then mutually satisfactory progress may be far more achievable.
This may involve a great deal of empathy, kindness, consideration, a genuine interest in others and ability to forgive and move on, something which (by and large) women are more associated with than men, especially those who are somehow perceived to be “strong” because they are ruthless, seek conflict, hold grudges and engage in vendettas, which may give them personal satisfaction but does little for the group dynamic and may hinder constructive progress?
Of course some women can be as cruel as the most mean-hearted and ruthless men, perhaps sharing the same personality type but not gender, none of which are traits which make for “Constructive Leadership”, indeed quite the opposite, although such people of both genders will do anything it takes to reach the most senior position possible in the most lucrative industries, which will never make them effective managers and leaders despite their protestations to the contrary.
Should we not then be promoting and employing people based on skills, talent, and personality, especially enthusiasm and creativity, not gender?
As kindness, compassion, empathy, interest in other people and many related facets are those which for centuries and indeed millennia men have trusted women with to be devoted to their children and to successfully raise families, too often without sufficient male involvement, why are women trusted to use these skills and innate “people-oriented” talents at supervisory/team leader and junior/middle management level in so many organisations, where they may be the majority of people performing such roles, yet so few are “included” and trusted to bring these very same and much needed abilities to the senior management team?
Is it because there may be a fallacy that to take tough decisions when required the decision makers themselves need to be tough and indeed ruthless? Not so. Very kind people are well capable of taking tough decisions, once they are the right ones and have been properly evaluated.
Might this fallacy explain so many sub-optimal decisions which could have been made better when those with more empathy were involved in the decision-making process, capable of assessing matters from the perspective of all the stakeholders affected?
Inclusion beats exclusion any day.
Is it because any group, whatever they may be, are more comfortable with people they see as being similar to themselves, than those who in some way are different?
Is this why so many employers seek people who have already worked in their industry sector before, rather than those who can bring fresh ideas from other areas of life, thus potentially losing out on people who may be very creative, enthusiastic, dynamic and bring something new to their entity?
Is this why so many people when hiring seek people with prior experience (such as “management experience”) rather than evaluating the personality of the candidate and seeing that the bright, enthusiastic person sitting across the table from them may have great potential, even if there may be something they may not have done before but could so easily learn? Are people really that conservative and unimaginative?
Is this why so many men in senior roles keep employing men rather than choosing people purely on merit?
All such situations require a “vision” and degree of “courage to be different” that too few people in important roles seem to possess, which may well explain why so many organisations will always remain modest performers given that they may be closed to new ideas and to the people who may bring them.
Could this lack of “vision” and degree of “courage to be different” apply to those of one gender (or nationality or race or industry experience or whatever) who seem dedicated to “maintaining the status quo” no matter how outdated it may be and hence keep trying to do more of the same and employing or promoting more of the same?
If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.
What does ignoring half the world’s population (especially in sectors of life such as religious where the number of qualified candidates is diminishing) actually achieve?
Would understanding of the organisation’s “stakeholders” including those it was founded to serve, and thus potentially better decision making, not be facilitated by the gender (and race and nationality) balance or make-up within all the levels of the organisation being more reflective of its “customer base”?
There are few organisations today whose products and services are exclusively sold or delivered to men, yet many whose senior management teams are almost exclusively male.
All decision-makers could benefit from a fresh perspective and different viewpoints if they are not to keep making the same type of decisions, ultimately to the benefit of their more progressive competitors, who eventually their customers or clients may migrate or move to.
The organisation which fails to change dies even if it survives, lacking the imagination to inspire its best people to produce their best, so stays in second gear while its rivals overtake them in the fast lane of continual improvement and progress. It is such rivals with more progressive hiring and promotional policies which better reflect their customer-base and which are less conservative which are more likely to be constantly seeking areas for improvement which actually will do just that – improve – especially once they learn from the mistakes they will inevitably make on the way.
Why is it that the status quo is favoured by so many people and organisations?
Who benefits from the maintenance of long-standing status quos? If it is the “competitors” then the management really needs to have a hard look at itself and see what their competitors may be doing that they aren’t.
Should the “insiders” who maintain the status quos be asked to evaluate how they and the organisation at large may actually benefitting from them? Or is it just that they find it easier and more comfortable to continue doing things “the way we have always done things”?
With Peter Drucker observing that “the purpose of business is to attract and retain a customer”, and too many organisations (not just businesses) putting far more effort into attracting than retaining, do organisations need to consider how attractive they may appear to be to those they are trying to attract and retain, especially when they are failing to do either?
Should the” insiders” who prefer the status quo be asked to evaluate whether the organisation is being successful at attracting new customers and employees or retaining those they already have? And if not, what may ned to change?
What role might the neuroscience of people forming habits with which they are more comfortable with play in such matters? What makes those who “strive to be different” different? Might they possess a degree of creativity and vision to see how great their entity could be that others just lack? Is that then not what progressive employers should be seeking in their candidates for promotion or hiring of whatever gender?
At the end of the day no matter the topic – gender, race, nationality, age, industry or managerial experience, qualifications, et al – inclusion beats exclusion, hands down, any day.
Would a policy of “treating everyone the same” and “with the respect you would like to be treated yourself” not be more effective and better contribute to organisational progress and success, by way of retaining and attracting great people as both employees and customers, especially when such progressive policies facilitate the best people possible filling the positions for which they are best suited?
Is this not preferable to they being ignored on grounds that may have had some validity in a bygone age but may no longer be appropriate?
Surely an aspiration of trying to help each and every one of its employees “become the best they can be” is likely to contribute to the organisation itself “becoming the best it can be”?
Not though if it ignores vast groups of people who could potentially make a huge contribution if only they were included rather than excluded?
If the primary argument is “we have always done things this way” could that really stand up to rational debate, especially in an era of improved communications and rapid change across so many fronts – other than gender and race balance?
Perhaps some day we may even discuss the Great Women Theory and have to advocate that organisations involve more men at senior levels?
Or should it make any difference what gender, age, nationality or race the leaders, managers and employees are, once they are equipped and motivated to responsibly, constructively and maybe even passionately perform the role expected of them?
Julian Martin Clarke 2010-2021