Leadership: the Personality or "Dispositional Attribution" of Leaders and the impact which their positive or negative and "constructive" or "destructive" nature can have on the integrity, environment, culture and reputation of the organisation, entity or even nation…

… including whether it and they are respected or disrespected and trusted or distrusted, the cornerstones or foundations for continued longer-term success or quicksand which may cast doubts on the continued existence or survival of the entity when mis-led; too frequently a situation apparent to almost everyone – other than the supremely confident “Disordered Leader”:


“Givers” in leadership positions could not be more completely and fundamentally different from their “taker” counterparts.

While the positivity of givers spreads confidence, encourages collaboration, prioritises teamwork and co-operation, results in harmony and inspires followers to perform nearer to their potential and genuinely look forward to coming in to work, the negativity of takers as leaders is more likely to spread fear, hostility, disharmony, conflict and blame and result in too many people acting primarily as individuals, protecting their own patch and seeking to compete with colleagues, being uninspired and underperforming nowhere near their true potential, who much prefer leaving than coming in to work.

This is the SBT – Sad But True – situation prevailing in far too many workplaces and organisations and precisely the opposite outcome from that expected of leaders. Although this is detrimental to the health of not only coworkers and ultimately the viability of the very organisation itself, why do we tolerate such counterproductive situations and what can we do to prevent them arising in the future?

Society needs more self-less than self-serving people in managerial and leadership roles.

While many people seek convergence by way of many forms of cooperation, bridge-building and peacemaking, a minority covertly seek divergence by way of many forms of competition, conflict and troublemaking, thriving on being difficult and irresponsible, preferring to oppose sensible paths to progress.

While many people take great pleasure in making others feel good, encouraging them and boosting their confidence and self-respect, there is also a minority in society who seem to derive great satisfaction from “putting down” and degrading others, thriving on discouragement, disrespect, deceit, distrust, instability, troublemaking and blame, disruption, disharmony and discord, disunity, havoc and mayhem, disagreement, conflict, control and chaos, intolerance, impatience and grudges, arrogance, meanness and tactlessness, many forms of negativity and unkindness, even subtle or overt cruelty including exclusion, denying people the opportunity to make their contribution to deliberations, all quite the opposite of that expected (a) of managers and leaders and (b) when any group of people join together to achieve some common purpose.

Yet global society continues to elect such people to seniority of position in its businesses and other entities, even to head its organisations and governments, often attracted by their (shallow) Charm, (apparent) Intelligence and (verbose) Eloquence, while somehow failing to appreciate what may in fact may be their true (disordered) nature, far more interested in themselves than those they are chosen to lead despite their (skilful) pretence at showing an interest in others including (insincere) flattery (when this most suits them), perhaps ignoring (quite apparent) warning signs when presented, as intimidatory (and even deceitful) traits are far too frequently associated with “dominance” and “strong leadership”, rather than potentially deep character flaws, such as (cold-hearted) deficiencies in key aspects of both humanity and leadership including emotional intelligence, empathy, harmony, guilt, remorse, conscience and integrity, ultimately (given their absolute necessity to “get their own way” and “win at all costs”) preferring “win-lose” to “win-win” and being competitive rather than collaborative, finding it easier to be cruel than kind.

They inhabit a different world which others need to understand and adapt to. At its most basic their outlook is exceptionally self-centred (far more concerned with me than we or us) and this guides much of their behaviour, no matter how hard they try to mask their true inner coldness and exceptional self-belief.

Until this is understood they will be misunderstood.

Despite their other often significant abilities and talents, including Charm, Intelligence and Eloquence, this makes them highly inappropriate for roles which involve responsibility for other people, which is fundamentally just not their concern. No matter how well they pretend to be interested in other people, especially when this most suits them, they aren’t. And probably never will be.

Their response to situations can be so bizarre that this can leave observers so confused that they may have no idea how to respond themselves to their “emotional incontinence and lability”, until in due course observers begin to appreciate how repetitive and hence predictable their difficult behaviour can actually be. Yet as one of their greatest talents can be the ability to act normal, much of the time, especially until their self-interest is challenged, this can make them difficult to spot or properly understand.

With a great deal of patience and perseverance, over time the peacemakers can learn how to adapt their own behaviour accordingly to try and introduce a sense of calm to a wide variety of unnecessarily challenging situations, with the aim of denying the troublemakers the turbulence they insatiably seek, no matter the walk of life they inhabit and are encountered.

Life within and outside organisations would be so much easier if such people were not involved, especially in senior roles. But the only way to prevent them causing trouble in its many forms is to identify them in advance and then deny them the positions of power and influence which they crave but can innately eventually only abuse.

Because they are often inflexible and struggle to change the way they behave and react to similar situations (“maladaptive”), they actually can be identified. How? By way of their own, sometimes peculiar and often self-centred, behaviour.

A significant global problem though seems to be that too few people outside the arena of psychologists and psychiatrists quite seem to know what to look for to suggest “there might be something wrong here” and especially what “something” may be, possibly in extremis even a “personality disorder”.

Fortunately there are many related behavioural traits which “selfish, difficult, proud, stubborn and perverse” people can display, especially when put under pressure or their self-interest is in any way challenged, amongst which are these 30 (of 400) examples:

  1. They demand respect but deny it to others. Being disrespectful seems to give them a thrill, quite the opposite of leaders who inspire the achievements of their people by way of giving them their respect.
  2. Satisfying their own needs can be their primary, perhaps only, concern. Some savour being unkind and can derive a particular pleasure being disdainful of others. Their world revolves around themselves.
  3. They want everyone else to change to suit them but don’t seem to be capable of changing their own (“inflexible” and “maladaptive”) behaviour.
  4. At its most basic their outlook is me not we or us and this guides much of their behaviour. Until this is understood they will be misunderstood.
  5. Their mindset is essentially quite different and others may only learn how to adapt their own behaviour to more adequately deal with them when they begin to better understand how their distorted mind operates.
  6. It should not be a surprise to hear them talking about doing the right thing one day then doing precisely the opposite the next, especially if doing so also happens to facilitate them achieving their own ambitions.
  7. Not known for reflection before speaking or acting, they can appear to behave in a rash and hasty manner. They can act spontaneously based on what seem to be impulses and whims, in a manner that many others would later regret, although for them any form of repentance can be rare.
  8. They require and seek praise (and even praise themselves when no-one else is) but, thriving on being discouraging and disliking being encouraging, find it hard to genuinely say “thanks” or “well done”.
  9. The extent of the positivity when relating stories of themselves and especially their talents and achievements can be so incredible, literally, that they defy belief. Yet this does not deter them from both appearing to believe these things themselves nor from broadcasting them to others, even if total fiction.
  10. They are constantly critical but overreact to anything they perceive to be criticism, even if not or none was intended.
  11. They damage trust when they lie, deceive, manipulate and seek to assassinate the character of those they believe to be opponents, often quite falsely.
  12. They actually seem to believe their own lies, deceit, perjuries, falsehoods and misinterpretations.
  13. They want others to do what they want, yet may themselves be incapable of taking advice.
  14. There is a significant disconnect between their words and deeds. To them, (shallow) words and (empty) promises are meaningless and un-heartfelt, lacking sincerity or association with genuine effort to follow them with appropriate or beneficial action.
  15. They want others to understand them for their idiosyncrasies but show little or no genuine interest in other people.
  16. They want others to forgive them for their errors but cannot say sorry when they are wrong, nor even seem to experience remorse.
  17. They want others to be grateful towards them but towards others have an attitude of ingratitude.
  18. They seem to forget what their true job responsibilities should be, or to whom, yet do not forget those people who they believe have wronged them.
  19. They hold deep grudges often for trivial reasons, not even satisfied by extracting severely disproportionate revenge.
  20. They can talk about “doing the right thing” but at key times their decisions and actions show that they just do what most satisfies them, especially if this disadvantages others.
  21. They prefer “winning at all costs” to “win-win outcomes”, so get a greater kick out of life when others are seen to lose.
  22. They prefer being disagreeable, competitive and combative so struggle to be agreeable, co-operative and collaborative, seeking victories not compromise.
  23. They perversely prefer to do the opposite of what others propose to be the most appropriate course of action.
  24. In due course their peers themselves learn to recommend the opposite of what they believe to be best, knowings its diametric will most likely be selected by their Disordered Leader, bringing some sense of order amidst the chaos, indeed in many respects quite the opposite of what people expect of those chosen to manage and lead organisations.
  25. They can be quite childlike – the most important thing in their lives can seem to be “getting their own way”.
  26. They may appear to be inconsistent, contradictory and perverse, but with greater familiarity can be seen to be entirely predictable.
  27. They are intolerant of other people’s errors but psychologists believe may be incapable of learning from their own prior experiences and mistakes – Groundhog Day.
  28. They know they should be interested in the people they are managing and leading but fundamentally are only capable of being interested in themselves.
  29. Their necessity to control can become quite uncontrollable.
  30. They can thrive on being spiteful, malicious, unforgiving and vindictive, holding grudges for many years for what may not have been more than a slight criticism or critique, which creates an environment in which others have to tread very carefully in what they say and do, given that even kindness towards them can be misinterpreted. It is characteristics such as these which do not endear them to other people and make them highly inappropriate supervisors, managers or leaders of people in any walk of life. Anyone who dares criticise them, no matter how constructively, is not likely to benefit from career progression. If they cannot adequately manage their own emotions in a generally positive manner, how can they be expected to show any responsibility for those of others or guide them positively and constructively?

They perceive other people as being there to serve them, the entity they lead becomes their personal plaything and the power they are trusted with they abuse to advantage themselves and (when it suits them) their sycophantic cronies, especially if this is seen to disadvantage others, including those they perceive to be opponents or threats, even if they are not and have simply dared suggest an alternative opinion or hold a different view on any matter.

Such traits do not augur well for any group of people properly discussing matters, debating alternatives and arriving at a course of action that will benefit many or most of the “stakeholders” involved or potentially impacted by the situation.

If “team-members” may be too scared – personally and professionally – to openly and adequately discuss matters and instead feel obliged (or even obligated) to only say and do what will please and satisfy their “disordered leader”, why bother with the pretence of having a “management team” at all?

Such dominant and domineering people are fundamentally untrustworthy and irresponsible, yet incredibly (meaning “hard to believe”) somehow (throughout history) we have continued to (mistakenly) trust them with positions of responsibility for other people, who ultimately they treat with disdain and contempt, because in their worldview they perceive themselves to be naturally superior and other people as being somewhat or significantly inferior to themselves.

Sinead O’Connor may have sung “Nothing Compares 2U” but their version could be “Nothing Compares 2Me”, a seemingly genuinely-held belief given their supreme and invincible self-confidence, irrespective of whether this has any merits or not.

Not always known for reflection before speaking or acting, they can appear to behave in a rash, hasty and incredibly impulsive manner. They can act spontaneously based on what seem to be impulses and whims, in a manner that many would later regret, although for them any form of remorse or repentance can be very rare.

When Elton John and Bernie Taupin wrote “Sorry seems to be the hardest word” they could have had self-centred people in mind, because they can find it almost impossible to apologise. While this may initially appear to be due to “pride”, which of course it is, it may also be due to an inability to experience remorse and feelings of guilt.

“Always right and never wrong” could be their secret motto for all aspects of life. When other people realise this, it makes them much easier to deal with as people learn not to overtly challenge them nor expect any form of empathy or sympathy, the absence of which is aptly described as “ruth-less”.

They relish talking down to others and making them feel small. They thrive on discouragement rather than encouragement and seem to derive pleasure from ridiculing others, all quite the opposite of the traits expected of legitimate managers and leaders.

Fellow Celts Amy MacDonald and U2 could have been titling their songs about them when they sang about “Pride”.

These exceptionally “proud” people are often well capable of giving a great impression socially, can seem to be very lively with a great sense of humour, especially when making fun of others, but dislike and maybe cannot cope with being the butt of jokes themselves.

Adept at “talking the talk”, in time close associates may begin to realise that there may not only be a deep disconnect between their talk and their deeds, between what they say and what they actually do, sometimes even within the same hour, but also that they may be incapable of “walking the walk”, except if it happens to briefly coincide with satisfying their self-interest.

“Talking the talk” is only likely to result in their “walking the walk” if this coincides with their getting their own way.

Ironically it can be the most talented in society who, when of a “self-less disposition” genuinely care more for, show an interest in and believe in the talents of those they have been astutely chosen to manage and lead. Their greatest talent can be inspiring other people to “produce their best”, or at least begin to achieve some of their potential by way of encouragement and saying “I believe in you”.

In stark contrast, it can be those of a “self-centred disposition” , especially those with lesser talents but with supreme self-belief, who show little or no genuine interest in other people, including those they have been mistakenly chosen to manage or lead, who are more likely to need to discourage other people, disparage their achievements and result in them performing well below their potential. Yet they expect those who they openly disrespect to praise and show respect to their own “superiors”, not because they warrant it, but because they are “entitled” to acclaim because of the seniority of position they hold and level of power they possess. Yet it is this power (over others) that they are more likely to abuse than use astutely for the mutual benefit of those they are tasked with leading, including by way of using it to satisfy their personal goals, irrespective of whether these coincide with the group at large, which fundamentally is just not their concern, no matter how well they pretend that it is.

They often achieve their goal of “pullling the wool over they eyes of others” because amongst their greatest talents can be that of acting, especially pretending to be good or do good, including pretending to show an interest in other people (when this suits them most) who ultimately they care little for, given that at the end of the day all they really care about is themselves. Such a (peculiar) mindset makes them entirely inappropriate to manage ANY grouping in society, although they may well be the last people to ever realise this themselves.

Even after their organisation has collapsed with many people’s lives adversely affected, they still cannot see what they may have done wrong. They blame every failing on others and (unless stopped) move on to other groups or organisations who they believe “owe them something”, with inevitable consequences.

Ironically such “entitled” people struggle to notice that it is their own peculiar behaviour, notably the inappropriateness or inadequacy of their words and deeds, which deny them the “special respect” they insatiably crave.

Lacking empathy and emotional intelligence, they fail to appreciate that respect is earned when behaviour and attitudes warrants it, not when esteem is demanded and expected, when indeed it may be most unwarranted.

To them, words are shallow and promises are empty, both utterly meaningless and absolutely un-heartfelt, lacking any real sincerity or association with any genuine effort to follow them with any appropriate or beneficial action, irrespective of the apparently convincing conviction with which they can be spoken, fooling some of the people some of the time.

Words, like people and relationships, can be easily discarded, neither being felt with any degree of what others would describe or experience as emotion. Indeed their words and their emotions could be considered to be equally shallow and empty. Just like being unkind or even cruel in deed, saying something untrue or deeply disparaging does not seem to cost them a bother.

Feeling little or no guilt means words and the truth lack any meaningful connection.

They seem to lack a sense of what may be wrong.

So day after day they seek to turn trust into distrust, cooperation into conflict, harmony into disharmony, unity into disunity and order into disorder, for no apparent reason except they just get a great personal “kick” out of creating confusion and chaos, harm and havoc and, if they can get away with it, even mayhem and anarchy, without experiencing any regret whatsoever, no matter the severity of the consequences for anyone other than themselves, fundamentally all they care about.

Incredibly we permit such cold-hearted, callous, nefarious and villainous people to manage and lead, or mismanage and mislead, our organisations and nations, resulting in far too many innocent victims of their mendacious malice.

The potentially catastrophic impact on interpersonal trust and organisational reputation can appear to be ignored or only scantily considered, given the excessive focus on financial reward and “winning at all costs”, almost irrespective of the downside risk, not the priority of managers and leaders who somehow extraordinarily (or not) fail to see the consequences or their culpability, even after their organisation has collapsed with many people’s lives adversely affected.

Just like what may be their greatest personal cognitive disability, do we never seem to learn from our prior experiences, especially our mistakes? Do we seem to be doomed to repeat them by appointing such fundamentally inappropriate and childlike people, fundamentally more destructive than constructive, who not only play mind games with the emotions of other people, aim to destroy the good names of right-minded, well-intentioned, much kinder and more considerate people who try to “do the right thing”, eradicate the critical value of trust and perhaps irreparably demolish the reputations of the organisations and entities they lead, but also in so doing damage the very fabric of our societies?

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 history being 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)?

“Leadership is not about the individual. When you have macho leaders who believe they have to shine and it has to be all about them, forgetting that what is required is the welfare of society and the people they serve”.

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.

In addition to their other leadership qualities, the personality of leaders can contribute significantly to the manner by which they lead, the example they set and in due course the culture of the entity or organisation they guide, with a concomitant effect or impact on the lives of those they have a responsibility to lead – and serve.  Not all leaders though perceive serving others to be their role and a key element in their job description…

Those givers, being “more interested in others than themselves”, who may be more warm-hearted, generous, kind, unselfish, just, forgiving, modest, enthusiastic, perhaps with a pleasant demeanour, maybe a sense of humour, capable at laughing at themselves, who praise and encourage others and consistently display integrity, who ultimately put themselves last and others first, may actually have the last laugh at the selfish, difficult, proud and contrary, as it may also transpire that is the enthusiastic, positive and unselfish not the self-centred, negative and destructive who may be the happiest in society and spread their cheerful bonhomie amongst those they lead and share their lives with!

In stark contrast, when leaders treat people unfairly and disrespect them, behave selfishly and without integrity, showing little real interest in any of the other people involved, relationships will be challenged and trust may be a victim.

Unfortunately, like elsewhere in life, some leaders don’t seem capable of learning their lessons from their prior experiences (perhaps a cognitive disability, which allied to their sense of infallibility, contributes to their not believing they make mistakes, which they repeat time and time again, yet like all their many failings, they blame on others). Hence they keep behaving in the manner which prioritises their own ego and personal interests, while disrespecting and even demeaning other people, seemingly giving them a great personal thrill, which somehow some people are impressed with as we misinterpret such antics as being “strong leadership” rather than what it really is – intimidation and bullying – which should never be an instrument in the toolkit of legitimate leadership.

Genuinely strong leaders with empathy and an abundance of emotional intelligence appreciate that they achieve a great deal more from praise, encouragement, tact and inclusion, recognising that showing a real interest in the people they are tasked with leading, seeking their opinions and acting on their suggestions and advice when appropriate, is what people expect of their managers and leaders, as this is how they bring any group of individuals closer to each other, feel they are members of the same team and thus more likely to collaboratively achieve their collective goals.

There is noting revolutionary in this – it is plain common sense and should be “intuitively self-evident”. Yet for too many people such openness with and inclusion of other people remains a mystery, so innately focussed are they on themselves that they lack a genuine interest in anyone else. So why do we appoint such people to supervisory, managerial and even leadership roles?

Astute leaders recognise that exclusion, criticism, discouragement, rebuke and humiliation are all totally counterproductive, yet extraordinarily throughout global society we somehow elect people to managerial roles who innately behave in such a rude, crude, belittling and demeaning manner, making the (potentially disordered and disturbed) leader feel better, while damaging the emotional welfare of those they mis-lead, best referred to as “intimidatory leadership”, if such misbehaviour even warrants being described as “leadership” at all, being the opposite of the behaviour most likely to “maximise the efforts of others, towards the achievement of a goal”.

Those takers, being “more interested in themselves than others”, who are proud, selfish, difficult, mean-hearted and unjust, lack integrity, who criticise and discourage others yet cannot take criticism themselves, hold deep and long-lasting grudges, who promote themselves and their achievements and belittle those of others, who put themselves first and others last, perhaps emotionally cold and humour-less, may also transpire to be the least satisfied with the many wonders of life, having to damage the emotions of others to derive satisfaction from relationships.

At least if their variety of attractive and unattractive attributes have resulted in their becoming wealthy, honestly or dishonestly, they may be miserable in comfort.

When they develop a sense of entitlement whereby they believe others owe them something just because they have achieved a level of position and influence, thinking they are more important than those they lead, they fail to appreciate that respect is earned when behaviour and attitudes warrants it, not when respect is demanded and expected.

When they spread malicious and untrue rumours about others, sometimes called a distortion campaign or character assassination, they fail to appreciate that others can see through their lies and any respect they had will be diminished further, especially when they are found out and just change their story with no bother at all, nor any guilt or remorse for their words and deeds.

In time other people realise, especially when their recollection of situations and events differs from their own, that they can confuse fact and fiction in the manner that they want to recall matters or be perceived by others, even if this bears little or no resemblance to reality. When they seem to genuinely believe their own lies and misinterpretations, they cause great difficulty in group situations and cannot be trusted to supervise, manage or lead other people.

Those who have to deal with such difficult people, whether in an organisational or other context, who also have to deal with the consequences of the havoc which can arise from their extremely self-centred behaviour, may recognise that an alternative approach from their leaders can be more appropriate and successful – humility!

Of course even people of the finest possible character are capable of doing wrong, especially under pressure (including or especially from manipulative takers), but they are also well capable of recognising wrongdoing and taking appropriate steps to make rectification and reparation.

The ability to recognise the necessity to apologise and always do so, not only when required but also occasionally when not, as well as rectifying prior errors and striving not to repeat them, does not appear to be prevalent amongst those who prefer trouble to peace, competition to co-operation and themselves to others.

Would society, including business, not be far better off if somehow we realised that everyone else would be the winner if we no longer appointed those more naturally devious and ruthless (if not even cruel and perhaps sadistic) people who can seem to derive great pleasure not from being kind but actually unkind and even cruel to others, to positions of influence and power, no matter how impressive may be their other talents and degree of charm?

The more difficult people in business and indeed society can be slow to learn from their mistakes, perhaps may even be incapable of learning their lessons from their prior experiences. Being so excessively and innately self-focussed, their “shallow emotions” may prevent them appreciating that their intimidation and  maltreatment of others can be extremely counterproductive in a group situation.

One of the frequent lessons of history has been that those who abuse power, lose power. This inevitability is only a matter of time, sometimes brief and on too many occasions lengthy, especially when they make maintenance of power their priority rather than using it astutely to benefit those they lead.

What is Leadership about?

Is leadership about conviction or conformity?

An adherence to the status quo or the vision and courage required to challenge and break the mould?

Sitting on the fence or daring to be different?

Covering up or owning up?

Moving backwards or forwards?

Denying the undeniable or anticipating the future?

Is it about seeking personal fame (or infamy) or dedication to the mission?

Is it about conflict or harmony?

Coercion or persuasion?

Ordering or asking?

Being rude and crude or tactful and diplomatic?

Being disloyal or loyal?

Breeding distrust or trust?

Never praising and being openly critical or engaging in “public praise and private criticism”?

Being competitive or cooperative? Having to win at all costs or seeking a fair compromise?

Having a fixed mind or being open to learn and seek new experiences?

Favouring the majority or protecting the minority?

Practicing exclusion or inclusion?

Being difficult and proud or modest and humble?

Being arrogant and unapproachable or confident and approachable?

Is it about taking credit or giving credit?

Is it about discouragement or encouragement?

Is it about rebuke or motivation?

Is it about humiliation or inspiration?

Is it about exclusion or inclusion?

Is it about contempt or respect for others?

Is it about being constructive or destructive?

Most critically, is leadership about me or we?

If it is about “me” – who do they lead and set an example for?

If their primary interest is actually in themselves, even if they succeed in masking their true inner coldness from others much of the time (especially from those who do not have to deal with them on a day-to-day basis), why are they chosen for an incredibly important (if not key) role in society, in which one of the primary requirements is to “show a genuine interest in other people and build strong foundations for the longer-term success of the organisation or entity” which other people trusted them to prioritise, not their self-interest?

How can those lacking empathy even be expected to show an interest in other people, let alone guide, nurture and lead them along the right path?

Ironically too many of those who believe leadership is all about “me” do not even appear to be capable of regulating and managing their own emotions, let alone taking responsibility for the lives, welfare, culture and future direction of the people and organisation or entity in society they ultimately and inevitably can only mis-lead.

Those who at one stage somehow thought they would be capable of taking on such onerous responsibilities, for whatever reasons, often including charm, intelligence and eloquence, when they chose them to “maximise the efforts of others, towards the achievement of a goal” may have missed one key point when evaluating their abilities:

As far as leadership is concerned, all the intelligence in the world may be of little real value – if none of it is emotional.

Constructive Leadership

“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

“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.

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? “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…

What is leadership?

There are hundreds of descriptions or definitions, including (for the moment) just two:

“Leadership is a process of social influence, which maximizes the efforts of others, towards the achievement of a goal” (forbes.com)

Yet society elects people so interested in themselves that they show so little genuine interest in others that eventually their being excluded and even discouraged, humiliated and intimidated results in them performing well below their true potential. Indeed their “mis-leading” could never be described as “maximizing the efforts of others” and their “social influence” more negative and destructive rather than positive and constructive.

Just taking the example of one further definition of “Leadership”:

“1. Individuals leading an organisation, regarded collectively

2. The activity of leading a group of people or an organisation or the ability to do this

Leadership involves:

– establishing a clear vision

– sharing that vision with others so that they will follow willingly

– providing the information, knowledge & methods to realise that vision, &

– coordinating & balancing the conflicting interests of all members & stakeholders

A leader steps up in times of crisis & is able to think & act creatively in difficult situations.” (www.businessdictionary.com/definition/leadership.html)

Instead of leading as described, self-centred leaders, especially those who may have a “personality disorder”, create crises and cause havoc and disruption, sometimes subtle and other times quite overt.

“Disordered Leaders” thrive on being disagreeable and doing quite the opposite of what others want them to do (which leads to the opportunity for their more appreciative peers to advise them the opposite of what they want done).

Indeed the inability of the “Disordered Leader” to praise, encourage or show a genuine interest in anyone but themselves, nor take criticism yet engage in significant critique of everyone else, including for their one failings (which forces people to spend an inordinate amount of their time and energy dealing with the foibles of the Disordered Leader), contributes to a “Blame Culture” developing throughout their organisation, with people “out for themselves” , behaving as individuals and in competition with each other, rather than co-operating to collaboratively and collectively achieve the organisation’s goals.

Rather than “coordinating & balancing the conflicting interests of all members & stakeholders” “Disordered Leaders” CREATE conflict between them, innately preferring disharmony to harmony and disunity to unity, amongst many other such traits, all QUITE THE OPPOSITE OF THAT EXCEPTED FROM LEADERS.

And yet society continues to hire, promote and elect such people to leadership roles for which they are fundamental ill-equipped.

Ten Leadership Traits

There are many traits associated with “successful” leaders, including the following ten:

  1. Decisiveness
  2. Awareness
  3. Focus
  4. Accountability
  5. Empathy
  6. Confidence
  7. Optimism
  8. Honesty
  9. Inspiration
  10. Integrity


Yet extraordinarily over-confident “Disordered Leaders” who display quite the opposite traits or attributes are chosen for managerial and leadership roles – unaccountable, dishonest, lacking empathy and integrity, bringing negativity rather than optimism and instead of inspiring those they lead to produce their best, can intimidate people in such a manner that not only do they fail to reach anything like their potential but they can be treated with such disrespect that they care little for their leader or eventually even the organisation itself to the extent that they take their talent to more welcoming organisations, all quite the opposite of what is and should be expected of ANYONE in a responsible situation, especially senior management and leadership.

Why, why, why does this happen and why are greater steps not taken to rectify such situations by either removing destructively “Disordered Leaders” or not appointing them in the first place?

Ten Leadership Styles

Because leaders differ, for many reasons including life and business experiences and their “dispositional attribution”, their personal traits including personality and “character”, there are also a variety of leadership styles, including these:

  1. Coercive: Leaders demand immediate compliance
  2. Bureaucratic: Leaders focus on following every rule
  3. Transactional: Leaders inspire by expecting the best from everyone & themselves
  4. Authoritative: Leaders mobilise people toward a vision
  5. Affiliative: Leaders create emotional bonds & harmony
  6. Democratic: Leaders build consensus through participation
  7. Pacesetting: Leaders expect excellence & self-direction
  8. Coaching: Leaders develop people for the future
  9. Charismatic: Inspire enthusiasm & energetic in motivating others to move forward
  10. Servant: Leaders focus on meeting the needs of the team

(Harvard Business Review 2000 from https://www.businessnewsdaily.com/3647-leadership-definition.htm)

Yet one of the major problems and indeed challenges which global society, including the fascinating world of business, faces is that not all leaders are actually CAPABLE of:

  1. Showing a genuine interest in those they lead (or anyone else)
  2. Maximising the efforts of others & prioritising needs of team
  3. Establishing & sharing a clear vision others will follow willingly
  4. Stepping up in times of crisis or showing positive social influence
  5. Thinking & acting creatively in difficult situations
  6. Coordinating & balancing conflicting stakeholder interests
  7. Decisiveness, awareness, focus, optimism,
  8. Being modest & displaying humility rather than proud and arrogant
  9. Creating emotional bonds & harmony rather than damaging relationships and bringing disharmony
  10. Building consensus
  11. Inspiring enthusiasm & mobilising, motivating or developing people
  12. Possessing empathy & warm emotions
  13. Being agreeable and approachable
  14. Seeking participation
  15. Being democratic not autocratic
  16. Expecting excellence yet creating levels of fear that scares people into showing self-directuinh and taking initiatives self
  17. Accountability, honesty & not being deceitful & manipulative
  18. Being other than coercive, arrogant, humiliating/diminishing others
  19. Considering the needs of their team let alone prioritising these
  20. Ignoring their self-interest in favour of their people & the entity they are supposed to be prioritising – but cannot…


Leadership: Some Self-centred Traits

  1. Self-centred people can thrive on approval, including tactlessly praising themselves, but find it difficult to encourage others
  2. Incapable of coping with criticism, they relish blame & finding fault
  3. They can be very opinionated, yet rarely seek opinions
  4. Quick to offer advice, they cannot take it
  5. Some may seek pity (“poor me”) but be incapable of sympathy
  6. They expect loyalty, but are incapable of returning it. Only capable of fidelity to themselves, they can be disloyal to even their most loyal supporters
  7. They desire support, yet cannot be supportive
  8. Preferring to be contrary than agreeable, their necessity to win & get their own way means they dislike compromise & prefer win-lose to win-win
  9. When challenged they can become even more challenging. Their mood swings may result in coworkers perpetually “walking on eggshells”, a waste of their wrongly-directed energy and talents
  10. They can perceive imaginary injustice done to them, yet be unjust to others, without any semblance of guilt or remorse
  11. They demand respect, but deny it to others
  12. They can derive pleasure from being disrespectful, unkind and even cruel to those they are supposed to be setting an example for. While being fundamentally unkind to others they are incapable of responding to kindness when shown to them in the many ways it can be, et al…

What is a “Disordered Leader”?

Perhaps we need to define what we mean by a “Disordered Leader”? Here is a first attempt to initiate debate and discussion:

“Someone trusted with supervisory, managerial or leadership responsibilities who due to what may be a mental and/or personality disorder(s) may be incapable of responsible management or leadership, including prioritising the interests of stakeholders other than themselves, especially when these impede satisfying their self-interest.”

(Proposed at the 26th IVBEC or “International Vincentian Business Ethics Conference” entitled “Capitalism and Ethics” held in Dublin in October 2019 by EBENI Chair Julian Clarke during his presentation “The Leadership Fallacy: The Challenge Posed by Self-Centred Leaders”).

People who very occasionally display some of the traits identified here may be entirely normal and just be responding to pressure. It is when these traits recur frequently and can with familiarity be predicted that perhaps other people should be anxious, as the behaviour may be indicative of a “personality disorder”,

Too many in society appear unaware what day-to day behavioural traits self-centred leaders display, particularly those who may be capable of being diagnosed with any of a range of “Personality Disorders”, including narcissistic.

The most recent fifth edition of the “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders” (DSM-5) from the American Psychological Association (APA) stresses that a personality disorder is an enduring and inflexible pattern of long duration leading to significant distress or impairment and is not due to use of substances or another medical condition.

Indeed none of the modern definitions of a Personality Disorder, including:

“a way of thinking, feeling and behaving that deviates from the expectations of the culture, causes distress or problems functioning, and lasts over time”


“a chronic, inflexible, maladaptive pattern of perceiving, thinking and behaving that seriously impairs an individual’s ability to function in social or other settings”


“clinically significant maladaptive personality traits… involving pervasive patterns of perceiving, relating to, and thinking about the environment and the self that interfere with long-term functioning of the individual and are not limited to isolated episodes”

do not describe traits which should be possessed by leaders of organisations or society, especially as the term “maladaptive” refers to “not being conducive to adaptation” or “not having the ability to change to suit different conditions”.

If more people were aware of such traits as being indicative of a Personality Disorder, it might be expected that such people would be disqualified from becoming leaders of other people and societal organisations.

When an individual’s personality appears to:

“interfere with their ability to function well in society, including causing problems with interpersonal relationships”, termed “functional impairment”,

they simply cannot be trusted with positions of responsibility for people or organisations.

Yet time after time again society chooses such people for senior roles, before they subsequently are given ample reason to regret their decision. Then, given their “sense of entitlement’ and “fondness for power”, which they can only abuse, they can prove to be very difficult to remove from positions for which they should never have been even considered.

The latest ICD-11 definition from the World Health Organisation’s “International Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems” (ICD) is as follows:

 “Personality disorder is characterised by a relatively enduring and pervasive disturbance in how individuals experience and interpret themselves, others, and the world that results in maladaptive patterns of cognition, emotional experience, emotional expression, and behavior.

These maladaptive patterns lead to significant problems in psychosocial functioning that are particularly evident in interpersonal relationships, manifested across a range of personal and social situations (i.e., not limited to specific relationships or situations).”

The latest ICD approach involves a five stage rating of people from having “No personality disturbance” to having “Personality difficulty” and then Personality Disorders ranging from

“Mild” (notable problems in many but not all relationships and roles),

“Moderate” (marked problems in most interpersonal relationships and performance of expected occupational and social roles across a wide range of situations that are sufficiently extensive that most are compromised to some degree) and

“Severe” (severe problems in interpersonal functioning affecting all areas of life with profound general social dysfunction and the ability and/or willingness to perform expected occupational and social roles absent or severely compromised).

Both “Moderate” and “Severe” levels may involve varying degrees of behaviour with a past history and future expectation of causing harm to others or self (or may even have endangered life).

With “responsible” or “legitimate” managers and leaders generally being encouraging towards their staff, boosting their confidence and letting them know that their efforts are appreciated, making them feel both welcome and important, while tactfully informing them of areas of improvement, this could not be said of a significant cohort of managers and leaders.

With those we describe as “irresponsible” or “illegitimate” managers and leaders generally being discouraging towards their staff, rarely praising and frequently being critical, questions must be asked about those in society who seem to derive pleasure from damaging the confidence, diminishing the importance and even humiliating those who report to them, or “causing harm to others”.

While doing so very occasionally, especially with people who do not seem to have responded to more tactful managerial methods, may be an approach which some leaders may consider in extreme situations or when particularly frustrated with individuals or situations which they may believe could have been avoided. While such behaviour is less than ideal it may not cast doubt on the personality of the manager or leader, especially if such behaviour is considered to be “out of character”.

However when belittling coworkers is regular and even routine, including when people could see them as being “mean-hearted” rather than sufficiently considerate of the needs of others, questions may need to be asked about the suitability of the more senior person to hold a supervisory, managerial or leadership position.

The same applies to the “cognitive” nature of the manager or leader – the way they think and perceive matters and situations. When this is different from most other people involved, including when their recollection of events differs from most others who are or were present, when they believe themselves to be “right” when others consider them to be “wrong” (but may be too afraid to say so), doubts may need to be cast on the suitability of the person to be given the responsibility of managing other people, let alone a department or entire organisation.

The same applies when they seem to be able to lie without qualms and just change their story when caught being deceitful, or when they seem to believe their own lies and appear to confuse fact with fiction, or even when they believe everyone else may be “ganging up” against them, mental health professionals may see indications of their being delusional or paranoid, again not situations which would contribute to those so afflicted being appropriate candidates for seniority of position throughout society.

When “pervasive disturbance”, inflexible or unchangeable “maladaptive patterns”, associated with “significant problems” in “psychosocial functioning” and universality of the disturbing behaviour, described as “stability over time” is evident for some period of time rather than occasional and one-off incidences, perhaps due to extreme situations or pressure, are evident, it is possible that mental health professionals may consider that the person could be “suffering” from a “personality disorder”.

Indeed when the person themselves does not seem to be “suffering”, indeed may be quite content with themselves, perhaps believing that there is nothing wrong with them at all, possibly blaming everyone else for their problems or situations which arose due to their peculiarities, especially when it is those within their circle of influence including coworkers or family members) who instead are “suffering” in some shape or form from their behaviour, this may be further evidence of a “personality disorder”.

Those who seem to derive pleasure from damaging the emotions of others or inflicting some form of harm on them, or seem incapable of keeping their own emotions under control, are not the kind of people who should be trusted with responsibility for other people throughout the entities and organisations of our society, no matter how attractive or appealing their other characteristics may be.

Fundamentally irresponsible people should never be permitted to take up positions of responsibility in the first place.

Denying them seniority of position would obviate the necessity and challenge of subsequently having to remove them before they cause even more damage, both to other people’s lives, emotions and health as well as the reputation and, given their penchant for risk-taking, even the continued existence and very survival of the organisation and entity they mis-led.

Recognising relevant behavioural traits could assist diminish the negative impact such challenging people can have on the lives of others, within and outside global organisations, especially when they innately prefer competition and conflict to teamwork and co-operation.

Those concerned by such behaviour may find it worthwhile to catalogue this and discuss what they have observed with qualified professionals. While some difficult people may successfully mask their true nature, they can find it harder to alter their behaviour, especially when they are challenged.

Caution; People will need to tread very carefully in dealing with such people, bearing in mind that one of the first reactions of the narcissistic personality may be to “attack their accuser”, perhaps becoming enraged and denying the undeniable, possibly inventing fictitious situations and conversations while convincing others of their accuracy, exaggerating achievements and denigrating almost everyone else, like a rat cornered.

Evaluation: They will seek the support of the most senior people people in the organisation, who they may have been grooming for this purpose for some time, often by way of lauding themselves while belittling their own managers, to the extent that people no longer know whom to believe. For the sake of the entity itself, it will become critically important to evaluate whether they may be contributing more good or doing more harm to the organisation, it’s own people, it’s culture and any other stakeholders, before considering which course of action will be most likely to protect others from their behaviour and safeguard the longer term integrity and reputation of the organisation.

Calm amidst trouble: Responding to potential trouble in a peaceful manner can be one of life’s most satisfying experiences. Giving in to troublemaking can be such a troubling experience that it can inspire others to respond in a more calm manner next time the opportunity arises.

Consistent: Realising that their unacceptable behaviour may not in fact be odd and inconsistent but actually entirely consistent allows others to respond in a consistently calm manner to them, quite a challenge until with much practice this becomes the normal response to their abnormality.

Predictable: Many people may not recognise the combination of behavioural traits described in this piece as being quite consistent, hence predictable, nor fully appreciate that they may be indicative of a mindset different from that of many other people.

Astute and legitimate leadership involves, amongst other factors, taking decisions in the best interests of the organisation at large, not just a few of it’s individuals, having considered and incorporated where appropriate the opinions and suggestions of members of the team, while inspiring each of them not only to produce their best but actually encouraging them to volunteer different and dissenting opinions which could result in the most optimal outcome. Leaders whose passion is the success of the organisation and pride is primarily seeing it and its people make progress, in both the short and long term, are well capable of such “legitimate leadership”. Illegitimate leaders full of personal pride whose primary focus is on themselves, are not.

Management teams: Electing people to leadership positions who must “get their own way” diminishes the role and entire concept of a management team. The individuals involved become the puppets of the leader rather than a group of people who use their talents and experience to deliberate on issues and decide on the outcomes, policies and practices which they believe will be in the best interests of the entity. Hence the importance of electing people to managerial and leadership positions with a genuinely greater interest in the welfare, needs and interests of the entity and its stakeholders than themselves.

Deny the undeniable: They can deny matters which others know to be true and yet seem to genuinely believe their own perception. Denial can also be their immediate reaction when others “accuse” them of doing something wrong or of responsibility for a matter which did not transpire as well as intended.

Perplexed: What others are adamant to be their “lies” they may be genuinely convinced to be true. Extraordinarily, if challenged they just change their story as if their earlier one never existed, which does not seem to cost them a bother, leaving others bemused, perplexed and perhaps even doubting reality and their own sanity.

Petty: Winning at all costs being their one of their primary goals, all other factors can be forgotten as they deviously scheme their revenge, irrespective of whether the situation which met with their disapproval was significant or trivial, even if others may deem this to be petty, unnecessary, unwarranted and damaging to the reputation of the organisation.

Time after Time: Cyndi Lauper could have been singing about their inflexibility, inability to change their behaviour and notably respond to the request of others to do so. While this may initially appear to be stubbornness as they would rather do what they want to do than what someone else would prefer them do, after a while people may wonder whether they are actually capable of changing their behaviour and responses to situations at all. Exasperated and frustrated, they may well experience their continuing difficult behaviour “time after time”.

Groundhog Day: Some can seem not to learn from prior experience so may keep repeating the same mistakes. A “clear the air meeting” one day can result in promises and commitments to do better. Yet the next day is just as likely to continue with the same behaviour that interferes with their “ability to function well in society”, including causing problems with interpersonal relationships. Such “functional impairment” may include their being “less likely to suspend goal-directed behaviour” and may “undermine their ability to link events with environmental cues and thus learn from experience”.

Distress: A feature of Personality Disorders is that the peculiar behaviour clearly evident to others may not cause the person themselves any concern or pain, despite causing distress to those around them. So the people displaying “difficult” characteristics may not believe there is anything wrong with them. It is the way they have always lived their lives and they may know no other way of doing so.

Persecuted: They can see the whole world as being against them – everyone is out to get them – when this may bear no resemblance to reality. Yet their way of responding to this imagined persecution or witch-hunt can be to torment others who can have little or no idea why they may be at the receiving end of apparently crazy accusations and assertions. As they see the world differently from others, they need to be treated differently for any semblance of a normal relationship to be feasible.

Immodest: Some can be so naturally arrogant and take such pleasure in bragging about their real or imagined achievements that they lack the tact to realise when the time may be opportune to instead display some humility or modesty, even if this may be an act, or be tactful and diplomatic instead of rude and crude.

Normality: Their perception of what may be normal can differ from that of most other people, so any attempts at trying to deal with them “normally” may be doomed to failure. They can see entirely normal situations instead as other people plotting against them and their “too proud” inability to enquire about and openly discuss such matters can perpetuate rather than diminish their false perception of events.

Suspicious: With their focus fully and incessantly switched on to themselves, their suspicious minds see others as being threats when they are not, see criticism when there is none or none intended and see skulduggery being schemed against them, when in reality all other people are trying to do is figure out how to best respond to their sometimes apparently bizarre behaviour.

Vision: While the role of a vision for an organisation is rightly applauded as a tool to guide its progress, when led by self-centred people creating and implementing a vision may not be a primary goal. One of the most critical matters to appreciate is that as such people see things differently and behave differently from most others in society, they must be recognised by others as being different and hence dealt with differently. Appreciating that their mind may in fact be disordered could be an important first step on the road to progress which otherwise may be a frustratingly fruitless exercise. Any attempts at trying to deal with them “normally” may well be doomed to failure.

Scared to speak up: A group intimidated into only doing what the dominant leader wants is unlikely to evolve, especially when “getting their own way” is very important to their leader. If people are afraid to “speak up” and uninspired to suggest a variety of alternative ideas or courses of action, how likely is more visionary progress?

A starting point in eradicating the seditiously self-centred influence on society of people with potentially disordered personalities needs to be no longer associating charm with leadership potential and dictatorial traits with leadership ability, rather seeing through their “mask of normality” of surface level appeal in a quest for greater depths of genuine empathy and an authentic interest in both other people and indeed society itself.

As far as leadership is concerned, all the intelligence in the world may be of no real value – if little or none of it is emotional.

The Problem & Challenge for Business & Society

Societal unawareness of the typical behavioural traits associated with a range of personality/mental disorder(s)

(a) allows such people to be chosen for roles for which they are fundamentally inappropriate

(b) disallows other stakeholders, especially coworkers, better understanding the true mindset behind their behaviour & thus adjusting their own behaviour to diminish the harm they can inflict on both people & organisations.

Astute leaders recognise that everyone is different and people need to be dealt with differently. Perhaps what is now known as “emotional intelligence” is needed to appreciate these differences and what is likely to work best with each of the wide variety of people and personalities which make up any team, as well as the wisdom of knowing how to deal with the dynamic of the team as a group in the variety of situations they may face.

The Dalai Lama sums up the empathy required to successfully manage people in any arena in just two words: “be kind”.

At the end of the day leaders with compassion for and an interest in others achieve far more because their people respond by showing an interest in their leaders and what they are striving to achieve for their organisation. They really do try to produce their best when they are sufficiently inspired to do so and feel that their contribution (including ideas on how to do things better – a secret in many organisations) is genuinely appreciated and indeed valued. Inclusion opens doors which exclusion closes.

But the leader or manager who is primarily focused on himself or herself may never appreciate such matters, whatever the arena, business, political, sporting or indeed any walk of life.

Rather than alleviating suffering in organisations and society, such people in praising and promoting themselves and demeaning and belittling others, in effect people of no real concern to them, are far more likely to increase not only the misery of those who have to work with or for them but perhaps also suffering in society, although perhaps incapable of appreciating or experiencing this for themselves, even when explained to them, instantly dismissing all criticism and apportioning blame for their failings to others.

While they thrive on praise, they find it difficult to encourage others. Incapable of coping with criticism, they relish finding fault in others. They can be very opinionated, yet rarely seek opinions. Quick to offer advice, they cannot take it. They expect loyalty, but are incapable of returning it. Only capable of loyalty to themselves, they can be disloyal to even their most loyal supporters. They desire support, yet cannot be supportive. They demand respect, but deny it to others.

Their necessity to win means they dislike compromise and prefer win-lose to win-win. When challenged they become challenging. 

Incapable of being patient or tactful, such qualities and many more may be most required in those unfortunate to work with or for them, perturbed by their apparently bizarre but in due course entirely predictable behaviour.

Power hungry and expert at control, deceit and masking their true inner coldness with surface level charm, their greatest deception can be the talent they display at concealing their actual inner traits and acting normal – most of the time.

Until someone crosses their path when the “mask of normality” they habitually wear is dropped to reveal their true nature, more likely to seek revenge than compromise or peace.

The critical point to appreciate is that as they perceive things differently and behave differently, they must be recognised by others as being quite different and hence dealt with very differently. Business, politics, government, organisations and indeed society will be safer when they are denied the opportunity to misuse the power they are mistakenly trusted with.

As such people can often be hidden throughout society, given their ability as consummate actors to act normal much of the time and hide their actual inner coldness and perhaps darkness, do those with sufficient experience of their behaviour, who can identify them and understand their absolutely extraordinary and exceptionally self-centred motivations, totally inconsiderate of the interests and needs of others, indeed those who they have an insatiable need  to control and if necessary defeat, have a responsibility to alert others and indeed warn society what traits to look for so that many more people too can learn how to unmask them? Preferably before they are appointed to positions of influence and power and before others live to regret doing so?

When will we collectively learn to only appoint fundamentally responsible people to positions of responsibility in society, people whose brilliance is real rather than a figment of their very vivid imagination?

Not people who demand respect but whose behaviour does not warrant it?

Not people whose insatiable requirement to win means they disrespect others and prefer competition to co-operation?

Not people who prefer doing the opposite of what others want or advise?

Not people who prefer being disruptive than constructive?  

Not people who prefer troublemaking to team-building?

Not people more interested in themselves than others?

Not people who in essence are cold rather than warm, yet are well capable of masking their true inner coldness, most of the time, until challenged when their true self surfaces?

Yet whose confidence, charm, arrogance and intimidation throughout history we seem to have mistakenly associated with strength of character and leadership ability… when in reality they possess neither?

Why do we trust such fundamentally disordered people who thrive on criticism rather than praise and intimidation rather than encouragement with responsibility for the lives and feelings of others… when they may be incapable of adequately managing even their own emotions?

Should those who prefer to discourage, manipulate and even be cruel to other people, whose general behaviour disturbs the natural calm of any grouping and causes other people emotional upset, or those who more naturally seek to encourage, cheer up, calm down and perhaps inspire other people to produce their best be chosen for leadership roles?

If we associate mis-management with poor management, should we associate mis-leading with the behaviour inevitably displayed by fundamentally disordered people holding leadership roles, even if they manage to act normally and disguise their true traits – much of the time?

Until someone challenges them or poses an obstacle to their getting their own way when their lack of concern for either other people or their organisation will become readily apparent, displaying consistent irresponsibility and being well capable of acting against the common good and doing so with emotional impunity.

They display kind of behaviour which leads (or forces) more conscientious coworkers to consider having to SPEAK UP internally although they know they may well be ostracised for doing so and even report malpractices outside their own organisation, despite potential personal retribution, a situation which has been referred to as THE WHISTLEBLOWER’S DILEMMA.

For some of life’s TAKERS, they can be viewed as COLD and perhaps RUTHLESS by others who begin to know them better, because their fundamental lack of warm emotions means to them other people are merely OBJECTS, viewed as dispassionately as a car or phone or any other POSSESSION. So when WINNING is particularly important to them, the constraints which would hold others back from being particularly cruel or vindictive to other people just do not exist. They can even seem to thrive on trouble and it is their coworkers who have to be the peacemakers.

Yet society continues to elect such people to seniority of position in its organisations and entities, before their inability to appreciate other people and manage them accordingly is fully realised.

Incapable of coping with criticism, they thrive on criticism and rarely praise.

Loyalty only to themselves they can be disloyal even to their most loyal supporters.

They demand respect but cannot give it to others.

People “walk on eggshells” in their presence, lest they overreact even to innocuous words and trivial situations.

So how can those incapable of managing even their own emotions be excepted to be responsible for those of others?

As far as leadership is concerned, all the intelligence in the world may be of little real value if none of it is emotional.

Developed through emotional attachment with other people, EMPATHY is our ability to recognise, feel and respond to the needs and concerns of other people. Should that not be one of the primary prerequisites for leaders, especially of people?


In the short video link below, former UN Secretary General and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Kofi Annan answers 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)?

“Leadership is not about the individual. When you have macho leaders who believe they have to shine and it has to be all about them, forgetting that what is required is the welfare of society and the people they serve”.

The core qualities which leaders should preferably possess include those which Annan’s own family associate with Kofi as having been a warm and compassionate person, with an abundance of empathy, the ability to experience and respond to the emotions of others, which contributed to his undoubted passion for wanting to alleviate suffering in society.

Should we not prefer such selfless and considerate people who like Annan “radiate genuine kindness” as leaders of organisations and nations in society,  qualities more associated with givers, rather than self-centred people, takers with little genuine interest in other people at all?

Should we not be denying takers more innately interested in themselves than others – the power they crave but are far more likely to misuse and abuse, benefitting themselves and their cliques rather than those they are tasked with serving as “leaders”?

Unfortunately too many businesses, other organisations in society and especially their long-suffering people have to try and cope as best they can with the entirely predictable downsides arising from self-centred and “destructive” or “disordered leadership”.

Proper understanding of the true nature and impact of people with personality disorders when engaged at any level of business, or indeed any aspect of organisational life, incapable of fully sharing in the emotions of others, incapable of showing an interest in other people, incapable of assessing matters from the perspective of other stakeholders, incapable of adequately evaluating risk, incapable of reasoning reasonably and responsibly let alone morally, should prohibit them from holding positions of responsibility.

Yet we continue to appoint such people to managerial and even leadership roles in society, before we realise what a mistake this has been and appreciate what a gargantuan challenge it can be to replace such difficult and challenging people, whose primary goal becomes maintenance of power rather then using it astutely for the benefit of those they were erroneously chosen to lead, to the detriment of everyone but themselves and their submissive, subservient and obsequious cronies.

A group intimidated into only doing what the dominant leader wants is unlikely to evolve, especially when “getting their own way” is very important to their leader. If people are afraid to “speak up” and uninspired to suggest a variety of alternative ideas or courses of action, how likely is more visionary progress? At the end of the day disordered leaders demotivate and discourage people from producing their best. They may even want to bring out the worst in others as they try to turn people against each other rather than engender co-operation and teamwork.

While many people “succeed” by developing people and building trusting relationships, others seem to thrive at damaging relationships and destroying trust, both perhaps inconsequential to them with their primary focus being innately on themselves.

Would business, politics, government, NGOs, charities, clubs, associations and indeed all other areas of society not only operate more progressively, efficiently and less counterproductively, balancing the interests of many stakeholders and considerate of the key roles of trust and reputation, but also be safer for all involved if we somehow learned from the many mistakes of the past and instead of selecting self-centred and ultimately emotionally shallow takers, especially those lacking many “incredibly important” talents including the ability to rationalise risk and learn from prior experience (especially their own mistakes), consideration for and genuine interest in other people, empathy, compassion and other warm emotions, guilt, remorse and even conscience, more frequently chose givers –more interested in others than themselves as our leaders?

Kofi Annan on Macho Leaders – BBC Tribute 180818

This subject matter is further explored in a Chapter in a Springer book Perspectives on Philosophy of Management and Business Ethics entitled “Dispositional Attribution of Corporate Executives” published in January 2017:

Dispositional Attribution of Corporate Executives

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