Leadership – What Society Needs

Leadership – What Society Needs

by Julian Martin Clarke

The alternative to “Destructive Leaders” (potentially with a “Personality Disorder”) is the positive impact on global business and society of their polar opposite – “Constructive Leaders”

(This paper attempts to begin to bridge a gap which the author believes may have developed between those who research how people OUGHT to behave (with integrity) and those whose expertise is analysing WHY people ACTUALLY behave as they can do in business and indeed throughout society, both well and badly, with a commensurably positive or negative impact on the entities they lead or manage and factors important for continuing success including trust and reputation.

John Milton observed in ‘Paradise Lost’ in 1667: “The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven.” The same applies to leaders, with outcomes for others contributed to by their own constructive or destructive “mindset”.

This paper – and the others with links below – seeks to consider why some leaders appear more conscientious than others and inculcate admirable ethical standards amongst their colleagues while for others “winning at all costs” dominates proceedings throughout their organisation, by way of considering the “dispositional attribution” of corporate executives: their personal traits and internal characteristics as opposed to the situational or external influences which arise from environment or culture.

Of course they themselves (and the similarly minded lieutenants they attract or breed) contribute significantly to the prevailingly positive, encouraging, welcoming, predominantly harmonious and even “enthusiastic” working environment  or counterproductively competitive, combative, conflict-driven and fearful organisational culture, depending on their “dispositional attribution”. One can bring out the best in people, the other the worst, or even the best in the best in the worst of environments, so why do we tolerate and even applaud intimidatory and fear-inducing behaviour in organisations and workplaces? Might we misinterpret what contributes to “strength” or “weakness” of both “character” and “leadership” or “leadership ability”?

A cornerstone assumption of business ethics research may be that all corporate decision makers are actually capable of reasoning morally. This paper seeks to consider whether this may be a valid assumption and what the implications could be for both business leadership and business ethics research if it transpires not to be.

Is self-interest a conscious decision or for some in society a state of mind which permits all factors other than “what’s in it for me?” to be ignored at times of key decision-making?

Might some leaders lack a conscience, empathy, the ability to feel remorse, learn from their prior experiences (especially mistakes) and experience people as people, permitting them to behave in a ruth-less or sympathy-free manner and feel no regret?

Should such people be permitted to assume leadership roles with responsibility for the lives and emotions of others, when they cannot even successfully manage their own?

What are the implications for global society if this unkind minority of “Destructive Leaders” are permitted to mis-lead businesses, many other kinds of organisations and even nations?

Can they be identified in advance of trusting such fundamentally irresponsible and deeply untrustworthy people with positions of power which thy will inevitably abuse?

How should others adapt their behaviour to diminish the harm such people can do?

What kind of “Constructive Leader” should society instead choose and what characteristics should other people seek in those who can be trusted to responsibly and progressively lead society’s businesses, organisations and nations?

This is a glimpse into research from 2013 into the personal psychology of both ethical and unethical leaders. The first extracts, written 2015 for an EBEN conference in Copenhagen, were published as a 2017 book chapter by Springer:)

Dispositional Attribution of Corporate Executives

further explained by

What is a Personality Disorder?

Leadership – Linkedin

The Personality of Leaders and their impact

Great Men (and Women)

There is an expression from the world of finance, especially advocated by professional accountants, being experienced business advisors, that “turnover is vanity, but profit is sanity”. 

The wonderful world we share may benefit from differentiating between vanity and sanity, being less attracted by the claims of the vain in favour of the greater merits of the sane, even if less apparently thrilling or exciting and more modest than proud.

For Leadership and Management to further evolve, it requires those whose expertise includes motivation, not humiliation, encouragement not discouragement, respect not disrespect, inclusion not exclusion, collaboration not conflict and long-term vision, not short-sighted myopia, preferably with a demonstrably greater interest in the entity and people being led than themselves. 

For businesses, other types of organisations and even nations to evolve, they need to be led and managed by the right people, with a genuine concern for the task, interest in the people, desire to make constructive progress and the variety of talents required for the role. Perhaps it is assumed that because of the position and title people hold, they do possess all such characteristics. They are trusted because of the position in society they hold.

Fortunately the vast majority can be trusted and we hear very little about them, most certainly not from themselves. However not all leaders and managers are fundamentally responsible and trustworthy and we can tend to hear a great deal about them, both from themselves and the outcomes and results arising from the negative impact they have on the entities and even nations they mis-lead

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.

Yet time and time again all such entities, apparently in every nation and quite likely in every sector of society, continue to choose the wrong type of people to lead and manage them, sometimes even the most inappropriate possible, those with a Personality Disorder, knowledge of which would appear to be one of the world’s best secrets.

This is partly because most other people just don’t seem to know quite what to look for, both how to identify those who may differ from the norm and ultimately be “destructive” and also see the many merits in those who may not flaunt their own abilities yet transpire to be “constructive”.

Many on the surface who can appear to be Intelligent, Charming and Eloquent, may use these to hide a fundamentally ICE-cold interior, lacking the one quality essential in anyone tasked with leading and managing other people – basic humanity.

I believe this to be a matter of deep significance not only for society but maybe even humanity, if the most inhumane are not to be permitted to persistently prevail over the most humane and cause a wide variety of damage to people’s welfare, interpersonal trust and organisational and even national reputation.

Psychiatrists and Psychologists explain that a “Personality Disorder” is notoriously difficult to treat, technically not even referred to as a “mental illness”, many of which can now be reasonably successfully treated, while the “damage” done to other people and the very institutions and fabric of society by “disordered” people can greatly exceed that caused by those diagnosed to be mentally ill, although some with a “Personality Disorder” may also have a mental illness such as paranoid schizophrenia (eg Hitler).

Most “disordered” people are never even required to meet a psychiatrist or psychologist,

  1. often because others do not associate their way of thinking and behaving with a “Personality Disorder”,
  2. those “responsible” people who do try to “do something to fix the problem” can often be disbelieved, no matter how strong a case they present,
  3. especially if the conscientious “problem solver” is in a more junior role than the  “disordered” person and
  4. those they report the matter to do not understand the nature of “Personality Disorders” themselves,
  5. nor what to look for and how to identify such people,
  6. nor appreciate the critical importance of denying “disordered” people the power they crave but can only abuse,
  7. and the degree of trouble they can cause and conflict they can create, often “behind the scenes” and in a manner that other innocent and perhaps good and well-intentioned people can be blamed for the many problems which arise, as
  8. the “disordered” person is likely to have used their considerable but shallow “charm” to ensure the most influential people are “on their side”, even if based on fiction, lies, deceit and considerable self-promotion, while
  9. the character of the “disordered” person is such that they are likely to have already tried to criticise, demean, disparage and confuse other people
  10. and especially damage the “responsible” person’s own character or reputation,
  11. so no-one knows quite who or what to believe,
  12. indeed it can be the “responsible” person or people disbelieved, demoted or even fired, and the “disordered” person believed, promoted, elected or hired,
  13. especially when those who appointed the “disordered” person in the first place do not want to admit they may have erred,
  14. or those who had been warned and ignored the warnings lack the courage to deal with the matter themselves,
  15. or have been so threatened and “intimidated” by the “disordered” person that they are scared of the retribution if they do try to deal with them,
  16. yet it can be the “responsible” person or people (with a strong conscience who really want to do the best for their organisation, with genuine leadership potential themselves) who can be disadvantaged,
  17. while the “disordered” person (perhaps lacking a conscience who cares little for the organisation or its people, only self) can be advantaged,
  18. as when the “responsible” people of integrity with a powerful sense of justice and fairplay, good morals and ethics, ultimately believe they have no further option but to “blow the whistle” (“escalating matters” internally first then when this fails, externally),
  19. it can be they, the most responsible and conscionable who genuinely care for their organisation, its people and the manner in which it makes progress, who often “lose” out personally in the process, sometimes in a very distressing manner for themselves and even their family too,
  20. while it can be the most self-centred and irresponsible, the most unethical and immoral, the most “powerful”, who care little for their organisation or its people or sensible progress, indeed  “couldn’t care less” about other people at all, who perhaps lack a conscience and behave in an unconscionable manner,
  21. who can be seen to go from strength to strength and “win”
  22. as every matter to them is a “game or contest to be won” even if this involves “defending the indefensible” and “denying the undeniable”,
  23. especially when their primary but most covert goals in life can include “getting their own way” and “winning at all costs”,
  24. irrespective of the consequences for others, their organisation and sometimes even themselves, as once they have “personally prevailed” nothing else really matters to them, still preferring to criticise rather than praise and encourage those they mis-lead,
  25. even if their fundamentally combative nature leads to “Counterproductively Competitive & Combative Corporate Cultures” whereby conflict between individuals and even entire departments is sought, although this hinders cooperation and smooth, sensible, rational progress and demotivates employees,
  26. switching off their creativity and switching on their sycophantic subservience, requiring them to “walk on eggshells”, do what they are told rather than their constructive opinions being sought, more likely to be ignored and the opposite option to be chosen,
  27. whereby once the “disordered” leader has been seen to “personally prevail”, matters such as trust, reputation, integrity, professionalism, ethics, morals, doing the right thing for the employees, any stakeholders or safeguarding the future of the organisation all fly out the window,
  28. as when their self-interest, pride or prestige is challenged, no such matters are their concern, let alone priority, indeed they may tend to exclude and criticise rather than include and encourage their very best people,
  29. making life difficult if not harrowing and “impossible” for the many “responsible” and conscientious people, team-players genuinely concerned for the organisation, its people and their future, hence
  30. one of my main conclusions concerning the promotion or appointment of such “impossible” and irresponsibly self-centred and potentially “disordered” people to senior positions in the businesses, organisations and even nations of global society, is that: “PREVENTION IS FAR PREFERABLE TO THE IMPROBABILITY OF CURE.”

It is better to be able to “IDENTIFY AND DENY”  than “FAIL TO IDENTIFY AND DENY THERE IS A PROBLEM” – meaning identify such irresponsible people by way of what they struggle to change (their own inflexible and quite predictable behaviour) and deny them the positions of responsibility they are ill equipped to perform in the manner expected of them by society, than let them assume positions of power which they will invariably abuse for personal advantage or repute, yet go to great lengths to maintain and cause even more damage once “found out” to be selfish and inept, given the difficulty and indeed improbability of them ever being referred for psychological assessment or assistance nor their cooperating if so required, as they may see it like many other facets of life to be a “game to be won” and, anyway, given their sometimes gargantuan ego and considerable but unfounded self-belief, in their deluded mind they are not the person with the problem, everyone else is, so are unlikely to improve or be “cured”.

Those who have had to deal with such people know it would have been far better for everyone (else) involved if they had never been appointed to a position of responsibility in the first place, one of the reasons for my engaging in this research and body of writing, of which these are just some extracts.

If I have experienced such people and matters over fifty times during my own career, how often do other people experience such situations too but, like me for 25 years, not quite realise what they may be dealing with – someone with a “Personality Disorder” – or in essence, a disordered personality or disturbed mind who sees matters and experiences people quite differently from most other people in society? Hence “prevention is far preferable to the improbability of cure”.

A well known and highly respected US business ethics professor described this in 2016 as an “incredibly important issue” and “the future of business ethics”.

I believe this to be a matter of deep significance not only for society but maybe even humanity, if the most inhumane are not to be permitted to persistently prevail over the most humane and cause a wide variety of damage to people’s welfare, interpersonal trust and organisational and even national reputation.

Which is perhaps why Socrates, slightly paraphrased, likened trust or reputation to a fire – far easier to keep lit than relight if allowed to be extinguished.

Yet the reputation of the body which employs them seems to be far removed from the priorities of those for whom impulsively satisfying their self-interest (without on occasions any apparent rational thought) can seem to be their primary motivation.

At the end of the day “me” is more important to this cohort than “we”.

Because it became evident to me that the damage done to people and the institutions of society both by (a) the minority of “disordered” people and (b) the lack of appreciation of what constitutes a “Personality Disorder” by the majority of “responsible” people, appears to be so great, this IS an issue which needs to be seriously addressed at every level of local, national and international society, if sensible, rational and harmonious cooperation and progress is to be permitted, maintained and prioritised.

Indeed after 25 years of personally failing to properly understand those I can now describe as “disordered people’,  these are amongst the reasons I decided what seems like a lifetime ago back in 2013 to start dealing with this issue myself by starting to research and write about this scenario which seems to be an integral part of human history, to the detriment of society when people who innately seem to prefer conflict to cooperation are permitted to prevail.

Given the considerable impact leaders can have on many aspects of organisational and even national life, from highly positive and constructive to deeply negative and destructive, John Milton’s astute observation in 1667 that “the mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven” could be as apt today, describing the impact of strong personalities on the prevailing culture of not only the organisations they both lead and mis-lead, but even the nations.

While many leaders may be well capable of making a heaven of hell, others are more naturally disposed to making a hell of heaven. Employees unfortunate enough to work in “Counterproductively Competitive & Combative Corporate Cultures” may well describe the resulting environment as “Paradise Lost”.

Intolerance of low integrity by leaders of high personal integrity with a strong conscience ensures unethical acts are not condoned and are unlikely to be repeated given the more constructive, cooperative, honest, harmonious and less adversarial culture such leaders engender throughout their organisation, being based on positivity, praise and encouragement rather than negativity, critique, fear, discouragement and blame.

However the acceptance of low integrity by leaders of a lesser calibre ensures instances are not only permitted but probably encouraged and hence more likely to recur by the more combative, fearful and destructive nature of the culture prevalent within their organisation.

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

The ability to “recognise, understand and manage our own emotions” while simultaneously being able to “recognise, understand and influence the emotions of others” (or “emotional intelligence”) is important in every area of life, especially when “social influence” is required to both “motivate a group of people to maximise their efforts towards achieving a common purpose” (leadership) and “coordinate, control and administer tasks to achieve a goal” (management).

For many people at many levels throughout organisations, especially large, disparate entities, their immediate manager, supervisor, or team-leader to them is their “leader”, also requiring the skills associated with encouragement and motivation and never discouragement and demotivation.

Indeed one of the unwritten “constructive” tasks may be identifying those at lower levels, indeed at all levels, who seem to have the talent, ability and “vision” to see the big picture and what may need to be done to better achieve the progress which the most negative and self-centred may choose to deny them.

The most visionary leaders recognise that they need to share their “vision” for the entity with everyone and inspire them to contribute towards achieving it, not only with their endeavours but also with their own ideas, which unless sought and encouraged may never surface or be actioned.

Another “big secret” in organisational life is that those who perform much of the day-to-day work know much better ways to do things, but are too seldom asked. This is yet another reason why “organisational cultures” benefit from being open and honest with people at all levels being appreciated, encouraged and rewarded, not least by a “well done” and “thank you”, especially from someone much higher up the ladder.

Yet too many organisations, divisions, departments and units are mis-led by those with a personality which prefers discouragement to encouragement and criticism to any form of praise, compounded when they are “takers” more interested in themselves than others” and need to be praised themselves, although returning this can pose them a great difficulty, regularly criticising but incapable of receiving an iota of criticism without an anger outburst.

When the wrong people with the wrong personality are in positions with responsibility for other people, the outcome can be inevitable no matter the role or level within the organisation – demotivation, discouragement and sub-optimal performance even of the very best – those I describe as “Corporate Saints” who continue to cheerfully provide great service to all involved and often inspire people with their positivity, despite being given little reason to do so by their actual manager.

Indeed it is such wonderful people that more visionary leaders recognise, support, include and promote, knowing that they bring many qualities to the group at large – as well as their technical expertise and interest in other people, their enthusiasm and positivity can inspire any group to better perform even if they are the most junior member of the team.

Yet there are others in society with the opposite “disposition” who would take pleasure in denying such “fantastic” people the opportunity to make a far better contribution, more “destructive” than “constructive” in nature.

This distinction needs to be better understood if organisations in particular and society in general is to make more positive progress, which I offer some opinions and suggestions about, based on a decade of specific research and decades in industry with hundreds of organisations.

The ability to encourage, motivate and even inspire others requires an expertise in understanding and appreciating people and promoting the interests and needs of the entity and its people, which goes well beyond “self-promotion”.

The ability to rationally consider issues from a variety of perspectives and potential outcomes, short and long-term, then choose the most advantageous for the entity requires true character and integrity, tact and patience, which goes well beyond “self-interest” and “impulsivity”.

The ability to lead organisations and manage departments and divisions also requires those so trusted to be able to separate right from wrong, fact from fiction and see the “reality” of situations.

Those who seem to lack a sense of wrong need to be recognised as having something wrong with them, especially when this includes seeing nothing wrong with their own words and behaviour when others involved couldn’t even contemplate let alone countenance them.

The ability to seek and listen to advice from a variety of quarters requires the opposite of the “pride” associated with the arrogant and stubborn, who believe they are always right and everyone else wrong, making the “management teams” they disrespect almost redundant as a forum for discussion, debate and informed decision-making when guided by “Constructive”, rather than intimidated by “Destructive  Leaders”, whose priority is “getting their own way”.

Not everyone though shares these abilities, even if they are adept at giving the impression that they do and are consequently trusted with responsible positions for which their deep irresponsibility and untrustworthiness should disqualify them, with entirely predictable consequences.

Their expertise at “acting” and “giving a good impression” can soon be dropped when they or their self-interest are challenged, when their behaviour can only be described as “challenging” (if not “childlike”).

Leading an entity or managing a “division” does not require the manager to act in a “divisive” manner, preferring conflict to cooperation and disharmony to harmonious progress, yet this can seem to be not only the main ability but primary goal of far too many leaders and managers throughout global society.

A highly-competitive or even “toxic” organisational culture is most likely to be due to managers and/or leaders with one or more “Personality Disorder(s)”, also an indication when people believe “there is something wrong here but we can’t quite put a finger on what this may be”.

Yet we trust “Disordered Leaders” with responsibility for the lives and emotions of other people, when they cannot even properly manage or control their own emotions.

While many people in society feel good from making others feel good, what needs to be better and indeed more globally appreciated is that there may be something wrong with those who themselves feel good when they make others feel bad.

Those who themselves lack humanity and seem to inhabit a DIFFERENT WORLD from the rest of humanity, need to be denied the opportunity to damage the far better world that everyone else inhabits.

Society needs leaders who find it easy to love and difficult to hate, rather than those who find it easy to hate and impossible to love  – anyone but themselves.

Time after time we choose such people for senior roles for which they are deeply, utterly and fundamentally ill-equipped.

Fortunately it is their very predictability and inability to amend their own behaviour which allows “us” an insight into the very different world “they” inhabit, but this predictability only becomes apparent when other people learn what traits to look for…

Throughout human history society seems to have mistaken confidence, charm, arrogance and 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 bullies 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.

Neuroscientists explain that when people are satisfied, content and indeed happy, they avail of one set of brain regions which allows them to be at their best, most creative, seeking cooperatiion and wanting to fully engage, while when they are scared, fearful or unhappy, they avail of a different and rival set of brain regions more likely to bring out the worst in them, the response triggered when they are disrespected rather than encouraged by others.

Yet those who put-down, humiliate, disrespect and bully others can somehow be associated with “strength” rather than “weakness” of both leadership and character, perhaps even a “PERSONALITY DISORDER”.

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 eloquence can hide a fundamental disconnect between words, deeds, promises and subsequent actions, whose often ample intelligence is misused, being cunningly calculating, self-centred 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.

When salient advice to those who have to deal with such people includes:

  1. BELIEVE THE OPPOSITE of what they say, as they can be deeply deceitful, take pleasure in lying, do not mind when they are caught lying and may not even realise when they are lying;
  2. DO THE OPPOSITE of what they want, as this can often be the wrong thing for the wrong reasons, more likely to achieve personal satisfaction than be “the right thing” for the group they mis-lead;
  3. ADVISE THEM THE OPPOSITE of what you want them to do, as they don’t like taking advice and will tend to do the opposite of what others ask them to do, being “perverse and “contrary” by nature;
  4. Ensure the GREAT IDEA is seen to be theirs, otherwise it won’t be actioned, as they need to be able to take credit for it and deny praise to those most responsible;
  5. NEVER CRITICISE THEM as, despite being masters at dishing out criticism and many others forms of rebuke and disrespect to others, they can’t deal with an iota of criticism themselves, and are likely to over react to any (real or imagined) in a totally disproportionate and angry manner, resulting in others saying absolutely anything they could disagree with, let alone critique or anything they may perceive to be anyone doubting their brilliance (which does not auger well for organisations making the best progress possible based on pooled ideas  and makes “management teams” almost redundant) ;
  6. PRAISE THEM PROFUSELY as not only do they need, seek and crave praise, and can tend to praise themselves when others fail to do so, yet  find it hard to genuinely praise others, especially when most warranted, which also contributes to “sycophantic” behaviour amongst followers and nominal “management team” members; praising in an insincere manner is usually to gain some advantage but in this case it can be to avoid rebuke or worse, potentially being excluded or fired for the crime of proffering a different suggestion or opinion from that of their “disordered leader”, in such cases why bother with having a “management team” at all – except to do what they are told?
  7. BE PEACEMAKERS AND REMAIN CALM when they try to stir up trouble, saying nothing and doing nothing in response to their regular provocations, not rising to the many challenges they pose, baits and traps they set, especially for those who do not yet appreciate they seem to thrive on disagreement, dissent and many forms of disharmony;
  8. BE TACTFUL AND KIND WHEN THEY ARE CRUEL AND UNCARING and (unlike them) hold no grudges or hatreds nor seek no revenge (even for trivia), as being “ruth-less” (meaning “sympathy-free”) and making others unhappy can seem to make them happy, while seeing others happy can make them unhappy, making them want to disturb whatever satisfaction and pleasure others are enjoying, although seldom in their presence when others instead have to be “on edge” and WALK ON EGGSHELLS, so they learn
  9. DO NOT DISTURB THOSE WHO MAY THEMSELVES BE DISTURBED even if they believe their own behaviour is normal, there is nothing wrong with them at all nor with their mindset, their way of thinking and the myriad of problems (including interpersonal difficulties) they cause and challenges they create are the fault of others, who they blame at every opportunity;
  10. PREDICT THE PREDICTABLE as although many believe their behaviour to be bizarre and abnormal (which it is), given that they can be “maladaptive” (inflexible), “labile” (moody) and fail to learn from their mistakes, over time those closest to them realise how predictable they can be and hence learn how to avoid whatever “triggers” their boorishness and necessity to control, which otherwise may be “uncontrollable”;
  11. DO NOT FEAR THOSE WHO DO NOT EXPERIENCE FEAR as when others realise they thrive on trouble, seek reward inconsiderate of risk, actively seek arguments and are not scared by confrontation (as they thrive on conflict which they prefer to cooperation and would rather see people “at each others’s throats” than getting on fine and collaborating well), they will no longer be scared by their antics and learn to expect their provocation, making it easier to “turn the other cheek”, do not respond and just say nothing and walk away from potential trouble, denying them “narcissistic supply” and the oxygen they need to “fuel their fires of dissent” and create the disorder, disharmony and even havoc they insatiably seek;
  12. DO NOT EXPECT THEM TO BE LOYAL as they are only capable of loyalty to themselves and, if the whim takes them, can be exceptionally disloyal even to their most patient, tactful and loyal followers, changing from (false) praise one day to the deepest and most savage form of “CHARACTER ASSASSINATION” the next, often quite deceitfully and “delusionally” given that they have a major problem separating fact from fiction, which is why not one word they utter can be believed, unless subsequently independently verified,
  13. REMAIN POSITIVE AND DO NOT EXPECT ENCOURAGEMENT as they thrive on many forms of negativity, criticism and even humiliation, in effect deep discouragement and demotivation, although encouragement and motivation are widely agreed to be amongst the most critical roles of leaders, to achieve common goals, not just to satisfy the personal ambitions and grudges of their self-centred leader;
  14. PUT THE ORGANISATION (OR NATION) FIRST and prioritise what may benefit the “stakeholders” such as customers, employees, suppliers, local communities, the environment (and citizens, all not just some), separating these from what may be mal-practices and policies more likely to personally benefit the finances, ego or pride of self-centred leaders or sometime entire management teams,
  15. DO RIGHT WHEN THEY DO WRONG and appreciate “THERE IS NO RIGHT WAY TO DO A WRONG THING” and hence do what the “Disordered Leader” cannot”: safeguard the TRUST and REPUTATION others know to be important but they fail to appreciate, especially when they see no wrong in their own words and deeds, notably when these seem more focussed on rebuke, revenge, retaliation and their personal necessity to impulsively “get their own way” and “win at all costs, irrespective of the consequences”, not unlike the most troublesome of primary school children…

there is clearly something very wrong, especially in those who may lack an internal sense of wrong and whose “vision” is focussed not on the constructive and harmonious future of the organisation (or any grouping in global society they mis-lead), rather on themselves and satisfying their self-interest, primarily considering issues from the perspective of “what’s in it for me?”

None of these are traits or behaviours which people would advocate in supervisors, team leaders or managers, so why can they be so prevalent with (fortunately only) a minority of “leaders” that many seem to accept them as being part and parcel of “senior management”?

None of these are acceptable, never have been and never will be.

Indeed they are indicative of one simple fact – the business, organisation, entity (or even nation) is led by the wrong person – more capable of doing harm than good, damaging rather than building relationships and more likely to (perhaps irreparably) impair trust and imperil reputation, especially when they prioritise themselves over those they are tasked with leading and fail to appreciate that this is not why they were trusted with such an onerous responsibility.

At the end of the day, it isn’t all about them, although they persist in thinking that it is.

This can be so even after they have been removed from the positions of power which they could have used constructively for the purposes intended, but did not and could not.

Ultimately those who abuse power, lose power.  This though is not always the case, as for this peculiar and identifiable minority of society, maintenance of power becomes their primary goal, irrespective of the consequences for anyone or anything else, sometimes even at great cost to themselves and their own reputation. Remaining in power can often come at great cost to other people, as well as trust and reputation. None of these are their concern, especially for those who believed the power they “achieved” was their right for them to use as they, and only they, saw fit, notably to satisfy themselves, their considerable ego, pride and many forms of personal advantage, which those close to them will realise sooner or later is all they really care about.

Even if they manage to pretend to be interested in others, when this suits their purposes, saying whatever it takes to convince them they are supportive of them and their interests and needs, those who know them well will appreciate that they are fundamentally only interested in themselves and satisfying their personal needs, and any impression they give to the contrary when “crunch comes to crunch” will prove to be pure pretence.

Even after the organisation which a “Disordered Leader” led, badly, has collapsed with many people’s lives adversely affected, if not ruined (before good people help other good people rebuild them), this minority of society can still wonder what they did wrong. In their distorted and disordered mind, probably nothing.

Their ability to “deny the undeniable”,  fail to accept responsibility for the sometimes devastating results which arose from their fundamental irresponsibility, including their extraordinary ability to confuse fact with fiction and blame anyone and everyone else for their many failings, fail to see these for what they were, even when advised by close associates, as they continue to “defend the indefensible” and self-proclaim their (undoubted) brilliance, is perhaps unparalleled in human history, to which they have contributed so much harm, havoc, disharmony, conflict and damage, which may even have been their covert goal as it is on such devastations they can seem to derive their greatest pleasures.

Advantaging themselves can seem to give them even greater pleasure when this has also disadvantaged others. Hence they prefer “win-lose” to “win-win” and see harmonious cooperation and compromise as “failure” and any form of victory over others – physical, financial, emotional and mental – as “success”.

How sad, bad and mad they must be.

Yet because of such people holding senior roles across society, especially in business, “win-lose” rather than “win-win” practices are somehow associated by too many with conducting business “successfully” rather than “unsuccessfully”. The next generation, even those of  less combative disposition themselves, having been set the wrong example by their “must-win” bosses begin to believe that disrespect, dishonesty and conflict are preferable to respect, honesty and cooperation

This is especially so when applauded by their (cruel) boss for causing disagreement, trouble and strife, while criticised, diminished and even humiliated for being agreeable and building harmony and satisfaction, the cornerstone of ongoing rather than one-off relationships and continuing success.

How wrong they are to believe that cutting off the possibility of conducting future business with those disadvantaged or even cheated can be “successful”, almost inviting them to “bad mouth” rather than speak well of those they ar unlikely to want to “do business” with ever again.

Any experienced Marketing professional will explain it is so much easier to provide outstanding service to the customers or clients the organisation already has, than attract new people to its products and services, especially in “competitive” marketplaces.

It is “more successful” to “compete” by way of offering more attractive and perhaps better priced products and services than the competition, than “be competitive” meaning aggressive, rude, disrespectful and even intimidatory with people both internal and external to the organisation.

While it does not take a business degree to appreciate that arguing with potential customers can be counterproductive and of dubious short-term benefit, causing unnecessary aggression with coworkers can be just as short-sighted. Current or future customers do notice when people they expect to do business with treat them well, with respect,  but colleagues disrespectfully, and may be well entitled to bring their custom elsewhere instead.

“Constructive Leaders” appreciate the importance of “word of mouth referrals” and that it is preferable that these be positive than negative. “Destructive Leaders” evidently do not.

Kicking others down (and when they are down), actually or metaphorically, can seem to give them their biggest kicks in life.

While those who do so physically can be imprisoned, those who do so more overtly, including financially and emotionally, by and large do not, carrying their many personal “victories” over others with them to their graves.

Over the last twenty years I have had reason to enquire of a number of CEOs “would you like the word “ruthless” engraved on your tombstone?”, about the only occasions I ever heard such people speechless.

Perhaps it is this “cold hearted, mean, ruthless and exceptionally self-centred streak” which has proved the ruination of many good and bad people throughout human history and led William Shakespeare (Julius Caesar, 1599) to write that “The evil that men do lives after them, the good is often interred with their bones”, “I can see his pride peep through each part of him” (Henry VIII, 1613), and “my pride fell with my fortunes” (As You Like It, 1600), to which Charles Dickens added “but struggling with these better feelings was pride.” (Oliver Twist, 1839).

For many years I attributed the poor decision-making and disrespect of others typical of such people to be due to “pride”, although I now believe the reason to be far deeper and more fundamental – a Personality Disorder – which seems to have been an integral part of the “human nature” of a minority who may have caused havoc and trouble – for others – for millennia.

Abraham Lincoln observed during his 1860 Cooper Union Address that: “human action can be modified to some extent but human nature cannot be changed”, an observation which may have contributed to John Stuart Mill (1867) believing that “bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing”.

When will enough be enough?

When those who have to deal with those who seem to believe they are the greatest person ever born, would privately prefer they had never been born, there is clearly something wrong and people may well wonder how they were ever trusted with leadership roles when they transpired to be so untrustworthy.

Just because “they” can’t seem to learn from their prior experiences and mistakes doesn’t mean the rest of the world shouldn’t from theirs, especially when making the greatest mistake possible by choosing the wrong people for the most important roles, those more interested in “me” than “we” and for whom serious matters become a “game” to be played between “them” and “us”, preferring “win-lose” to “win-win”.

Indeed there is clearly something wrong with those who seem to lack a sense of wrong and their “ability” to engage in “moral reasoning”, or discern right from wrong in many situations, would appear to be no better than that of primary school children.

How “great” can they really be if those who know them well believe them to be quite childlike in nature, having to “get their own way” in every situation and “spit the dummy” or greatly over-react when they don’t, yet their shallow emotions, indeed emotional impoverishment, cold-hearted and ruth-less (sympathy-free) meanness, dearth of empathy, lack of guilt, remorse, fear, compassion and interest in other people (indeed in anyone other than themselves) and inability to love and be loved, contributes to their extraordinarily believing that discouragement, fear, intimidation, disharmony and conflict is preferable to encouragement, praise, harmony and cooperation?

“As far as leadership is concerned, all the intelligence in the world is of little or no value, if none of it is emotional.”

There is more than sufficient evidence available to suggest what makes for effective and ineffective leaders, notably those more capable of being constructive than destructive, preferring harmonious cooperation to disharmonious conflict and building rather than damaging relationships, being empathatic and generous peacemakers who make friends out of enemies rather than cold-hearted and mean troublemakers who make enemies out of friends, while making the people they lead feel better, never, ever worse.

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.

Yet we continue to select and elect the most arrogant and conceited to senior positions in society, roles for which they transpire to be incredibly poorly equipped, with quite inevitable and predictable consequences.

Anyone who has been unfortunate to have worked with or for such people (as I have with over 50 of them during my own career), will know that they can suddenly be incredibly disloyal to even their most loyal followers and supporters, who can even be totally excluded, disregarded and discarded (almost at a whim, being deeply impulsive and self-serving), especially when the “Disordered Leader” no longer sees them as being useful or serving a purpose towards they gaining some form of personal advantage.

Yet these are the kind of people society has been making leaders for centuries, perhaps bullied, intimidated and blackmailed or fooled and cajoled (in the short term) by their misguided “ICE-cold” characteristics of  Intelligence (focused on satisfying themselves yet anything but emotional), apparent but shallow Charm which can rapidly turn to anger and rebuke, and Eloquence (which will transpire to be lacking any connection between words, promises and actions) into giving them positions for which they will prove to be incredibly ill-equipped, well beyond the limits of their personality, arrogance and over-confident self-belief, as evidenced by the number of business failures, collapsed organisations, ruined lives and conflict and wars between nations which they have been personally responsible for, although will not and cannot accept any personal responsibility themselves.

With French author Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr writing in 1849 “plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose” or “The More Things Change, The More They Remain The Same”, no matter how much the world we share changes, as it has considerably over the last century in particular, and recent decades in terms of almost instantaneous communication, some things will not, notably the negative impact those I describe as “Disordered Leaders” will continually have  on the rest of global society until decision-makers learn a little more about the extraordinary world of “Personality Disorders”.

While I failed to understand the mindset of the most destructive people I had met (or “encountered”) during my own varied and fascinating career, which led me to start studying psychology, neuroeconomics and neuroscience from 2010, it wasn’t until a psychology lecturer and practicing psychoanalyst answered the question I had pondered for a few decades in industry “how can someone damage someone in business, without scruples” with “Julian, have you never considered Narcissistic Personality Disorder?” that I experienced my “Road to Damascus” moment and started researching a group of Personality Disorders which did seem to explain those who had no qualms whatsoever about engaging in “wicked” behaviour, yet remained unconcerned with the consequences for anyone or anything else.

Despite at that time attending (and organising) international business ethics conferences and events for a decade, it wasn’t until that coffee while organising a conference in Dublin in 2013 entitled “Corporate Conscience” that I began to attribute not only all my worst experiences in business but also many conflicts and failures in business and society, from small and local to major and international, to a group of people with a very peculiar mindset which the psychological profession describe as a “Personality Disorder”. I wrote my first chapter on this in 2015, published early 2017, and am now at the stage of my research and writing that I feel a responsibility to share what I have learned with everyone else, so those charismatic but deceitful and self-centred people, who practice what I refer to as “Destructive Leadership”, can be denied the positions of influence and power they will inevitably abuse, given their innate quest for personal advantage, irrespective of the consequences, while contrasting many of their negative behavioural traits with the positive  mindset and behaviour I associate with those I describe as “Constructive Leaders”, who most certainly can be trusted with managing and leading global society’s businesses, other organisations and even its very nation’s themselves.

Indeed one of the many positives arising  from researching and writing about amongst society’s “worst” people, who should not be trusted with a corner newspaper stand let alone anything larger, is that it makes you appreciate the behaviour, traits and probably far more kind and generous mindset associated with the vast majority of global society who could be described as amongst its “best”, especially those who would seek no such acclaim for themselves.

I describe this majority as being “GIVERS” more interested in those they lead than themselves, who can be far better trusted with positions of responsibility in society, certainly more trustworthy and responsible than “TAKERS” who are fundamentally not only more interested in themselves than those they lead, but indeed anyone else.

Given that “Disordered Leaders” who practice “Destructive Leadership” seem to inhabit a DIFFERENT WORLD from the rest of humanity, seeing matters and situations DIFFERENTLY from most others (uniquely from their own persecutive), experiencing other people DIFFERENTLY (coldly as if they were inanimate objects and are there to be used for their personal advantage, then discarded), and even recall situations DIFFERENTLY from anyone else involved (given that they confuse fact and fiction and then genuinely believe the fiction to be fact), these deeply untrustworthy and highly irresponsible people cannot be trusted with any positions of responsibility.

Their abnormality, no matter how well they manage to disguise this from many people much of the time, will inevitably result in harm to other people, broken interpersonal relationships and potentially untold damage to the fabric and culture of the organisations or entities which mistakenly hire, select, elect or promote them to positions beyond the limitations of their personality.

If whatever reputation remains is to be restored, organisational or sometimes even national, and the finer aspects of life including hope, kindness and respect for the importance of all people, no matter who they are and what they do, are to be both appreciated and prioritised, as they all matter, it is imperative that those who themselves lack humanity and seem to inhabit a DIFFERENT WORLD from the rest of humanity, are denied the opportunity to damage the far better world that everyone else inhabits.

At the end of the day those I refer to as “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.

Meanwhile “CONSTRUCTIVE LEADERS” naturally praise, encourage, include, motivate and even inspire other people. In so doing they build teams, associations, partnerships and engender co-operation, especially between those who never collaborated before as, being PEACEMAKERS, they use their skills to build bridges and find consensus, including in situations when this may have seemed to be quite impossible. They find ways to find “win-win” outcomes from which all parties involved believe they have benefitted.

Yet we continue to choose as leaders those TROUBLEMAKERS who thrive on conflict, disharmony and in bringing out the worst in others, who have to “get their own way” and “win at all costs”, thrive on winning at the expense of others, preferring “win-lose” outcomes.

Then regret the predictable consequences.

When will we learn?

How many more business scandals, corporate failures and conflicts between nations do we need before we appreciate the benefits arising from “CONSTRUCTIVE LEADERSHIP” and appoint more such people to senior positions in society, purely on merit irrespective of gender or race (see the next article “Leadership – Great Men and Women”) and deny those who malpractice “DESTRUCTIVE LEADERSHIP”” no matter their level of surface appeal, given that they are actually highly irresponsible and thrive on being deeply divisive?

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 both individuals and groups to achieve their collective 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, requiring a genuine interest in other people and a desire to see them be satisfied and to succeed, all contributing to collective progress.

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 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, 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. Let me at least try.

Society also needs leaders who find it easy to love and difficult to hate, rather than those who find it easy to hate and difficult if not impossible to love (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.

When those unable to control their own emotions are accompanied by a necessity to “control” other people and situations, especially when their need to control becomes uncontrollable, they cannot be trusted to be in charge or control of other people at all, in any shape or form.

As troublemakers like these would appear to have been disturbing harmony and ruining people’s lives in whatever area of activity that have been mis-trusted with leadership throughout human history, most notably conflicts and wars between tribes and nations and now also businesses and other organisations, perhaps their troubled mindset, ruth-less (sympathy-free) approach to other people and exclusive interest in themselves and satisfying their own insatiable personal needs, which they innately bring with them to every area of their lives, should be referred to as “the not so new abnormal”?

Talking the talk is no substitute for actually being capable of walking the walk. Those “charming liars” who suffer a deep disconnect between their talk, deeds and reality, confuse fact and fiction, struggle to differentiate between right and wrong, seem more interested in themselves than others, thrive on humiliation and see humility as weakness and ruthlessness as strength, should no longer be seen as strong and effective leaders, rather weak, childlike and ineffective.

When other people consider “there seems to be something wrong here but we’re not quite sure what this may be” they may well be dealing with someone with one or a combination of the various Personality Disorders.

At its most basic, much of the “business ethics” debate discusses why fundamentally good people do something wrong, usually under some form of pressure.

However unfair, unethical and even quite cruel acts may also be performed by people who may themselves be fundamentally bad, doing what comes most naturally to them, causing harm to others, from which they can derive a morbid kind of pleasure, especially when they diminish others and promote themselves, but who have developed a well-practiced expertise at portraying themselves as being good people.

Most of the time.

Then someone crosses their path or challenges their self-interest when their true nature and covert characteristics may be exposed. Their thinly veiled lack of concern for others, camouflaged emotional poverty, hidden hatreds, cloaked or even absent conscience and other previously concealed attributes and clandestine traits are no longer obscured by their charming veneer and disguised by their “mask of sanity” which often consists of some combination of what I refer to as their ICE characteristics – “Intelligence, Charisma and Eloquence” – which goes some way towards hiding their fundamentally ice-cold nature which permits them not only to be “ruth-less”, meaning “sympathy-free”, but even derive their own happiness from making others unhappy.

Surely discouraging, fearful and even distressing environments are a severe indictment on management of such organisations. So why do some leaders appear more encouraging, welcoming, cooperative and conscientious than others?

Why do some leaders inculcate admirable standards of honesty and integrity amongst their coworkers, while for others “doing the right thing” is unimportant and may even be frowned upon?

Why do some leaders not seem to be able to do what most can – value, appreciate and encourage people – and maybe even want to make them feel unappreciated, disrespected and discouraged, given that being ultra-competitive and “winning at all costs” can be seen to dominate proceedings throughout the organisation, most certainly not a “fun” place to work?

If three significant yet deeply related facets of leadership are (a) motivation of followers to (b) cooperate with each other to (c) achieve organisational goals, why does global society persist in selecting or electing leaders who seem to

(a) thrive on diminishing, humiliating, discouraging and hence demotivating others, (b) prefer conflict to cooperation and disharmony to harmonious collaboration, while (c) appearing to be far more interested in achieving their personal goals, than those of the business, organisation or even nation they are mistakenly chosen to (mis)lead, yet (d) be well capable of hiding their true motivations and indeed persona from most of the people, most of the time?

The answer in brief is that such people may have one or more of a group of “Personality Disorders” which, given the number of such people evidently leading the businesses, entities and even nations of global society, must be one of the world’s best kept secrets.

Fortunately working with or for such people, especially the most challenging TAKERS, those “more interested in others than themselves” makes most people more appreciative of the vast majority of people who are GIVERS, “more interested in other people than themselves”, who display many of the characteristics which my research attributes to CONSTRUCTIVE LEADERSHIP involving rational, sensible, honest decision-making prioritising the interests and needs of the organisation and its people, advantaging as many “stakeholders” as possible.

Perhaps we take such people for granted when they inspire their people to produce their best, but not in comparison with the traits associated with DESTRUCTIVE LEADERSHIP which we will first have a look into, especially when mal-practiced by those I refer to as DISORDERED LEADERS, well capable of masking their true nature.

Here are a few more extreme examples of the behaviour associated with a variety of Personality Disorders:

For instance why do some seem to live in another world, experience people differently , recall situations differently from others present, seem to have a distorted view of other people and a need to disparage them in both public and private, in effect demotivate those they as leaders are supposed to be motivating?

Why does hatred of other people seem to come so easily, even if for little or no apparent reason? Despising coworkers who have done no harm to them or others, indeed may have been remarkably tactful, patient, understanding, considerate and kind to them in the midst of their troublemaking?

Do we accept intimidation of others too readily in business, even misconstrue it as some form of “strength of character or leadership” rather than a fundamental character flaw and misunderstanding of the role of management and abuse rather than use of power?

When some engage in what children call “bullying” regularly, the question needs to be asked whether some people in society really feel good from making others feel bad? Can or should such people be trusted with positions (at any level) involving responsibility for other people?

Indeed could they be fundamentally “childlike” by nature, with their ability to engage in “moral reasoning” (tell right from wrong in particular situations) considered by psychologists and sociologists to be at a similar level to primary school children?

Do some derive their pleasure from damaging the good name of others, even if their accusations are absolutely fictitious and from a deeply imaginative and perhaps confused mind?  Do some mistake fact and fiction, especially the fiction they spin themselves as their version of events,  even if totally untrue?

What is “delusional”? When does this become “psychosis?”

Some of this behaviour is associated with two (related) Personality Disorders in particular, notably when they engage in a “distortion campaign” and “character assassination” of other people for reasons which others would suggest were either trivial, minimal or even non-existent. But when they do so, who will know who or what to believe? Is there “no smoke without fire”?

Most people assume assertions people make may be either true or have some foundation in fact. This may not be the case though with some of these people with a Personality Disorder, whose own version of events can differ totally from that of others present at the same meeting or event, only to change ten minutes later, revert to the original “story” the next day, then be reinvented to something quite different the next time asked, perhaps even believing they are being “persecuted” just because others merely disagree with their opinion on a matter, itself indicative of another (third) Personality Disorder.

When salient advice in such situations is FIRST BELIEVE THE OPPOSITE OF WHAT THEY MAY SAY as this may be closer to “reality”, DO THE OPPOSITE of what they want,
and ADVISE THEM THE OPPOSITE of what you want them to do, as they may be more likely to want to do the opposite of what others advise them, PRAISE THEM PROFUSELY and NEVER, EVER CRITICISE them, there is clearly something very wrong, especially in those who may lack an internal sense of wrong.

Society really needs to better appreciate that people who seem to lack a sense of wrong may actually have something wrong with them, especially those for whom making others feel bad, can make them feel good, quite  the opposite of what is expected of managers and leaders, no matter the size, nature or location of the entity.

Those with regular involvement with such people in due course realise that when dealing with those who may be deeply disturbed, there is nothing to be gained from disturbing them in any shape or form.

This is especially so if any sense of serene and composed “normality” is to be permitted, even if just for a while, until they are next provoked, whether the provocation is real or imagined.

In company with such people, who seem to think differently, see things differently and experience people differently, indeed seem to have problems dealing with and relating to people, preferring conflict to cooperation, disharmony to harmony and winning to compromise (prioritising win-lose to win-win), many others may even need to ask themselves “what is normality?”

Others having to “walk on eggshells” in and around them just proves how inappropriate they were for senior roles in the first place.

Most people can probably retire from any walk of life without ever properly understanding the most “selfish, difficult and proud” (SDP) people they had met, or perhaps encountered to their detriment, during their own (hopefully otherwise satisfying) career.

As it took me over 25 years in industry before I began to properly understand selfish, difficult, perverse, proud and contrary troublemakers who seemed to like taking the alternative view to others and doing the opposite of what others suggested or advised, irrespective of any adverse consequences for other people or the entity they led, let me share a little with you of what I have learned since I started studying Psychology a decade ago and Personality Disorders in particular from 2013, following a coffee with a psychology lecturer and practicing psychoanalyst while planning a business ethics conference in Dublin entitled “Corporate Conscience”.

At that time I (naively) thought that everyone actually had a conscience, was interested in other people and actually wanted the group they were a part of to make the best and most harmonious progress possible.

Not so.

Indeed I will propose that it is this covert cohort of (often Intelligent, Charming and Eloquent) people who may be responsible for some of the most challenging and even unconscionable words, deeds and acts possible, all of which global society generally deems to be unacceptable, whether in a small private group like a club or society, or that which results in conflict within and between businesses or even wars between nations… being at heart troublemakers rather than peacemakers, fundamentally cold, mean and self-centred rather than warm, kind and with a decent interest in people other than themselves, all ultimately unreliable and irresponsible rather than generally reliable and responsible.

Yet we appoint far too many such people to positions requiring reliability, consistency and responsibility, and also let them (incredibly, meaning hard to believe) manage and lead other people, businesses, organisations and nations… with inevitable and indeed quite predictable consequences.

This is especially so when they innately prefer confrontation, conflict, confusion and turning coworkers against each other and friends into enemies. to that which I expected of leaders. notably building relationships, teams, associations and partnerships which ultimately are cooperative, mutually beneficial and permit not only sensible and rational progress but may even result in improved relations between those who had not previously cooperated, in effect turning former enemies into friends rather than former allies into adversaries as a result of their generally adversarial approach.

While these characteristics may appear to be quite apparent, much of the time such people manage to hide their true characteristics, especially when they charm others and pretend to be interested in other people, although deeply self-centred.

At least in their case though  there can transpire to be a consistency in their apparent inconsistency, which makes them easier to “IDENTIFY AND DENY” them positions involving power they can only abuse, but only when others learn what traits  to look for, one of the reasons I embarked on this project in 2013.

Just like they fail to understand other people, indeed may be incapable of ever doing so, I failed to properly understand what “made these people tick” throughout much of my own career. Now that I better understand what may be their mindset and motivations, I feel a responsibility to share this with others to diminish the degree of harm and havoc this irresponsible group of people are well capable of causing to the entities they mis-lead and the lives of those unfortunate to work with or for them.

I have drawn many quite practical conclusions from a combination of both my own research since 2013 as well as many challenging experiences with over 50 “SDP” leaders during my own career (with over 333 organisations on all continents, bar Antarctica).

Here are just a few:

  • Those without an apparent SENSE OF WRONG may actually have something wrong with them.
  • Forewarned is forewarned. This cohort of people actually CAN BE IDENTIFIED in advance of giving them the opportunity to mismanage people, badly lead organisations, make difficulties from their opportunities rather than opportunities from their difficulties and generally cause trouble in society, by way of what they struggle to change – their own behaviour.
  • If only more people knew precisely what to look for they could adapt their own behaviour to diminish the damage such people can cause or, better still, deny them the positions of power they desperately seek but can only and inevitably abuse.
  • Ultimately GIVERS being “more interested in others than themselves” make far better managers and leaders, especially of other people, than TAKERS who are fundamentally “more interested in themselves than others” and
  • As far as LEADERSHIP is concerned, all the intelligence in the world is of little or no value, if none of it is emotional…

I refer to a few more observations, suggestions or conclusions later entitled “what society needs” because unless everyone else, being fundamentally responsible and interested in other people and the organisation which employs them, can learn how to IDENTIFY AND DENY such people both in advance of trusting them with positions of responsible or spotting them when they already hold such positions, the degree of either covert or overt trouble they will cause and conflicts they will start and then seek to perpetuate rather than diminish, is hard to quantify, seeing as they thrive on stoking the fires of dissent and rabble rousing, from internal disputes to war between organisations and even tribes (historically) and nations, leaving the challenging task of peacemaking and bridge-building to others.

At its most basic, the outlook of “Destructive Leaders” is primarily focussed on “me” not “we” or “us” and this guides much of their behaviour. Until this is understood they will continue to be be misunderstood.

Yet we let such charming but challenging and intimidatory people manage and lead our businesses, charities, NGOs, public sector bodies, educational, religious and sporting organisations (et al) and even the nations of our global society, which as a result inevitably and quite predictably become more combative and divisive then necessary.

Business and indeed global society instead needs “Constructive Leaders” with the vision to realise how great the group they are responsible for could be, the insight to know how to get there, integrity to set the right tone at the top, moral compass to guide everyone in the right direction, creativity to explore new opportunities, (emotional) empathy to understand people in all their humanity, interest in others to willingly provide support, perception to offer astute guidance, wisdom to know what to change and when, humility to admit to error rather than persist with doing the wrong thing, courage to tackle the issues others might ignore, tact to deal with matters diplomatically, modesty to deflect praise to others yet accept responsibility for their mistakes, emotional intelligence to know how best to deal with the wide variety of people and situations which arise and bring people along in the right direction, with the enthusiastic personality which creates the positive culture and sets the admirable example which encourages and maybe even inspires everyone to want to follow their leader in top gear.

There are many such people in many roles throughout international society, but we just don’t hear too much about them, certainly not from themselves.

What we do not need are “Destructive Leaders”, so short-sighted they can only see matters from their own perspective and so pre-occupied with finding every opportunity to personally prevail that they instead drive down cul-de-sacs which only they believe are the right direction, ignoring the advice of their management team who end up as mere passengers, then are too proud to engage the non-existent reverse gear, so crash and burn not only the entity they mis-lead but perhaps its reputation too.

Fortunately there are far fewer such people in the world, but unfortunately far too many in senior roles throughout global society, mis-leading businesses, other entities and even nations, promoted beyond the capabilities of their personality (although a secret to them, if no-one else).

But we hear far too much about them, especially from themselves, as they loudly promote themselves, overstate their abilities, exaggerate their achievements and fail to appreciate their failures, inabilities and perhaps even disabilities, while demoting, diminishing and demolishing the abilities and reputations of people far more talented than they, with many more credentials to provide the responsible leadership required, which becomes all the more apparent when mis-led by the arrogant, delusional and self-centred.

The “Constructive Leaders” they criticise and belittle have the last laugh when they overtake them and not only remain in the fast lane but construct new roads where no-one thought possible, possessing the imagination and enthusiasm to collaborate with all involved, building the required bridges to make the most appropriate progress, given that their mindset is innately win-win and they treat everyone else with the degree of respect which makes them feel appreciated, included and part of the team, no matter their role.

The divisively negative impact of “Destructive Leaders” who at their core are selfish, difficult, proud, hateful, mean-hearted, lacking in empathy and emotional depth, well capable of holding long-standing grudges (whether warranted or not), spreading malicious rumours designed to damage the reputation of those they see as opponents or rivals (even if not) or have merely disagreed with them publicly, adept at covering-up and passing the blame for their mistakes to others while failing to encourage those well worthy of praise and ignoring those they do not deem to be sufficiently important or influential; experts at disrespect, discouragement and disloyalty and thus damaging relationships and breeding distrust, may suggest that ruthlessness, meaning an inability to be sympathetic, kind and express remorse, perhaps with a tendency toward being intimidatory, needs to be further recognised not as a personal strength and managerial requirement, as some mistakenly perceive it to be, including by those “Disordered Leaders” who derive satisfaction practicing it or by those adversely influenced by the wrong role-models, rather should be increasingly associated with a self-centred weakness of character, a cold, calculating, impersonal, devious, destructive, manipulative and possibly disordered mindset, as well as an unnecessary and inappropriate implement in the toolkit of successful leaders, who are well capable of taking difficult decisions without being innately cruel or unsympathetic.

The contagiously positive impact of “Constructive Leaders” who in essence are generous of spirit, most certainly not mean-hearted, well capable of owning up to mistakes, forgiving those who may have wronged them and moving on from such experiences, experts at appreciating and acknowledging the value of other people by way of praise, encouragement, loyalty and showing an interest in them and hence building trustworthy relationships, may suggest that warm emotions including kindness, compassion and the ability to love and be loved, alongside empathy and interest, are most certainly not a weakness, but a strength required in leaders, needed to permit them to properly, purposefully and constructively evaluate options and make fair, just and balanced decisions, with integrity and the selfless courage to “do the right thing when no-one is looking”, modestly avoid self-publicity and short-term expediency or narrow-minded popularism in favour of the longer-term benefit of those they were chosen to lead, not prioritising themselves and their self-interest and approaching all matters from the perspective of “what’s in it for me?”

The world needs to decide which it needs.

If our world is to be more cooperative and caring rather than unnecessarily combative and uncaring, we no longer need 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.

Those who select or elect such challenging people may eventually regret choosing those who may themselves be incapable of experiencing regret,  the kind of people who do not know what kindness really is and consistently seek “win-lose” to “win-win” outcomes, irrespective of the situation, as they seem to create difficulties from their opportunities rather than opportunities from their difficulties.

Society does not need to be led by those “charming liars” who can be exceptionally deceitful and manipulative, with their version of the “truth” quite different from that of many others. What other people are adamant to be their “lies” they may genuinely be absolutely convinced to be true, first replacing fact with imaginative fiction. then believing their own version to be true. Extraordinarily, if challenged “Disordered Leaders” just change their story as if no others ever existed, which does not seem to cost them a bother at all, leaving others bemused, perplexed and perhaps even doubting reality if not their own sanity.

Those who seem to lack the imagination and “vision” required to successfully lead and indeed transform their organisations (and nations) seem to lack no imagination when it comes to exaggerating or even inventing their own abilities and achievements. 

Salient advice is to “First Believe The Opposite” of what they may say and only believe their assertions when these can be corroborated by impartial third parties or documentary evidence. When their possibly delusional imaginations appear to be running riot, it is important to realise that in their distorted mind these could well be facts not fiction. While others may see these as lies and deceit, they may genuinely believe them and see nothing wrong with pure invention.

Delusions are “an often highly personal idea or belief system, not endorsed by one’s culture or subculture, that is maintained with conviction in spite of irrationality or evidence to the contrary” with examples including “delusions of being controlled, delusions of grandeur, delusions of persecution” and “delusional jealousy” which can involve being “constantly on the watch for indications that this belief is justified, manufacturing evidence if it is not to be found, and completely disregarding facts that contravene the conviction.”

The reality is that those who seem to be out of touch with reality may actually live in a different reality, indeed a quite different world from most others.

Unable to accept criticism, disproportionate responses can include deep hatred and holding of long-standing grudges, not only attacking their accuser but also engaging in a campaign of invention and “distortion”, being “the conscious misrepresentation of facts”, and “character assassination”.

Distortion can be “any inaccuracy of perception, cognition, memory, and so forth” and/or ” either the unconscious process of altering emotions and thoughts that are unacceptable in the individual’s psyche or the conscious misrepresentation of facts, which often serves the same underlying purpose of disguising that which is unacceptable to or in the self.”

Character Assassination is described as “the slandering of a person usually with the intention of destroying public confidence in that person”.

Their extraordinary sense of invincibility and their delusional self-belief convinces them that they can do (and get away with) anything they want, even if fundamentally ill-equipped for many of the tasks they are mistakenly trusted with, including responsible, constructive and visionary management and leadership.

Invincibility is “a belief in one’s uniqueness and invulnerability, which is an expression of adolescent egocentrism and may extend further into the lifespan”.

At the end of the day though, it isn’t all about them, although they persist in believing that it is, often appearing to be unaware of their inadequacies and immune to the real damage they do, given the opportunity.

The key issue for everyone else, including most in society unfamiliar with the “extra-ordinary” world of Personality Disorders, is that they actually do inhabit a quite different world, although they may not realise this themselves, which can make them dangerous when permitted to hold positions of significant responsibility in the world that everyone else inhabits.

A highly-competitive or even “toxic” organisational culture is most likely to be due to managers and/or leaders with one or more of the “Cluster B” Personality Disorder(s).

Yet we trust “Disordered Leaders” with responsibility for the lives and emotions of other people, when they cannot even properly manage their own.

While many people in society feel good from making others feel good, what needs to be better and indeed more globally appreciated is that there may be something wrong with those who themselves feel good when they make others feel bad.

Society needs leaders who find it easy to love and difficult to hate, rather than those who find it easy to hate and impossible to love  – anyone but themselves.

Time after time we choose such people for senior roles for which they are deeply, utterly and fundamentally ill-equipped.

Fortunately it is their very predictability and inability to amend their own behaviour which allows “us” an insight into the very different world “they” inhabit, but this predictability only becomes apparent when other people learn what traits to look for…

Those whose vision is limited to their own perspective, evaluating matters by primarily considering “what’s in it for me?”, are incapable of providing a worthwhile vision for the entity they lead nor inspiring those they lead to follow their unworthy example.

Other people need to be warned not to allow themselves to fall for their external charisma which may transpire to be skin-deep, especially when one day they engage in false flattery of others for the purpose of personal advantage, which can rapidly turn the next day to the most severe character assassination and slander of the same person, just because they disagreed with their (bizarre) point of view.

In their (disordered and distorted) mind at least, the only person that matters is themselves, incapable of seeing the merits in others, except as rivals to be defeated and fired rather than appreciated and hired.

Fractious people thrive on friction and extraordinarily even fiction, which they can confuse with the actual facts.

Yet we mistakenly trust the most delusional with responsibility for the lives and emotions of others, when they cannot even successfully manage their own.

Their way of thinking can be grossly distorted and their lives fraught with interpersonal difficulties, which like their many faults and errors they consistently blame on others as they accept no responsibility for the many problems they create, especially as they lack the ability to learn from their mistakes which they are well capable of regularly repeating.

Groundhog Day can be every day for those who have no option but to share their working or personal lives with such people, who should not be trusted with managing a street corner newspaper stand let alone an organisation of substance or (perish the thought) a nation with responsibility for all (not just some) of its people.

Their necessity to “prevail” at all costs, maximised when this is at the expense of others, preferring “win-lose” to “win-win”, irrespective of the consequences for others and extraordinarily even themselves, results in their praising and promoting themselves while criticising, disparaging and humiliating others.

Unable to accept criticism, disproportionate responses can include deep hatred and holding of long-standing grudges, not only “attacking their accuser” but also engaging in a “campaign” of invention and “distortion”, being “the conscious misrepresentation of facts”, and “character assassination”, described as “the slandering of a person usually with the intention of destroying public confidence in that person”.

While some can have fantasies of unlimited power or brilliance, this can also involve confusing fact with fiction and being absolutely convinced about their version of events, even if they bear little resemblance to reality.

Whether this be “delusional” or “psychotic” is a matter for experienced psychiatrists or psychologists to consider, if such people ever become their patients or at least have their behaviour documented for assessment, highly unlikely unless coworkers are able to identify their challenging behaviour and distorted thinking as possibly being indicative of one or more of the “Personality Disorders”,

Given the extraordinary ability of “Disordered Leaders” to use their charisma, intellect and eloquence (“CIE” to the Irish or “ICE” to others) to successfully lie, deceive and manipulate even experienced psychologists, while “passing the buck” for the trouble they thrive in causing to their innocent victims, subjects of their “distortion campaigns” and “character assassinations”, this makes the task of assessing and diagnosing such people extremely difficult.

“Disordered Leaders” are amongst a minority of society (who seem too hold a disproportionate number of senior positions across all sectors of global society) who share the rare facility of being unencumbered by matters including remorse, conscience, empathy or indeed any warm emotions, which act as restraining factors in most people and hold them back from wrongdoing, including preventing them from wilfully harming others.

Without such constraining factors and full of supreme confidence which often exceeds their true abilities, they feel they can do what they want, when they want, and get away with it. When combined with their extraordinary self-centredness, total disinterest in other people (except to be used for personal advantage) and their exceptional impulsivity which allows (or forces) them to suddenly want to do something to satisfy themselves (like young children having to get their own way and then throwing tantrums when they don’t), without any apparent effort made to weigh up any adverse consequences for anyone or anything else, even themselves such is the degree of their impulsivity, this makes them very dangerous people to be in charge of other people in any shape or form.

An inability to experience other people as people, indeed no differently from inanimate objects or possessions such as their phone or car, permits them to behave in a cruel manner towards others and feel no guilt for doing so, perhaps even deriving pleasure from many forms of discouraging, demeaning and humiliating behaviour towards others, quite the opposite of that expected of those in managerial positions.

Somehow they feel big when they make others feel small.

Yet we allow such people to take charge of other people within organisations, when ultimately they are only interested in themselves and care little for either the people or “their” organisation, perhaps another possession to be used for personal advantage.

The organisation becomes a mechanism for them to achieve their insatiable personal goals and, especially when they are at their most impulsive, whether or not their absolute imperative of having to “get their own way” and “win at all costs” coincides with advantaging or disadvantaging the organisation and its people can appear to be irrelevant and immaterial to them and of absolutely no concern, especially when their own material wealth is a covert priority.

When their decision-making seems to be based on “What’s in to for me?” rather than “What is the right thing to do for the organisation and its variety of stakeholders, especially customers and employees?” they simply may be the wrong people in the wrong role at the wrong time, although doing something to rectify this will prove to be far from simple.

In some respects this may not be that different from the situations which can arise in organisations when the culture engendered and decisions made by entirely normal and rational people are more about “what’s in it for us?”, emphasising satisfying the management and employees rather than the customers, for whom the entity was formed to service and without whom it would not exist.

This can be especially so when the service levels they are capable of receiving is not maximised or prioritised as a result and the “status quo” and “the way we have always done things” is maintained, rather than constantly seeking what used be referred to as “continuous improvement” and the best way to perform the work required, benefitting not only the customers but also offering variety, involvement, inclusion and greater satisfaction and use of their abilities and talents to employees too, if only they explored such opportunities. Such scenarios though are more likely to be due to a lack of imagination and vision on the behalf of management lacking the courage to “break the mould” and try something different and consider more modern work=practices including less hierarchical “multiple-skilling” , than any innate and “maladaptive” psychological problems with their managers or leaders.

While the more combative and even hostile working environments engendered by those who practice “Destructive Leadership” pose many challenges for many others involved, this is not the only reason for dissatisfying workplaces. When work practices are antiquated, people’s talents are not being best used, their ideas not sought and their most innovative suggestions ignored, often resulting in customers not being best serviced, staff are equally likely to be uninspired and perform well below their potential.

While I am critical of the unnecessarily combative environments engendered by “Disordered Leaders”, seeking disharmony rather than harmony and conflict rather than cooperation, workplaces can also be too docile, especially when exceptionally dynamic performance is frowned upon and even disrespected and sub-par performance is not only tolerated, but protected.

Where is the incentive to perform under either scenario?  Workplaces that are too peaceful may cause a different form of emotional harm to employees as those which are excessively combative, especially when this results in boredom and lack of variety.

In combative workplaces people can look forward to going home for safety, security, peace, harmony and comfort from aggression.

In sleepy, less dynamic workplaces, where the bar set can be too low and rather than too great there may be insufficient challenge, nor any real interest in change or improvement for the better, whereby people do not feel their talents are being best used, they can also look forward to going home. This time though it may not be so much for safety and security but rather for the excitement, involvement, camaraderie, sense of purpose and test of their talents which their domestic life (including engaging in activities, sport and other interests) offers them, but which their unimaginative workplace denies them.

Employers in every type of environment really need to ask themselves “What do employees (and customers) want?”, consider “what best motivates them?” and “are we providing this?” preferably resulting in the questions “what cab we do about this?” and “how can we better include and inspire people to produce a better outcome?” and “how can we provide a more satisfying environment which both performs the work better and  enthuses our people to want to produce their best?” 

A “lack of concern” can be a challenge in both combative and undemanding environments, especially when neither prioritises or even seriously considers motivating their people to produce their best, amongst the common denominators in almost every theory or discussion of the role of both management and leadership.

People need to be included and involved, praised, encouraged and respected, tactfully and constructively criticised when required, with their work appreciated and made to feel that they are an important part of “the team” whose ideas and suggestions will be welcomed and maybe even actioned, to the benefit of all, except those who believe “the way we have always done things” will always be better.

For many years I have maintained that “managing the easy people is easy, managing the difficult people poses the greater difficulty for management”, including those who may take some persuasion that there may be better ways of doing things, aided by actually involving them in designing the “better ways”.

Perhaps the corresponding “rule of thumb” in more hostile environments could be that “anyone (or almost anyone) can be kind to the kind, the real challenge can involve being kind to those who are cruel”. Indeed real challenges arise for everyone else when having to deal with those who find it difficult to be kind to those who are themselves most kind. 

In environments where the perhaps long-standing “status quo” (maybe involving many hierarchical levels) is the order of the day, which could be accused of “institutional neglect” when it does not seek the best and most modern way of “doing things”, people can be demotivated and it can take some quite dynamic employees, managers or leaders to identify the (milder) damage a lack of appreciation or participation in decision-making (especially about “the way the work is performed”) can result in.

It can often be these “responsible” people becoming “proactive” and taking the initiative to  make the workplace more interesting, varied and motivational, or at last less de-motivational, that can “make he difference” and lead to longer lasting and more satisfying and enduring change for the better, especially when ultimately (or eventually) appreciated by all involved, even the most “stubborn”.

Viewing the work performed as a “business process” can be useful when it sees the work as a process targeted at satisfying the client or customer and queries whether barriers include unnecessary segregation or departmentalisation of duties, especially if work being performed by different people in different areas ultimately slows down overall customer service, capable of being better performed by multi-skilled tams than segregated and more traditional units and “apartments”. Useful questions to be asked in assessing work-practices include “would a customer pay for this procedure and dm it necessary?” and “would our most dynamic competitors want to poach this idea from us?”

Without some quite imaginative, progressive and indeed visionary people, at all levels of the organisation, it is unlikely to make the progress it could. Such enthusiastic and often quite dynamic people need to be applauded, respected and supported as they seek to “make things better”, partly because they care about the entity and its people.

“Caring about the entity and its people” is not something which those in more senior roles in the opposite and more overtly harmful and emotionally damaging work environments could be accused of,  especially when “Destructive Leadership” is practiced by “Disordered Leaders”.

Their personal (rather than institutional) lack of concern for the entity and its people, often well hidden and masked by their charm, lies, deceit and the level of pretence they are capable of engaging in, leads to increasing concern amongst more responsible coworkers about the behaviour, actions and decisions made by their self-serving, challenging and perhaps intimidatory leader, especially when this could be leading the entity in the wrong and possibly even damaging direction.

This can be very notable when self-centred leaders, lacking the sense of fear and caution which more responsible people possess, seek short-term opportunism even if this could be at the expense of impaired trust and damaged reputation, amongst the cornerstones of longer term and more lasting progress and growth, and without which survival may not be guaranteed.

Such a scenario – short term gain at the expense of longer term pain – is far more likely with “Disordered Leaders” who are so impulsive and self-serving, seeking wins rather than compromises and excessive financial return even if this risks future losses, that they either insufficiently consider the “pros and cons” of alternative courses of action, ignoring the advice of more responsible colleagues, or having to “get their own way” and “win at all costs” may even be psychologically incapable of either doing what others want (preferring to do the opposite) and/or of properly evaluating “consequences” of their ill-considered decisions, especially when seen to satisfy themselves at the expense of other people and even the safety and survival of the entity they mislead”.

The most astute and concerned coworkers may even consider such people to be what I describe as a “Viability Liability”, especially when they possess another of the psychological traits associated with “Disordered Leaders” – an “inability to learn from their prior experiences”.

This permits them to keep repeating the same or similar mistakes time and time again, as nothing in their mindset seems to prevent them from doing so, even on a daily or sometime hourly basis, confusing to those unaccustomed to their peculiarities and unaware that their mindset is far from what many would consider to be rational. When such people are also combative and domineering.

This poses great problems for those colleagues who really do desire more rational progress and know precisely how to achieve this, yet know their “Disordered Leader” will object unless the “great idea” is seen to be theirs. So they learn to adapt the way they converse and discuss matters so eventually the leader does suggest that course of action, more likely when coworkers suggest the opposite.

For many years I considered such challenges to arise from the “pride” of the leader – which of course is true – until I began to learn more about the extraordinary world of Personality Disorders and realised that the reason for the many “stubborn” challenges such people pose to more rational, reasonable and responsible coworkers may be due to some far deeper and less well understood problem.

While they promote themselves and disparage others, based on their excessive belief in themselves and their often far less capable abilities than they believe they possess, keep repeating the same mistakes and fail to learn from them, their apparent “pride’ seems to prevent them from seeking advice, while ignoring the warnings of their most responsible and perhaps even loyal coworkers, who when the whim takes them they will have no problem whatsoever being extremely “disloyal” to.

Such environments and leaders create an even greater need for adaptable, flexible, tactful and responsible coworkers, possessing the key traits which their leader lacks, who learn to to propose the opposite of what they believe needs to be done, initially believe the opposite of what their leader says and adeptly assess how to do the opposite of what they propose, while having a “tough skin” to cope with constant criticism, rebuke, discouragement, disrespect and lack of praise, while constantly praising and never criticising their “Disordered Leader”, fearful of their “over the top” (and even childlike) responses arising from their “emotional lability” and probable “moral reasoning” ability of a primary school child, which is what they may suspect their actual emotional state to be.

But who will listen to them or believe them if they try and alert others that there may be something wrong with their (possibly high profile and maybe even very popular) leader? 

If any ever do attend a psychological meeting in person, assessing and diagnosing such people can be extremely difficult, especially when they genuinely seem to believe there is nothing wrong with them and if they are “treated” (individually or in a group) can see this as being another “game to be won”, rather than an opportunity to live a more fruitful life and allow coworkers to do so too (although this will not be their concern).

That may be why psychologists say evidence of their odd behaviour, when documented and logged by their more concerned and rational coworkers, greatly assists their assessment and ultimate diagnosis, given the ability of the protagonists to deny, misrepresent and invent, seemingly so convinced by the fiction they spin (which can change from day to day and from hour to hour) that they succeed in convincing not only themselves but also others (unaware of their tendencies) that the situation is precisely the opposite to reality, including that they are the victims as they falsely accuse the real victims of their unscrupulous behaviour as being the culprits and the instigators of the problems, when they are actually those most desperately trying to solve them.

Fortunately experienced psychologists and psychologists are well aware of these tendencies and actively seek third party information to help guide their professional judgement, appreciating that the best policy in dealing with such people is to FIRST BELIEVE THE OPPOSITE OF WHAT THEY SAY OR ASSERT as this may be closer to the “reality” which those who know them best believe them to be far removed from.

Psychiatrists and psychologists are well capable of appreciating that those who seek to be perceived as the victims may actually be the troublemakers, while those they accuse of being the protagonists may actually not only be their victims but maybe the real peacemakers, well accustomed to trying to restore harmony when this is remorselessly disturbed by those who may themselves be disturbed.

Non-psychologists though are more easily fooled and never quite know who or what to believe, which in itself may be an indication of the possible presence of a “Personality Disorder” and could or should set alarm bells going in their minds. This may cause others to cast doubt concerning their “Disordered Leaders” significant self-praise, pronouncements of superiority or exceptional achievement (as well as implausible or unfounded criticism of others), which makes the task of “fact gathering”  and “reference checking” all the more critical.

They are well capable of saying (and believing) they are a Michelin Star chef when actually incapable of frying an egg. This may only become apparent should they be required to cook, when they will offer a seemingly valid excuse and convince the confused that it was they who mis-heard them and they never said that at all. In due course other people become accustomed to bizarre behaviour even if thy never get to quite understand it or what it may be indicative of – a Personality Disorder which should disqualify such irresponsible people from any position of authority in society.

In many respects “Disordered Leaders” live in a different world and until this is appreciated their deceptions may be well capable of being believed, allowing them to damage the world that everyone else inhabits and the people unfortunate enough to cross their path and experience not only their extraordinary perversity but even their unfounded hatreds and necessity to seek revenge against those who may wonder what wrong they have done, probably none. 

FOREWARNED IS FOREARMED though and first BELIEVING THE OPPOSITE of what they say or assert (especially if applauding themselves or criticising, diminishing, demeaning or damaging the good name of others) can often prove to be the best policy.

As is simply not employing or promoting them in the first place, although identifying them for what they really are is far from simple.

Those who do not seem to believe in cooperation or appreciate the merits of compromise simply do not have what it takes to take any form of responsibility, especially for organisations which build their progress on collaboration, collegiality between all involved and constructive disagreement when all available opinions and options possible can be freely aired and discussed, in order to arrive at the optimum outcome for as many stakeholders as possible.

Of course those in charge do not have to agree with the opinions and options proposed, with the most astute(and perhaps modest) leaders and managers “asking rather than telling”, seeking opinions rather than forcing theirs on others and constructively challenging everyone, especially their better and more able people, with a view to inspiring them to avail of their creativity and experience to find solutions to problems and innovative courses of action which perhaps no-one (in their firm or even industry) had never considered before, in due course giving them credit where due when this leads to a successful outcome and offering encouragement when resulting improvement transpire to be modest rather than stellar.

It is not surprising when those “Constructive Leaders” who typically encourage, inspire and motivate others, who deflect praise towards those most responsible, whose deep ambition is for the success of their people and organisation and pride is in their achievments, build cooperative and harmonious, yet constructively challenging, cultures whereby people feel a sense of purpose and look forward to coming in to work, made to feel an important part of the team no matter their role, especially when the organisation goes from success to success.

However when those in charge disagree for the sake of disagreeing, seek no opinions other than their own, force their opinions and orders (not suggestions) on others then allow no disagreement, dissent nor alternatives to be proposed, engage in damaging critique of those who may have tried their best, take credit for the achievements of others yet blame them for all their own failings, indeed generally behave in an arrogant, discouraging and demotivational manner (quite the opposite of that expected of managers and leaders), no-one should be surprised when creativity is. minimal, problems instead of being solved become deeper, progress is slow, perhaps even repressive, people are “encouraged” to be “at each others throats” rather than cooperating, and ultimately the main beneficiaries from their “Destructive Leadership” are their competitors who comfortably pass them out, perhaps never to be caught again as their uncharitable environment leads to the organisation becoming better classified as a “non-profit”.

Even when such organisations have collapsed, with many peoples lives adversely affected, “Disordered Leaders” can still fail to consider that they may have done anything wrong, blaming all their many faults and failings on everyone and anything else.

OF course there are many more facets to successful businesses, managers and leaders. Nevertheless, by and  large organisations of all kinds from businesses to non-profits, from public service to religious, educational and sporting, build their progress on harmonious co-operation, especially when all ideas and suggestions are encouraged and welcomed, whether ultimately appropriate and actioned or not.

Ideas inappropriate today may transpire to be more relevant tomorrow, especially should circumstances change, but if not aired and encouraged cannot be.

Those “charming liars” who suffer a deep disconnect between their talk, deeds and reality, confuse fact and fiction, are not bothered at all when they lie, deny, distort, deceive and manipulate, struggle to differentiate between right and wrong, seem more interested in themselves than others, thrive on humiliation and see humility as weakness and ruthlessness as strength, demand loyalty but are deeply disloyal to even their most ardent followers and supporters, fundamentally only capable of loyalty to themselves, who have no qualms trying to damage the character of good people who have done them no harm and are unable to apologise when their deceit is “found out”,  together with many other damaging and un-leaderlike traits, should no longer be seen as strong and effective leaders, rather weak, childlike and ineffective (perhaps even “sad, bad and mad” and well worthy of the pity they seek).

Those who seem to inhabit an alternative (delusional and self-centred) world need to be identified and denied the opportunity to damage the (potentially more wonderful) world that the rest of us try to live in as peacefully and collaboratively as possible, preferring fun to fear and harmony to disharmony while making opportunities of our difficulties rather than difficulties out of our opportunities.

There does not appear to be a psychological definition of a “dysfunctional organisation” but there is one of a DYSFUNCTIONAL FAMILY:

“A family in which relationships or communication are impaired and members are unable to attain closeness and self-expression.

Members of a dysfunctional family often develop symptomatic behaviours, and often one individual in the family presents as the identified patient.”

So perhaps if we replace “family” with “organisation” we may get something along these lines:

“A dysfunctional organisation is one in which relationships or communication are impaired and members are unable to attain closeness and self-expression, due to the disruptive influence exerted by one or more people in senior roles, which distracts others from prioritising the common goals for which the entity was founded to achieve.

Members of a dysfunctional organisation often develop similarly aggressive, combative, self-centred and less cooperative behaviour to that of their dominant leader(s) who, thriving on conflict, discouragement and many forms of demotivation and “winning at all costs”, could not be realistically considered as being a role model for society and, lacking moral authority, may not even warrant being described as a “leader” as leadership is more associated with motivation, encouragement, cooperation, harmony, rational progress and “doing the right thing when no-one is looking”.

This includes having the insight or “vision” to see the right direction for the organisation and steer it forward by sharing this positively, with the emotional intelligence to enthusiastically inspire others to contribute their best, while having the wisdom, integrity and courage to avoid short-term gain which may result in longer-term pain, especially impaired trust and damaged reputation, and thus set the admirable example and “tone at the top” which inculcates in all involved that “there is no right way to do a wrong thing”.

The degree of personal integrity of an organisation’s dominant individuals contributes significantly to the prevailing level of corporate integrity, with some cultures facilitating and promoting and others prohibiting and hindering the personal integrity of employees coming to the fore.

Intolerance of low integrity by leaders of high personal integrity ensures unethical instances are not condoned or repeated, while the acceptance of low integrity by lesser leaders ensures instances are permitted and hence more likely to recur by the corporate culture prevalent within their organisation.

When “anything goes” and many forms of wrongdoing are accepted and even  proposed and admired, when “win-lose” is preferred to “win win”, when short-term opportunism is allowed damage longer-term reputation, when “cover-up” is preferred to “owning-up”, when a minority of self-centred people are permitted to intimidate the majority into wrongdoing or silence, when the interests of a few are allowed prevail over and even damage the interests of other stakeholders, when responsible people are denied the opportunity to make a full contribution and see “the right thing for the organisation” prevail, when the people feel more unwelcome than welcome, dissatisfied than satisfied and uninspired than inspired and when the environment and culture is epitomised by fearful dissonance, more focussed on satisfying the whims of a few than achieving the goals for which it was founded to achieve, the organisation may be “dysfunctional”.

When most people look forward going in to work and feel their contribution is appreciated, they are personally respected and included, their ideas and suggestions are sought and welcomed and they feel inspired to produce their best in a cooperative, collaborative, harmonious and service-oriented environment, the organisation may be “functional” and led by predominantly “Constructive Leaders”.

When too many people look forward more to going home than coming in to work and feel their contribution is unappreciated, they are personally excluded and disrespected, their ideas and suggestions either not sought or ignored and disparaged, when they feel uninspired to produce their best or even cooperate with coworkers, especially if they fear being intimidated and bullied in a combative and hostile environment which can seem to admire conflict and engender disharmony, and a variety of forms of counterproductive behaviour, not only internally but maybe with external stakeholders too, the organisation may aptly be described as “dysfunctional” and more likely to be mis-led by “Disordered Leader(s)” who mal-practice “Destructive Leadership”.

Personal experience with over 300 organisations internationally would suggest that there would appear to be far too many such “dysfunctional” organisations, or even “dysfunctional” departments or units within otherwise constructive and “functional” organisations, irrespective of sector or nation, or indeed the predominant language or race of those in charge, arising because they are managed or led by the wrong people or wrong type of person, potentially with a Personality Disorder.

This minority of society is well capable of wreaking havoc on the working and emotional lives of those unfortunate to work with or for them, while deceiving their own bosses (in their mind “superiors” in title only),  into believing that there is nothing wrong and the blame for any problems lies with those who work for them, whose character they may assassinate (as they may also their manager to the next higher up or even to the most senior management, if given the opportunity), who should instead be seen as their “victims” and they as the “villains” of the peace which they deny others experiencing in their damaging workplaces.

So why are such environments and people tolerated, and even advocated and admired (fortunately only by some)?

Might we mistake intimidatory behaviour as being indicative of strength rather than weakness of both leadership and character and some form of (misguided) managerial and leadership ability?

Might we be deceived by those who are amongst the most untruthful, devious and manipulative people in society?

Might the majority in society not know quite how to identify this minority (by way of their own predictable behaviour, self-centredness and emotional coldness) and see them for what they really are? 

These and many other issues and questions in turn beg the further question: “What is a Disordered Leader”? 

The definition I proposed for discussion at the IVBEC Business Ethics Conference in Dublin in October 2019 was:

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

Disordered Leaders may require others to “walk on eggshells” and be exceptionally tactful and patient in their presence to avoid triggering their “emotional lability” (or moodiness), anger outbursts, need to engage in self-praise and penchant for criticism and conflict with can result in a variety of forms of disharmony and disorder, including the havoc which can arise from one-sided conversions in the absence of reasonable discourse and a lack of clarity in future direction, especially when this can change on a daily or even hourly basis.

Those “Dissociative” and Disordered Leaders, inflexible and maladaptive, who specialise in and seem to thrive on DIScouragement, DISruption, DISagreement, DISsent, DISunity, DIScord, DISharmony, DIStrust, deceit, conflict, control, grudges, negativity  and even subtle or overt cruelty and many other forms of DIScouragement, including exclusion, denying people their opportunity to contribute to deliberations, make for DESTRUCTIVE organisational cultures, quite the OPPOSITE of that expected when people join together to achieve some common purpose.

When they “project” their failings on to others. are “moody” and emotionally labile, whose destructive tendencies can be triggered in a moment, who bring darkness and “gaslighting” rather than light filled optimism, who make enemies of friends rather than friends of enemies, difficulties out of opportunities rather than difficulties from opportunities and who no-one quite knows who or what to believe, they should have no role to play in the modern, constructive organisation (or nation).

Yet incredibly (meaning hard to believe) they do, fooling many people that they are more capable than they actually are.

Those who cannot seem to see the point in cooperation, collaboration and compromise, should disqualify themselves from any form of seniority of role in the modern organisation, especially when they seem to prefer many forms of pointless disagreement, dissent and disruption and thrive on many forms of conflict which their warped mind sees as success and harmonious cooperation as failure.

Indeed it is the organisations who permit themselves to be mis-led by such Disordered Leaders who are more likely to fail.

When they do, those who engage in wrongdoing but lack a “sense of wrong” can fail to see what they did wrong, failing to see how they contributed to the failure, hence repeat their mistakes if afforded the opportunity to do so again, as they can be when others do not know how to identify them for what they really are – Disordered individuals (certainly not “team-players”)  who cannot be trusted to be Leaders or indeed hold any position of responsibility in global society

Whatever damage such self-centred can people can do to organisational life, the combative history of humanity would suggest that “Disordered Leaders” need to be denied the opportunity to mis-lead nations and bring them closer to disagreements, conflicts and even war, rather then engender both domestic and international cooperation and collaboration as well as the resulting peaceful, harmonious and mutually beneficial progress.  

Yet these alternative states of harmony or disharmony can be attributed to the “dispositional attribution” of the “constructive” or “destructive” personalities of a small number of individuals. When will we learn how to appoint and promote the “constructive” and deny the “destructive” the power they will inevitably abuse, especially when their priority is significant self-promotion?

“Disordered Leaders” can become a “Viability Liability” as the ill-considered and short-sighted direction they steer the organisation they mis-lead in may even threaten its longer term survival. When their “vision” is restricted to their “self-interest” (as if peering through spectacles with mirrors on the inside of their lenses, which prevent them seeing matters from the perspective of others), they are less likely to want to “do the right thing” when others propose whatever this may be, unless there is a visible personal advantage either financially or in terms of the self-esteem associated with the “great idea” being seen to be theirs.

Such scenarios require others to possess or learn the humility to diminish their own perceived role in order to boost the pride and ego of their arrogant and stubborn “Disordered Leader” who has no problem taking credit for the achievements of others yet cannot take responsibility for their many personal failings, all of which will inevitably blamed on everything and everyone else.

“Mea Culpa” is neither in the vocabulary nor mindset of  “Destructive Leaders”.

It could be argued that at heart, being mean, cold-hearted and in effect one-man (or one-person) bands, with their main talent blowing their own trumpet, they should not be trusted with responsibility for the lives and emotions of others, when they cannot even seem to be able to successfully manage their own. 

They are perhaps best-suited to one-person businesses, such as corner newspaper stands, but even then they are most likely to want to start arguments with their customers and suppliers, failing to appreciate that there are many other places they can go to receive far better service.

Those who prefer conflict to cooperation may not even be able to make a success of a one-person business, so why are they trusted with medium to large organisations, multinationals, financial institutions and even nations, especially when people struggle to believe anything they may say or assert??

Those “charming liars” who suffer a deep disconnect between their talk, deeds and reality, confuse fact and fiction, are not bothered at all when they lie, deny, distort, deceive and manipulate, struggle to differentiate between right and wrong, seem more interested in themselves than others, thrive on humiliation and see humility as weakness and ruthlessness as strength, demand loyalty but are deeply disloyal to even their most ardent followers and supporters, fundamentally only capable of loyalty to themselves, who have no qualms trying to damage the character of good people who have done them no harm and are unable to apologise when their deceit is “found out”,  together with many other damaging and un-leaderlike traits, should no longer be seen as strong and effective leaders, rather weak, childlike and ineffective (perhaps even sad, bad and mad and well worthy of the pity they seek).

“Talking the talk” is no substitute for actually being capable of “walking the walk”, something which those who speak less arrogantly seem to be far more adept at, meaning what they say, doing their best to keep their promises and apologising when something goes wrong.

Smart words do not make for smart leadership when words are meaningless and not associated with any real intention to do what has been promised or committed to.

Although Mark Twain is suppose to have said or written: 

“It is easier to fool people than to convince them that they have been fooled” 

the nearest researchers have found to this quote is an extract from Volume 2 of his Autobiography, in which he discussed in 1906 how people could be fooled by lies: 

“The glory which is built upon a lie soon becomes a most unpleasant incumbrance. … How easy it is to make people believe a lie, and how hard it is to undo that work again!”

This makes the task of considering who is telling the truth and what it may be all the more challenging, especially to those unaware of “Personality Disorders” and those for whom lying is a game they seem to enjoy, especially when at the expense of others.

Those who believe they know such people well, if indeed that is possible, appreciate that not one word they utter can be believed, no matter how veraciously the tales they tell and stories they spin are uttered.

The Scottish author Robert Louis Stephenson, writing a few years earlier in his “Truth of Intercourse” (and from whom I quoted in my first ever Business Ethics article “Ethical Hypotheticals” in 1998 for “Accountancy Ireland”), may have “told the truth” about “spin” when he astutely suggested that:

“To tell truth, rightly understood, is not to state the true facts, but to convey a true impression; truth in spirit, not truth to letter, is the true veracity.”

Twain and Stephenson, who also said “make the most of the best and least of the worst”(as well as many other authors from Shakespeare to Dickens who seemed to have an appreciation of the best and worst of human nature) could well have been referring to those I describe as “Disordered Leaders”, as when caught lying or deceiving, they can be totally “nonplussed” and just change their story as if nothing had happened.

Those caught in a lie may also re-accuse or further “attack their accusers”. While confusing at first, such matters may be indicative (for those “in the know”) of one or more “Personality Disorders”, the actual “diagnosis” of which may initially be far less important than recognition of the possibility or probability of such existence or prevalence in the mind of someone whose stories (or accusations) may just seem to be “too good (or bad) to be true”.

Jane Austen’s characters, notably some of the men in her novels, would suggest that she too well understood the mindset and behaviour of “Destructive Leaders”. Indeed the clever phrase published in a UK newspaper the day after the British voted to leave the European Union, that “Pride and Prejudice prevailed over Sense and Sensibility”, could also describe the options facing decision-makers when having to choose between “Destructive” and “Constructive” people for senior roles within their organisations.

“Personality Disorders” in general would seem to be one of the “world’s greatest secrets”, given the number of apparently disordered people unsuccessfully managing and leading, or mis-leading, businesses, organisations and even the nations of our global society, which would be that bit safer and more cooperative if they were not.

How many conflicts within and between organisations and even wars between nations have been caused by those who (like children) want something which others possess, must “get their own way” (otherwise can throw a tantrum), have to be seen to “win at all costs” or perceive others to be “ganging up” on them when all they may be doing is trying to bring some sense of responsibility, normality and order to the entity constantly disrupted by their potentially “Disordered Leader”, quite the opposite of what is expected of people in such responsible roles?

When many others have to “walk on eggshells” in their presence including not knowing who or what to believe, this fact alone may suggest that the wrong person was chosen, selected or elected to a leadership role which his or her personality limitations prohibit them from performing in the manner expected.

This may be especially true when the “Disordered Leader” suspects that their most loyal, patient and tolerant coworkers may actually somehow be trying to harm them, when what they may actually be doing is trying to limit the harm done to the entity and its myriad of relationships by someone they begin to realise may be fundamentally disinterested in them or the entity itself.

Only interested in and capable of loyalty to themselves, “Disordered Leaders” can be incredibly disloyal to those they should be capable of better trusting, those with a genuine concern for the entity and its people (and who perhaps should be or have been chosen for such leadership roles).

Everyone else involved needs to appreciate that the “Disordered Leader” may believe themselves to be entirely normal, with nothing wrong with them at all, perceiving the myriad of problems and challenges they (unnecessarily) create to be the fault of others, who they have no problem viciously, vicariously and vindictively attributing fault to, even if entirely innocent of the matter.

This can lead to a “blame culture” developing within their organisation or entity, again quite unnecessary if only the organisation were led instead by someone with the opposite and far more responsible personality of those I describe as “Constructive Leaders”.

Although “Disordered Leaders” may see nothing wrong with themselves or their own words and deeds, perhaps the way they have always behaved, others may recognise there to be something deeply wrong, especially in those who seem to lack a sense of wrong themselves and see nothing wrong with treating those they are supposed to be considerate of and even inspiring to produce their best, very disrespectfully, making colleagues deeply fearful of the words, actions and reactions of their very peculiar leader.

With greater knowledge and appreciation of “Personality Disorders” in general and what behaviour in particular may be indicative, such situations could be:

(a) avoided by way of “IDENTIFY AND DENY” such people the power they will inevitably abuse, believing it is there to satisfy themselves not the entity and its people, and/or

(b) minimised by diminishing the degree of resulting damage by way of “IDENTIFY AND ADAPT” to the many challenges such people pose, as others out of necessity may need to significantly adapt their own words and behaviour to reduce or limit the degree of harm if not havoc such people are well capable of bringing to any group or organisational context.

Their many forms of wrongdoing may be very apparent as being “wrong” to almost everyone else involved, except themselves, especially when they seem to derive some form of pleasure from the degree of disorder they bring and disrespect and conflict they engender between people who should be respectful of each other and prioritising cooperating to achieve their common goals.

When the priority of the colleagues or coworkers “common goals” become instead diminishing the harm done by their “Disordered Leader” to the entity itself, rather than collaborating to achieve the goals it was established to achieve, there is very clearly “something wrong” even if they may not quite realise what “this” may be.

“This” can often be an indication of a “Personality Disorder”, appreciation of which no longer needs to be a “best kept secret” if the safety and security let alone the improbability of constructive progress are to be safeguarded by the many responsible people employed, who spend or waste an inordinate amount of their time catering to the whims of their potentially “Disordered Leader(s)”, an avoidable distraction from the role they are actually employed to perform, all the more reason to appoint “Constructive Leaders” even if some may initially seem to be less exciting or dynamic.

Perhaps people at all levels of an organisation may only sufficiently appreciate the many merits of highly responsible “Constructive Leaders” when they have had prior experience with deeply irresponsible “Destructive Leaders”? This may be especially so when the former replaced the latter and faced the hurdle of cleaning up the mess and many problems created by their predecessor, some of whom can go on to cause similar problems and further challenges, if not outright havoc, in other organisations, even if this may take them a few years to appreciate if not understand.

It is for such reasons that some of my key proposals (amongst many others) in such situations include:

  1. Prevention is infinitely preferable to the improbability of cure 
  2. Society needs to IDENTIFY AND DENY people likely to abuse power entrusted to them and IDENTIFY AND ADAPT to their peculiar behaviour to diminish the harm they can do to both people, organisational and even national life
  3. Society needs those with empathy who find it easy to love & difficult to hate, not those who find it easy to hate & difficult to love, who experience others as objects not people, to accept responsibility for its organisations & institutions
  4. “Givers” more interested in others than themselves are better equipped for responsible leadership than “Takers” more interested in themselves than others, and
  5. As far as leadership is concerned, all the intelligence in the world is of little or no value, if none of it is emotional.

At the end of the day, “Disordered Leaders”, when permitted to (mal)practice “Destructive Leadership” following being wrongly chosen for senior roles in the organisations (and even the nations themselves) of our consequently less harmonious, collaborative and peaceful global society, need to be prevented from damaging the very fabric or “CULTURE” of the organisation (or nation) let alone its REPUTATION and the many relationships normally built on TRUST, which once damaged may pose their successor (if the entity actually survives their leadership) significant challenges in trying to restore.

Perhaps that may be why Socrates likened such matters to a fire – easy to keep lit but difficult to relight when permitted to be extinguished – perhaps by those whose “extraordinary expertise” includes lighting fires of dissent rather than building bridges between people and groups, prioritising some over others rather than treating all as being equally important, making enemies from friends rather than friends of enemies and generally making difficulties from opportunities rather than creating opportunities from difficulties, especially from the many challenges they create themselves, a task out of necessity delegated to their far more responsible but perhaps confused and beleaguered colleagues.

It is they, who have to deal with the on an often daily basis, who may best need to recognise and appreciate that:

  1. These people are very DIFFERENT from normal
  2. They appear to see & perceive things DIFFERENTLY,
  3. Experience things & consider matters DIFFERENTLY,
  4. Treat other people DIFFERENTLY,
  5. Behave very DIFFERENTLY from most people in society,
  6. But may not see themselves as being DIFFERENT,
  7. So all others need to do what they most struggle to do – adapt their own behaviour – to behave, act, react & especially think very DIFFERENTLY in & around them,
  8. notably patiently, calmly, kindly, astutely & predictively,
  9. to DENY them the trouble they seek in many situations,
  10. if any semblance of “NORMALITY” is to be permitted…no matter the walk in life.

For instance, people with “Paranoid Personality Disorder” (from “Cluster A”) feel suspicious of others, especially when  their mistrust is unfounded and seem to be imagining threats, including in trivia.

“Paranoid Personality Disorder” is characterised by:

“(a) pervasive, unwarranted suspiciousness and distrust (e.g., expectation of trickery or harm, overconcern with hidden motives and meanings);

(b) hypersensitivity (e.g., being easily slighted or offended, readiness to counterattack); and

(c) restricted affectivity (e.g., emotional coldness, no true sense of humour).”

The associated traits include:

  1. Believing that others are using, lying to, deceiving, exploiting or harming them, without any real evidence.
  2. Doubting the loyalty and trustworthiness of others.
  3. Won’t confide in others due to the belief that their confidence will be betrayed.
  4. Looking for hidden meanings in gestures and conversations and misinterpreting ambiguous or benign remarks as hurtful or threatening.
  5. Holding grudges and seeking retaliation, even if unwarranted.
  6. Believing their reputation or character are being attacked by others, without objective evidence.
  7. May believe friends, family and romantic partners are untrustworthy and unfaithful, without justification.
  8. Can engage in outbursts of anger in response to perceived deception.
  9. Often described as cold, jealous, secretive and serious.
  10. Overly controlling in relationships in order to avoid being exploited or manipulated.
  11. Can tend to hold negative views of other people.
  12. Overly sensitive to criticism and can significantly overreact to perceived criticism.

Yet we make such people leaders, so much so that some may even consider aspects of these traits acceptable or “part and parcel of senior management”.

What are the implications for society if some such disordered people managing and even leading organisations and nations may be incapable of reasoning morally beyond the stage associated with primary school children, and are mistakenly chosen for leadership roles when they lack the fundamental ability to manage even their own emotions, let alone accept responsibility for the welfare of those they are tasked with leading, their organisation or nation and its responsible and constructive role in society?

Perhaps throughout human history, society would appear to have mistaken charm, intelligence, smooth talking, arrogance and even callous ruthlessness for “leadership ability” due to a misconception associated with appointing highly self-centred and combative people to leadership positions, consistently mistaking outwardly dynamic displays of confidence and eloquent talk of integrity for strength of character and intimidatory traits for strength of leadership, when in reality such fundamentally weak and perhaps childlike people, lacking empathy and any real emotional depth, may possess neither good character nor genuine managerial or leadership ability.

Despite the major problems such people create throughout society, from impaired relationships and damaged reputations to business failures, chaos and even wars, which throughout history they may not only have started but perpetuated, being Troublemakers not Peacemakers, the concept of Personality Disorders needs to become more widely appreciated to better understand “difficult people” and their initially bizarre, but in due course entirely predictable behaviour, to sufficiently realise their motivations differ from those of most “normal” people.

This is especially so of those ruth-less people, meaning sympathy-free, who struggle to hide their deep disinterest in the ideas, interests, needs and emotions of those they mis-lead, who given their lack of warm emotions and dearth of humanity they may experience little different from any range of inanimate objects.

They cannot properly understand other people and never will, but a major problem for society is that they think they can, unaware of their own emotional deficiencies which contribute to their struggle to learn from their prior experiences, especially mistakes, or adapt their behaviour as situations change.

Yet we seem to keep making such people managers and leaders of entities throughout global society, unaware of or inconsiderate of the quite inevitable consequences, not those generally associated with management and leadership.

Given their own fundamental inability to change, the onus to tactfully adapt to the many challenges they present lies with everyone else involved for any semblance of harmonious normality to be feasible.

Other people need to be warned not to allow themselves to fall for their external charisma which may transpire to be skin-deep, especially when one day they engage in false flattery of others for the purpose of personal advantage, which can rapidly turn the next day to the most severe character assassination of the same person, just because they disagreed with their (bizarre) point of view.

In their (disordered and distorted) mind at least, the only person that matters is themselves, incapable of seeing the merits in others, except as rivals to be defeated and fired rather than appreciated and hired.

Unable to accept criticism, disproportionate responses can include deep hatred and holding of long-standing grudges, not only “attacking their accuser” but also engaging in a “campaign” of invention and “distortion”, being “the conscious misrepresentation of facts”, and “character assassination”, described as “the slandering of a person usually with the intention of destroying public confidence in that person”.

While some can have fantasies of unlimited power or brilliance, this can also involve confusing fact with fiction and being absolutely convinced about their version of events, even if they bear little resemblance to reality.

Personality Disorders can vary from being shy, timid, anxious and afraid to face life to supremely self-confident and arrogant with little regard for other people, perhaps even taking pleasure from being cruel, lacking warm emotions and maybe believing that others are “ganging up” and “out to get” them.

They believe other people (who they blame) are responsible for the problems they create throughout society, especially for other people but also for themselves, yet may not have sufficient emotional depth to realise that they have even created them.

People like feeling appreciated and valued, yet too many managers and leaders do not make others feel as important as they should.

While many people in society feel good from making others feel good, what needs to be better and indeed more globally appreciated is that there may be something wrong with those who themselves feel good when they make others feel bad.

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 continue to make such people leaders when they may even want the people they led to fail so they can be demeaned and humiliated.

Talking the talk is no substitute for actually being capable of walking the walk, especially in the minority of society with whom there would appear to be a deep disconnect between their talk, deeds and reality.

When they cannot seem to be able to evaluate the potentially adverse consequences of their highly impulsive actions and decisions nor accept responsibility for these consequences and blame others for their failings, they need to be denied the opportunity to be so irresponsible.

Those who say one thing today and another tomorrow, then deny both and the next day do something quite different, need to be considered as unsafe to run a corner newspaper stand let alone a nation, a multinational corporation or financial institution, especially when they do not appear to experience fear in the manner many can and may be incapable of sufficiently evaluating the balance and compromise required between risk and reward which ensures longer-term safety and survival are regarded as being as important as short-term financial gain.

Those lacking in empathy, guilt, remorse, fear and warm emotions need to be denied the opportunity to do what they do best – disagree, discourage, disrespect, disregard, disparage, humiliate, demotivate and be disruptive and disloyal – given that ultimately the only loyalty they are capable of is to themselves.

Those dysfunctional people who thrive on disharmony and display distorted thinking patterns, are moody, labile and temperamental with problematic emotional responses and over- or under-regulated impulse control, especially when these result in interpersonal difficulties, are far more likely to cause harm than do good when mistrusted with positions of responsibility their personality limitations prohibit them from performing in the manner society expects of them.

Leadership is supposed to be a highly progressive and constructive process, yet we continue to select or elect fundamentally regressive and indeed quite destructive people to lead our organisations, entities and nations, somehow mistaking conflict and exclusion to be an acceptable alternative to cooperation and inclusion, with decision makers perhaps being both charmed and bullied into misinterpreting aggression and intimidation as a satisfactory and even admirable alternative to praise and encouragement.

Those whose expertise includes denying the undeniable and defending the indefensible need to be denied the opportunity to create situations which they will later deny as either not having happened, defend as having been appropriate when actually deeply inappropriate or pass the buck as having been someone else’s fault.

Talking the talk is no substitute for being capable of walking the walk.

The greatest talent of those with a disconnect between talk, deeds and reality can be an ability to frequently mask their total lack of consideration for the interests and needs of others and their necessity to dominate, control and damage them emotionally.

While we can see what they cannot, especially when they confuse fact with fiction, hold grudges and seek revenge, why are we so blinkered that we allow them to mis-lead the organisations and even nations of our global society?

When “Destructive Leaders” surprise us with their incompetence, inability to be loyal to anyone but themselves and transpire to be more self-centred than selfless and cruel than kind, we need never again be surprised.

Forewarned is forearmed.

While many others involved with the same situations may be absolutely sure what people may have said or done, Disordered and perhaps Delusional Leaders may see matters quite differently, usually in a manner which makes them seem better and others worse or which improves their role and denigrates the role of others, such as when they say “I said” or “I did” when others know it was actually they who said or did those admirable things which their leader is taking the credit for.

This is quite the opposite manner in which they act to their many failings, which they always seem to find some other “scapegoat” to blame.

While other people may see the extraordinary assertions, exaggerations and fiction spun by Disordered Leaders as lies and deceit, the leader’s potentially delusional perception of life and inability to properly understand other people may contribute to they genuinely believing what they say, even if others believe these to be “lies”, as they may see nothing wrong with pure invention, reinforcing the opinion that they can seem to live in a different world from almost everyone else.

Might there be something wrong with those who see no wrong in being untruthful?

Might there be something wrong with those lacking a sense of wrong, especially when this only consists of believing they are always right and everyone else wrong?

These characteristics alone should automatically disqualify such irresponsible people from positions of responsibility throughout global society. Instead they too often seem to rise higher in organisations than their abilities warrant, more likely to cause harm than do good both for the organisation (or nation) and it’s other far more trustworthy people.

How can they be “IDENTIFIED AND DENIED” the positions of power they can only abuse?

At the end of the day when people learn what traits to look for, the “disordered people” themselves facilitate this task of preventing them from becoming “Disordered Leaders”, because they actually “give the game away” themselves by way of what they cannot hide or change – their own behavioural traits.

Fortunately it is their very predictability and inability to amend their OWN BEHAVIOUR which allows “us” an insight into the very different world “they” inhabit, but this predictability only becomes apparent when other people first learn what traits to look for, then act on this knowledge by denying such fundamentally irresponsible people any (significant) position of responsibility.

Not always known for reflection before speaking or acting, “Disordered Leaders” can appear to behave in a rash, hasty and incredibly impulsive manner. They can act spontaneously based on what seem to be whims and an impulse to satisfy “what’s in it for me?” (appearing to bypass all other mental functions and activity), 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 such self-centred people in mind, because they can find it almost impossible to apologise, even when demonstrably wrong. 

Apologies, regrets, gratitude, praise, encouragement and indeed any forms of kindness and compassion may be seen by this emotionally impoverished and mean-hearted minority of society to be signs of weakness, rather than the strength of character associated with their total opposite, “Constructive Leaders” who can be at their happiest seeing and making others happy, rather then the incredible (meaning hard to believe) mindset of “Destructive Leaders” who may not only be unhappy seeing others happy but can be at their happiest when they have said or done something to make others unhappy.

Anyone expecting praise, encouragement and a simple “thanks” from such people are likely to be very disappointed. Indeed those who know them well appreciate that their version of gratitude is when they refrain from the criticism they normally thrive on.

Those with an “attitude of ingratitude” just do not have what it takes to motivate people to produce their best, indeed they may in due course be seen to actually want to bring out the worst in others and turn people against each other, rather than inspire collaboration and cooperation, quite the opposite of the behaviour and outcomes expected of supervisors, team-leaders and managers, let alone leaders.

Indeed it may be those who selected them for seniority of position who could be deeply remorseful about selecting those who may neither be able to experience remorse nor admit to guilt themselves, especially as in their own eyes they are never wrong, even if they were not also too apparently “proud” to admit to any form of error, which they always “manage” to blame on others. Perhaps this is the type of “management” they excel at, given their ineptitude in so many areas associated with astute management; indeed they can’t even seem to be able to manage their own emotions let alone those of others.

All such characteristics (amongst many more) make most other people respect the multitude of far finer qualities this research associates with “Constructive Leadership”, practiced by people with far greater emotional depth and indeed significant Emotional Intelligence, not least a genuine interest in other people and the organisations they lead, both (being so significantly intertwined) they want to succeed and excel, never fail  or perform below their potential.

Which is why I strongly argue that:

“As far as leadership is concerned, all the intelligence in the world is of little or no value, if none of it is emotional”.

But is “pride” the real problem with “Destructive Leadership”, or could it be something deeper and indeed more sinister and dangerous?

What might actually “be wrong” with such “SDP” (“Selfish, Difficult and Proud”) people?

What is it which means they should not and cannot be trusted with positions of responsibility, which their actual personality limitations prevent and prohibit them from performing in the manner expected by the rest of society (perhaps unknown to themselves, given they can believe they are the “masters of the universe” when others, personally known and not,  liken to them to primary school children)?

For many years I (naively) thought the reason for such visibly counter-productive behaviour was “pride” (and of course it is) but now that I believe traits such as these may be indicative of a far deeper malaise in the mind of those more likely to be troublemaker than peacemaker, I believe I have a responsibility to share what I have learned with other people, so you too can appreciate how best to minimise the hefty havoc and degree of destruction such people can craftily create, often managing to blame others for their disruption and chaos, with too few realising who the real culprits may actually be due to the (overt or covert) “web of deceit” they wickedly weave.

Shakespeare and Dickens were not the first to recognise such traits in the (imaginary) villains of their literature, no doubt based on real people they had experienced or observed, with the behaviour I associate with “Destructive Leadership” indeed being remarkably similar to that which the Judeo-Christian Psalms and Proverbs written two to three millennia ago refer to as “wicked”. 

The fact that some lacking in the emotions which most other people possess have been shown to so readily (and perhaps 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 “ICE” characteristics of Intelligence, Charm and Eloquence (associated with their supreme confidence and arrogance) to hide their truer traits even from experienced psychiatrists and psychologists, has many implications for the organisations, entities and structures of global society, past, present and especially future, which they can have an extremely adverse impact on, but only if permitted by everyone else.

This makes it imperative that the vast majority of fundamentally responsible people better learn how to identify the innate irresponsibility of this covert but often charming minority of society so they can (a) be denied the positions of power which they can only abuse, satisfying themselves at the expense of others, and (b) diminish the degree of subtle or overt difficulties and challenges they create (for others) in the organisations or entities inadvertently foolish enough to hire, select, elect or promote them, most likely because they just didn’t quite know what to look for and how to identify them for the “charming liars” they actually are. 

These exceptionally “proud” and negative people are often well capable of giving a positive impression socially, can seem to be charming and lively entertainers with a great sense of humour. One “giveaway” though is when much of their humour seems to be based on making fun of others, but they dislike and maybe cannot cope with being the butt of jokes themselves.

Society needs those who both say what they mean and do what they say they will, as can be expected of “Constructive Leaders”, but this is not the case with “Destructive Leaders”, indeed quite the opposite as not one word they say can be trusted.

So another “giveaway” is when they seem to be adept at “talking the talk”, but in due course 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, which can sometimes change 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 they believing this will allow them to “get their own way” andwin at all costs”.

Indeed another “tell tale sign” can be when the seem to be oblivious to the consequences of their words and actions on other people, the entity they (mis)lead and (even more extraordinarily) even themselves, such is the childlike nature of their exceptional impulsivity.

A further “insight” can be their deep disinterest in and total disregard for other people, allied to the huge opinion they can seem to have of themselves and their own abilities, even if quite excessive and well beyond their actual talents.

While this can be readily identified in due course (especially by those most emotionally intelligent) as other people and their interests and needs are just not their concern at all, an even deeper and more perceptive “giveaway” can be the extraordinary situation when sometimes it can be they themselves who can seem to be the most disadvantaged and even damaged by their own words and (mis) deeds.

Astute observers may see this as a reflection of their emotional poverty and sheer and utter impulsivity, recognising that they may best be employed as individuals not team-players, nor in any positions of responsibility for other people.

A more overt “indication” can be that it will take very little for them to be extremely disloyal to even their most loyal supporters, as the only loyalty they seem to be capable of is to themselves.

They can also be very opinionated, yet rarely seek the opinion of others.

While many manage others by way of respect, inclusion and well-explained delegation, allowing the freedom to show initiative while offering their support when required, others prefer exclusion of those who would expect to be included, fail to support those they covertly want to fail and must be in control of almost every situation, with another “warning sign” being when their necessity for control can seem to be so uncontrollable that other people remain quite silent and keep their ideas and opinions to themselves as ultimately they have learned only the leader’s ideas and opinions count.

Indeed one wonders why in such situations they bother having a “management team” at all, except to do what they are told, take responsibility for everything which goes wrong and incessantly and sycophantly praise and admire  their “Disordered Leader”.

When salient advice to those who have to deal with such people includes:

1. BELIEVE THE OPPOSITE of what they say,
2. DO THE OPPOSITE of what they want,
3. ADVISE THEM THE OPPOSITE of what you want them to do,
4. Ensure the GREAT IDEA is seen to be theirs, otherwise it won’t be actioned, and
5. PRAISE THEM PROFUSELY as, not only do they need and crave praise, but they can’t deal with an iota of criticism themselves, something they are masters at dishing out, yet find it hard to praise others, especially when most warranted,

there is clearly something very wrong, especially in those who may lack an internal sense of wrong.

Society really needs to better appreciate that people who seem to lack a sense of wrong may actually have something wrong with them, especially those for whom making others feel bad, can make them feel good, quite  the opposite of what is expected of managers and leaders, no matter the size, nature or location of the entity.

Such a mindset and behaviour forces too many colleagues to waste far too much of their time dealing with their leader’s idiosyncrasies than doing the job they are employed to do – responsibly and constructively managing their organisation – benefitting ALL the “stakeholders”, not just the impulsive needs and personal ambitions of their self-centred, unbalanced, moody, temperamental and “Disordered Leader”.

An even more important “danger sign” is when they cannot see themselves as being the problem – everyone else is.

More apparent can be their particular expertise at blaming others for their own failings rather than accept the responsibility themselves. As a result, when such people lead organisations a “blame culture” can develop and ultimately less progress be made than in more open environments when people’s creativity rather than fears can be prioritised, especially when they feel appreciated, motivated and even inspired rather than diminished, unappreciated and ultimately demotivated.

It is perhaps only truly exceptional people who can continue to consistently produce their best when they are frequently disrespected and disparaged and rarely praised or encouraged.

That is why for a few decades my informal label for such wonderful people has been “Corporate Saints”, given that they have the extraordinary ability to keep providing top class service to coworkers, customers and indeed all other “stakeholders no matter how badly treated they may be themselves by those who may not deserve the title of “manager” or “leader” given their propensity for many forms of discouragement than motivation.

Their most unappreciated workers, who often “keep the show on the road” and maintain the happiness, enthusiasm and commitment especially of fellow employees, customers and suppliers who their arrogant boss treats disrespectfully, frequently seem to do so in a good natured manner and with a sense of humour, while simultaneously “managing upwards” and keeping their “Disordered Leader” on an even keel.

They may even protect colleagues from their de jure superior’s necessity to criticise, diminish and control, while remaining positive and managing to encourage others despite receiving little real encouragement themselves. In many respects the “Corporate Saints” provide the required qualities so lacking in their “Disordered Leader”, whose behaviour is so counterproductive that it runs quite contrary to that expected from managers and leaders at all levels within organisations, evident to everyone but themselves.

Those with regular involvement with such challenging people may in due course realise that when dealing with those who may be deeply disturbed, there is nothing to be gained from disturbing them in any shape or form.

Those who have been on the receiving end of their callousness soon appreciate that it is far better to be their friend than enemy, as the retribution they seek can be totally out of proportion to any wrong they believe may have been done to them, even if there was none at all.

A further “giveaway” is when they seek to damage and destroy the character and reputation of good people, for any reason at all including merely disagreeing with them on something trivial, or failed to praise them even when quite unwarranted.

When they seem to hold deep “grudges” for little real reason or for far longer than the situation warranted, other people can also doubt their suitability for positions of responsibility.

Indeed the responsibility to be responsible when associating with amongst the most irresponsible people in society falls on those who are themselves deeply responsible, notably those with the qualities associated with “Constructive Leadership” which can be most tested when dealing with such innate troublemakers.

Learning how not to disturb those who may be emotionally disturbed (as well as being easily disturbed) becomes particularly critical if any sense of serene and composed “normality” is to be permitted, even if just for a while, until they are next provoked, whether the provocation is real or imagined.

Others having to “walk on eggshells” in and around them just proves how inappropriate they were for senior roles in the first place.

Fortunately identifying and appreciating such people for what they really are – cold, mean, cruel, deceitful, dishonest, ruthless and self-centred – makes it easier to seek and appreciate quite the opposite in those who CAN be trusted to responsibly manage and lead the organs and institutions of global society.

How can they be identified?

Being “maladaptive” they can actually be spotted by way of what they struggle to change – their own inflexible behaviour – which is why during 2015 and 2016 I identified “400 behavioural traits of narcissistic leaders” as well as “125 ways everyone else can behave to diminish the harm they can do”.

At its most basic, society needs those who:

  • find it easy to love and impossible to hate, rather than those who find it easy to be hateful yet impossible to love or be loved
  • find it easy to be kind and compassionate (when so required) and impossible to be cruel, rather than those who find it easy to be uncaring and even brutal or vicious, impossible to be considerate and sympathetic (even when most required), yet can seek pity for themselves
  • who thrive on praise and encouragement and only criticise constructively when required, rather than those who struggle to praise (anyone but themselves) and constantly criticise, even when praise would be warranted, yet cannot seem to cope with criticism of themselves (real or imagined)
  • who make friends out of former enemies, rather than enemies out of friends
  • who are far more adept at peacemaking than troublemaking and at
  • building rather than damage relationships

for positions of responsibility, especially those involving the lives and emotions of others, rather than those really only interested in themselves who prefer discouragement, disrespect and even humiliation to praise, gratitude, encouragement and motivation.

Although these are generally associated with successful management and leadership, never their opposites, somehow people who themselves feel good from making others feel bad are too frequently chosen for managerial and leadership roles across international society.

Astute and “Constructive Leaders” well recognise that fear, intimidation and humiliation are invalid implements in their motivational toolkit, even if “Destructive Leaders” use them to damage other people.

With “Constructive Leaders” often seeking no personal acclaim and passing credit to successes to others, while accepting responsibility for the failings of those they lead, and “Destructive Leaders” taking credit for the achievements of others while blaming and “putting down” others for their own failings, ultimately it becomes apparent that there is no humiliation in humility nor humility in humiliation.

Sometime global society needs to learn the many lessons from the past, from corporate scandals and collapses to conflicts within and between organisations and wars between nations, that “Givers”, being more interested in others than themselves, make for far better leaders, especially of other people, than those “Takers” who are fundamentally more interested in themselves than others, more likely to be irresponsible than responsible as they prefer to divide, conquer, discourage, demotivate and create conflict than encourage, inspire, motivate and seek harmonious cooperation, ultimately more adept at doing harm than good and be destructive rather than constructive as they put themselves and their insatiably impulsive and highly personal self-interest before the interests and needs of those that they are erroneously tasked with leading.

If only society better knew how to identify such people for what they really are, denying them positions beyond the limitations of their personality and diminishing the degree of harm and even havoc they are well capable of both inflicting on others and thriving on when mistakenly chosen for responsible roles, despite their fundamental irresponsibility, the wonderful world we share really could be a better place – for everyone else except themselves.

What should we be looking for instead in those people of integrity we actually can trust with positions of responsibility in society, no manner the nature or location of the entity or organisation?

What does society need in its managers and leaders?

This is something I have been considering all my organisational life and researching in particular since 2013, when planning a business ethics conference entitled “Corporate Conscience” in Dublin a psychology lecturer and practicing psychoanalyst replied “Personality Disorder” when I posed the question “how can someone set out to harm another in business, without scruples?”

What I wasn’t quite expecting then, what seems like a lifetime ago in 2013, was to discover that some in society lack what many would call a conscience, are incapable of learning from their prior experiences (especially mistakes which they repeat), seek praise but cannot genuinely praise, when not being praised by others tend to praise themselves, invent and exaggerate their abilities and achievements, constantly criticise others but cannot take an iota of rebuke themselves, see criticism when there may be none or none intended, are so lacking in warm emotions that they experience other people no different than “shopfront mannequins” and are so self-centred that they have little real interest in other people at all, who are there to be used, denigrated, bad-mouthed  and manipulated and they actually believe they understand, but don’t and indeed never can and probably never will.

Yet we trust such untrustworthy people with organisational and even national leadership, with responsibility for the lives and emotions of our people, when they cannot even manage and control their own, nor accept responsibility for their failings and those of whom they mis-lead, preferring to blame everyone and anything else, rather than saying “sorry” try to turn the tables by “attacking their accuser”, rather than forgiving and “moving on” hold grudges and act (almost) unforgivably, rather than offering sympathy act mercilessly yet seek pity for themselves, while seeming to live in another world in which they are the best, everyone else the worst, are out to “get them” and no-one else really matters anyway, while also invariably “denying the undeniable” and “defending the indefensible”.

So why can we not “predict the predictable”?

Let me share some of my findings, given that I now recognise I have both worked with and for over 50 people well capable of being diagnosed with a “Personality Disorder” who I refer to as “Disordered Leaders”.

For many years I have been asked by business school and other university students “do you not have to be ruthless to be successful in business?”

For decades I have replied “of course not, as business success requires co-operation rather than unnecessary conflict and motivation not discouragement, as people contribute cooperatively,  produce their best and indeed their minds are at their most creative when they feel appreciated and their work is respected, no matter their role, especially when the environment or culture is harmonious and welcoming rather than deeply combative, unharmonious and distrustful, notably when coworkers are at each other’s throats rather than cooperating to achieve whatever the common purpose of the entity may be…

… There is little to be gained from the Five C’s – “Counterproductively Competitive & Combative Corporate Cultures” – except satisfying the ego of those who personally thrive on fear, intimidation, humiliation, blame, critique, discouragement and many other forms of negativity, rather than the praise, encouragement and positivity which results in a committed, motivated and maybe even inspired workforce, who genuinely want to do their best to contribute and co-operate and look forward to coming in to work, rather than perform well below their true potential out of fear of retribution, with the highlight of their excessively long working day being going home after an unnecessarily arduous and dissatisfying experience.”

For many years I recognised such an unsatisfactory, distrustful, quite unproductive and indeed counterproductive scenario to be prevalent in far too many businesses and other organisations, without fully appreciating why this was the case.  Now though, armed with better appreciation of what constitutes a “Personality Disorder” and those I refer to as “Disordered Leaders” who practice “Destructive Leadership”, I would add:

“It is not that you have to be ruthless to be successful, rather that some people who happen to derive business “success” happen to be innately ruthless by nature, finding it easy to be cold, discouraging, disrespectful, combative and even hateful, holding grudges, preferring conflict to cooperation and ultimately being far more adept at cruelty than kindness and criticism than genuine praise and encouragement. When such “ruth-less” people achieve apparent “business success”, at least in terms of their seniority of position and personal wealth, if not trust, respect and reputation, they set quite the wrong example for those who work with or for them as they may tend to begin to wrongly believe that seeking “win-lose” involving outright victory for one party over another is preferable to some form of “win-win” outcome, especially when this involves some form of compromise, as the “loser” is unlikely to ever want to do business with the “winner” ever again, nor pass on the “word-of-mouth referrals” which most businesses require from satisfied customers if they are to grow and thrive…

… To ruthless people, business becomes a game to be won involving many short-term victories, both with colleagues and competitors, lacking the integrity, insight, empathy and ultimately vision to appreciate that it is by way of co-operation and harmony that successful relationships are developed rather than destroyed, as without successful two-way relationships involving respect and trust between all involved, longer-term “success” will be impossible, the absence of which are more likely to result in organisational failure and maybe even personal bankruptcy…

… Even after their organisation has collapsed, with many people’s lives adversely affected, these “emotionally shallow and labile” people, because that is what they are, self-centred individuals not team-players, can still wonder what they did wrong, finding it easy to apportion blame but impossible to accept responsibility…

… “If integrity is associated with “doing the right thing when no-one is looking”, then “doing the wrong thing when everyone is looking” could never be described as leadership, let alone leadership with integrity”…

… Given that motivation is widely agreed to be one of the primary tasks of both managers and leaders, co-operation and compromise achieves far more than unnecessary conflict, even if the most self-centred troublemakers fail to recognise this…

… As far as leadership is concerned, all the intelligence in the world is of little or not value, if none of it is emotional”.

When organisations, entities and even nations are managed and led by the wrong people with the least appropriate self-centred personality, irresponsible by nature and fundamentally incapable of being trusted with significant positions of responsibility, “Disordered Leaders” ultimately disappoint those who appointed them believing them to be capable of far better, before instead realising how difficult they are to remove when they transpire to be more capable at causing harm than doing good.

When will we learn to instead consistently choose in almost every respect their polar opposite, “Constructive Leaders”, those who can be safely trusted with positions of significant responsibility, be committed to achieving and advancing the goals of the organisation, sharing their progressive vision for its future, treating everyone involved with the respect they would like to receive themselves and to passionately prioritise the interests and needs of the people and entity they were chosen to lead over their own?

Somehow and sometime we need to better appreciate the many benefits arising from appointing trustworthy “Constructive Leaders”, given the more cooperative, honest, harmonious and less adversarial culture such responsible and considerate people engender throughout their organisation, being based on positivity, praise and encouragement rather than negativity, critique, fear, discouragement and blame.

Society Needs…

  1. Society needs “Constructive Leaders” who prefer co-operation and collaboration to conflict, dissent and turmoil, harmony to disharmony and win-win to win-lose, ultimately preferring to peacefully resolve differences without resorting to conflict between people, within and between organisations and even war between nations when their leaders have the cold, combative, “must-win” personality and superiority disorder which results in them innately diminishing and disparaging other people and which prioritises themselves and their needs over those of the more peace-loving people they mis-lead.
  2. Society needs to learn how to identify “Destructive” troublemakers and never, ever give up in their attempts to diminish the real damage they can do to the fabric of group life, whatever the grouping in society may be. Global society needs to better appreciate how to ignore shallow charm, self-centred intelligence, smooth eloquence and smart talk disconnected with deeds and actions, past, present or future.
  3. Society needs those capable of recognising wrong, including their own faults which they seek to learn from and rectify, who accept responsibility for the errors of those they lead, rather than those who see no wrong in words and actions which others would, do not learn from their mistakes and blame everyone else for their own failings, like the emperor’s new clothes apparent to everyone but themselves.
  4. Society needs decisive leaders who see inclusive debate and discussion as a constructive opportunity to maximise collective progress, not “my way only”.
  5. Society needs leaders who understand their words and deeds can significantly influence others so are careful to ensure what they say and do will encourage peaceful cooperation and never breed trouble, strife and dissent, especially between different groups of people.
  6. Society needs leaders who appreciate that their responsibility is to unite rather than divide the people they are responsible for, including those who have never cooperated before.
  7. Society needs leaders capable of diminishing not encouraging hatred and making friends out of former enemies, not enemies out of friends.
  8. Society needs leaders who are peacemakers not troublemakers, encouraging by their words and deeds kindness in lieu of hatred, forgiveness instead of holding grudges, belief in goodness where there is badness, bringing hope where there is doubt and despair, lighting up people’s lives with their positivity and joy not spreading doom, gloom, sadness, despair and darkness, appreciating that it is by showing an interest in others and trying to understand them that people respond positively, rather than being exclusively interested in themselves.
  9. Society needs leaders capable of considering the consequences of their words and actions, with the self-restraint to know when saying nothing may be more tactful and responsible, especially when they have nothing positive to say.
  10. Society needs leaders with the self-control which prevents them from acting impulsively and irresponsibly, inconsiderate of any adverse consequences for others, including themselves.
  11. Society needs balanced leaders capable of balancing the interests and needs of various groups they are responsible for, not consistently favouring some groups over others and even spreading dissent between them.
  12. Society needs those who appreciate that the richness of their leadership is derived from treating everyone the same, with equal respect not prejudice, while prioritising the most needy, disadvantaged and ignored over the already wealthy, including inspiring those who have never worked to experience the many joys of the workplace.
  13. Society needs leaders capable of persuading those considering leaving education too early to appreciate the longer term benefits of learning, while creating the opportunities for them to do so.
  14. Society needs leaders sensitive to the needs of all, capable of favouring the most kind and sensitive over the most cruel and insensitive.
  15. Society needs leaders capable of suffering criticism silently, perhaps accepting and learning from it, responding constructively not in a manner which causes others to suffer.
  16. Society needs those capable of hiring people more talented then themselves, rather than only those unlikely to show up their deficiencies. Society needs those capable of firing those who do wrong, not those who try their best to put the organisation first or speak up against wrongdoing.
  17. Society needs positive leaders capable of making opportunities from their difficulties rather than negative leaders who specialise in making difficulties from their opportunities.
  18. Society needs to better appreciate how to identify the kind of people incapable of genuine kindness, if it is not to suffer from their fundamental lack of humanity.
  19. Society needs leaders who appreciate that their primary responsibility is to act responsibly, preferring humility to pride. There is no humiliation in humility nor any humility associated with humiliation.
  20. Society needs leaders with the emotional depth required to warmly experience other people in all their humanity, as unique people with their own needs and interests, not coldly as inanimate objects to be vindictively used, deceived and manipulated.
  21. Society needs visionary leaders with the ability to envision how great the group they are responsible for could be. Society needs leaders with imagination, as it is those who imagine that make the unimaginable happen.
  22. Society needs positive leaders with the enthusiastic personality which creates the constructive culture (not ultra-competitive combat zones) which  inspires others to contribute their personal best en route to collectively driving the entity along the road of progress from good to great.
  23. Society needs humble leaders capable of accepting criticism constructively and learning from it, not too-proud leaders who cannot cope and feel the necessity to respond destructively wanting to damage their critics.
  24. Society needs leaders with the integrity to set the admirable example which encourages everyone else to want to follow, well capable of “doing the right thing when no-one is looking”.
  25. Society needs courageous leaders who know that “doing the wrong thing when everyone is looking” could never be described as leadership, let alone leadership with integrity.
  26. Society desperately needs leaders who derive their primary satisfaction from making the people they lead feel better, never worse.
  27. Society needs as its managers and leaders those capable of recognizing wrong, including their own faults which they seek to learn from and rectify, who accept responsibility for the errors of those they lead, rather than those who see no wrong in words and actions which others would, do not learn from their mistakes and blame everyone else for their own failings.
  28. Society needs those who find it easy to be kind and impossible to be cruel rather than those who find it easy to be cruel and impossible too be kind to be leading its people and organisations.
  29. Indeed even more fundamental, society needs as its managers and leaders those who find it easy to love and difficult to hate than those who find it easy to hate and impossible to love.
  30. Those who consistently engage in almost unforgivable words and deeds are the very same people who time after time expect to be forgiven for the anger and hatred they practice, preach and instil in others, yet are incapable of forgiving those they perceive to have wronged them and hold deep grudges against, even when they didn’t, finding it easy to apportion blame but impossible to accept responsibility.
  31. Society needs leaders capable of evaluating the consequences of decisions on the grounds of “how will this benefit the people I am responsible for?” rather than “what’s in it for me?”
  32. Society needs honest leaders who are team players, bridge-builders and peacemakers not solo playing troublemakers who thrive on deceit, disrespect and disharmony.
  33. Society needs to learn that those who are always right and never wrong, blame others for their mistakes, cannot forgive and hold deep grudges, who cannot accept responsibility for their own failings and those of the people they lead, who have to “get their own way” and “win at all costs” inconsiderate of the consequences, more interested in themselves than the people they are responsible for, simply do not have what it takes to hold positions of responsibility or be leaders of business or society.
  34. Society needs to appreciate that when we permit those who are innately more cruel than considerate to achieve their goal of reaching senior positions, we may be succumbing to the misconception that somehow seems to assume or accept that ruthlessness is a valid managerial or even leadership trait.
  35. Society needs to consider that when it selects and elect those who are more naturally antagonistic, contentious, contrary, controversial, pugnacious, quarrelsome and argumentative rather than agreeable and consensus-seeking it may be mistaking strength of will for strength of character?
  36. Society needs to wonder when it chooses those who throw temper tantrums when they do not get their own way, who hold grudges and find it difficult to forgive and forget, who are so opinionated that they find it a challenge to accept the suggestions of others and who seem to prefer conflict, trouble and strife to calm co-operation, disputes to compromise and disagreement to agreement, whether it may be appointing children rather than adults to its most senior roles.
  37. Society needs to strongly consider when time and time again it appoints such spiteful, vindictive, unforgiving, merciless and malicious people to seniority of position, trusting them with important roles despite their deep and utter untrustworthiness, perhaps scared of their retribution if we don’t grant them the power they insatiably crave but ultimately can only abuse; power which their self-centred focus switches to maintaining at any cost, rather than using astutely and constructively for the purpose granted.
  38. Society needs fundamentally responsible people for its most responsible roles, not the most irresponsible people possible, immune to their inadequacies and unaware of their deficiencies, inconsiderate of the adverse consequences when they inevitably prioritise “winning” over compromise, their self-interest over the firm’s or national interest and themselves over not only others but indeed everyone and anything else.
  39. Society sometime needs to learn the many lessons from the past that Givers, being more interested in others than themselves, make for far better leaders, especially of other people, than those Takers who are fundamentally more interested in themselves than others.

In assessing those being considered for seniority of position, especially those involving significant responsibility, global society needs to better appreciate how to ignore shallow charm, self-centred intelligence, smooth eloquence and smart talk disconnected with deeds and actions, past, present or future.

Doing so permits identification of the kind of untrustworthy, irresponsible, ruthless and tactlessly negative troublemakers incapable of truth, subtlety, compromise, bridge-building, genuine teamwork or kindness, compassion, sympathy, empathy or indeed any form of warm emotions, consideration for the interests and needs of others, indeed anyone other than themselves, or the ability to properly understand people and their emotions, including their own, if it is not to suffer from their preference for cold-hearted meanness, unfairness, injustice, unnecessary conflict and warmongering, many forms of discouragement, disharmony and tactless havoc, having to get their own way and win at all costs, irrespective of the consequences, as well as their low to no integrity, all contributed to by their deep and fundamental lack of  humanity.

Their extraordinarily confident and ostentatious sense of entitlement, infallibility, indestructibility and immunity from the consequences of their words and deeds, seems to deny them apparent recognition that those who abuse power, just might lose the power they failed to use for the purpose intended, given that their lack of vision and insight resulted from their myopic inability to see matters from any perspective other than their own, ultimately the only person that really matters.

This can seem to be especially so of those who seem to live in a different world than that inhabited by most others, including those they mis-lead because the authority they are trusted with they inevitably misuse to their own advantage, immune to the consequences for others.

Yet we trust such irresponsible and impulsive people with responsibility for the lives and emotions of others, when they can neither manage nor control their own, given that psychiatrists, psychologists and sociologists liken their psychological nature to that of primary school children.

Those who feel the need to diminish and humiliate others need to be denied the opportunity to do so, especially in any form of official capacity.

They simply lack the most basic and essential requirement to both manage and lead other people – the ability to genuinely praise, encourage, motivate and inspire others to contribute the most and want to produce their best.

Rational managers and leaders recognise that motivation does not involve discouraging, humiliating and demoting others while praising and promoting themselves.

Constructive Leaders are well capable of recognising that openly recognising and acknowledging the importance of others, no matter their position or role, is more likely to encourage them to actually want to contribute and cooperate.

Yet those who seek acclaim for themselves but are disinterested in others can fail to appreciate why they fail to be appreciated, other than by the most sycophantic, especially when they promote themselves and fail to appreciate others. 

A secret which seems to be withheld from the most arrogant in society, especially when they incessantly seek the acclaim of others even when most unwarranted, is that those with a touch of humility make for far more popular if not also more trustworthy and effective leaders, than those with a significant dose of personal pride.

Leaders who seek no real attention for themselves yet are hugely committed to achieving for their people and organisation, often gain the respect of all or most involved.

There is no humiliation in humility nor any humility associated with humiliation.

When modest people fail or fall on difficult times, people can be openly sympathetic towards them and be more inclined to lend them a hand, but when the most arrogant fail, often for reasons they will never be capable of understanding, many others may be covertly delighted, especially those they disrespected and took advantage of during their temporary period of ascendancy.

Even after the organisations mis-led by “Disordered Leaders” have collapsed (perhaps with a track record of failure than building ventures capable of long-term, sustainable success and growth), with many people’s lives adversely affected, trust in tatters and reputation beyond repair, these emotionally labile individuals, because that is what they are, not team-players, can still wonder what they did wrong, finding it easy to apportion blame but impossible to accept responsibility for their many failures, apparent to almost everyone but themselves.

When will we learn that “enough is enough” and learn from the many disasters – physical, emotional and financial – which arise from the “Destructive Leadership” most associated with “Disordered Leaders”?

Being sympathy-free (“ruth-less”), insensitive to the interests, needs and emotions of others, yet highly sensitive to any form of criticism or rebuke, producing a totally disproportionate response, feelings of hatred towards those who may have offered them tactful advice or constructive criticism, and the imperative of having to retaliate and extract revenge, even for trivia, are not qualities which endear leaders to those they lead, or indeed to anyone else.

Intimidation can never be acceptable, especially when it is seen as a routine part of the fabric of life, whatever the grouping in society may be.

Senior people out of touch with the raison d’être of the entity they are supposed to be serving, not predominantly themselves, and indeed why they are there in the first place, should never be permitted to become untouchable.

When will key decision-makers realise that those who actively seek personal gain and acclaim may least warrant it, while those who desire little or no attention for themselves or their achievements may indeed be the most praiseworthy and the most likely to offer the most astute guidance  and the best equipped to provide the most appropriate flexibility of leadership with integrity to deal with the many situations which inevitably will be faced?

Those who consistently engage in almost unforgivable words and deeds are the very same people who time after time expect to be forgiven for the anger and hatred they practice, preach and instil in others, yet are incapable of forgiving those they perceive to have wronged them, even when they didn’t.

No matter the walk of life, we expect the managers and leaders of our society, from business to government and sport, to bring people together by way of co-operation, collaboration and consensus-finding, praise and encouragement, not drag them apart with insulting and combative words and deeds, seek conflict at almost every opportunity, behave impulsively, impetuously and be moody (“labile”) rather than cool, calm and collected, as they innately prioritise their own self-interest and divide rather than unite the people they are supposed to be leading and setting an admirable example for, breeding hope not fear.

Those only capable of appreciating and valuing themselves do not have what it takes to successfully manage and lead other people.

Indeed there must be something wrong with those lacking a sense of wrong, especially when this only consists of believing they are always right and everyone else wrong.

Just because “Disordered Leaders” cannot seem to learn from their mistakes (a mental impairment recognised by psychiatrists and psychologists), doesn’t mean the rest of society shouldn’t from theirs, notably when deeply irresponsible and untrustworthy people are appointed to significant positions of responsibility, beyond the limitations of their personality.

Do we never seem to learn?

Maybe it is now opportune that, collectively and globally, society does, given the absolute predictability of the consequences when those with the wrong personality, when cruel the most inappropriate possible, are chosen for positions for which they are extraordinarily ill-equipped, which eventually becomes apparent to almost everyone else, except themselves, given that they believe there is nothing wrong with them.

As people with a Personality Disorder rarely see themselves as being different or as being the problem, as they blame all their faults and failings on anything and everyone else, this places the onus to be “responsible” and “constructive” on those who, out of necessity, spend an inordinate amount of their time dealing with the whims of their unbalanced and perhaps “Disordered Leader”.

Now that I can associate many of my worst experiences in business with what I describe as “Destructive Leaders” and many of my best with the fortunately far more plentiful “Constructive Leaders”, I feel a responsibility to share what I have learned so some unfortunate experiences may transpire to be fortunate, as it becomes increasingly apparent how damaging “Disordered Leaders” can be, no matter what area of life they inhabit.

At the US IVBEC business ethics conference, held in Dublin in October 2019, I proposed that the steps the rest of society needs to take to protect itself from such leaders include:

1  Identify these abnormal people, by way of their own behaviour, as being different from the norm,
2  Adapt to respond to their sometimes extraordinary actions & reactions (evident due to their “maladaptive” inflexibility),
3  Learn how to behave differently towards them (“denying narcissistic supply”),
4  Minimise the damage & havoc they will inevitably create, and
5  Deny them positions of influence & responsibility throughout global society.

Even after their organisation has collapsed with many people’s lives adversely affected, these “emotionally labile” individuals, because that is what they are, not team-players, can still wonder what they did wrong, finding it easy to apportion blame but impossible to accept responsibility.

At that conference, rotated annually between the three East Coast USA Vincentian universities and now also the former Vincentian All Hallows College in Dublin,  I proposed the following initial definition of a “Disordered Leader”:

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

Having been exposed to over 50 highly challenging people during my own career, who may be capable of being diagnosed with a “Personality Disorder” (in the unlikely even that any ever receive psychological assessment or treatment), a situation I failed to properly comprehend for many years in industry, just believing them to be exceptional “selfish, difficult and proud”,  I can testify what a great challenge those with such a mindset can pose to everyone else with no option but to deal with them.

One solution is to learn what behavioural traits to look for, preferably in advance of granting seniority of position to those who seem to inhabit a different world from everyone else.

While many people can behave in a selfish, difficult, proud and contrary manner occasionally, especially under extreme pressure, to be classified as a “Personality Disorder” the traits need to be “inflexible”, meaning can be repeatedly observed without regards to time, place or circumstance, while also interfering with a person’s ability to function well in society, including causing problems with interpersonal relationships, termed “functional impairment”.

Indeed the four core features common to all Personality Disorders, with two required for diagnosis, are

  1. Distorted thinking patterns,
  2. Problematic emotional responses,
  3. Over- or under-regulated impulse control and
  4. Interpersonal difficulties,

none of which are attributes which society needs in those with responsibility for its institutions and their people. What is a Personality Disorder?

Yet far too frequently some or all of these are evident in the behaviour of leaders, erroneously associated with strength of character and leadership, rather than weakness of personality and an inability to manage their own emotions, let alone lead other people.

One of the definitions of a “Personality Disorder” is pervasive patterns of perceiving, relating to, and thinking about the environment and the self that interfere with long-term functioning of the individual and are not limited to isolated episodes.”

Those with “shallow emotions” who experience other people no differently than inanimate objects – such as shopfront mannequins – can perceive or misconceive many areas of organisational and national life being like a “game”, including business, politics and government.

It is all about the conquest, winning and possession of what they desire, being better and having more than those they see to be a rival (who frequently are not), with other far more important factors not nearly as relevant as they should be in their perception and deliberations.

Hence:

  • “Getting their own way”,
  • “Winning at all costs, irrespective of consequences for others”, and
  • “Evaluating matters from the primary perspective of “what’s in it for me?”

becomes more critical for them than in the minds of most other, more “normal” people.

Lacking the vision required of leaders, but being incessant pity-seekers (best described as “poor me”), they nevertheless somehow manage to see persecution where there is none, or none intended, just different opinions which in the minds of most normal people are a healthy part of deliberation and debate, the give and take which results in the most sensible path to progress by way of decisions which weigh up risk and reward and try to consider and balance the interests of the most appropriate “stakeholders”, or the most relevant groups of people involved or impacted by the decision, not the self-interest and pride of the leader.

While other people may consider there is something wrong, this belief may not be shared by those who consistently cause trouble for their often beleaguered colleagues.

People with many of the Personality Disorders just do not believe there is anything wrong with them, so see no need to change nor seek treatment, which they may not even cooperate with in the unlikely event that treatment transpires. Those with “Narcissistic Personality Disorder” and related disorders may not because they feel superior to others. Their inferiors are the real problem.

Those with “Paranoid Personality Disorder” also feel there is nothing wrong with them, although others may see them as being excessively suspicious and unnecessary hostile. In their mind, their suspicions of others are quite justified. It is these other people who are the real problem and they are the reasons for the degree of moderate to significant dysfunction, havoc and even mayhem which their mis-management and mal-leadership inevitably brings.

Characteristics such as these should disqualify such people from consideration for senior roles, but incredibly (meaning “hard to believe”) these traits are evident amongst people holding significant positions throughout society. One reason is too many other people (especially those with the right credentials for seniority) just do not seem to know what traits to look for, primarily to identify them to deny such people they power they need and demand but are incapable of using for the purpose intended, then become difficult to replace as they prioritise maintenance of the power they crave over all other considerations, irrespective of the cost to others.

The other main reason it becomes important to be able to identify such “disordered” people is to realise that trying to deal with them “normally” is likely to result in abject failure and a variety of countermeasures will instead need to be tactically employed in dealing with them, to diminish the damage they can do not only to the culture of their organisation (or nation) but also to the lives and emotions of those who have no choice but to work with or for them.

At the end of the day when people learn what traits to look for, the “disordered people” themselves facilitate this task of preventing them from becoming “disordered leaders”, because they actually “give the game away” themselves by way of what they cannot hide or change – their own behavioural traits.

This can take some time to notice and appreciate. Indeed it took me over 25 years in industry, working with hundreds of organisations, before a coffee with a psychologist led to my recognising that I had actually worked with or for over 50 such people and how similar much of their behaviour actually was, although they worked in different sectors, nations and even continents.

“Self-centred” has been defined by Merriam-Webster as “concerned solely with one’s own desires, needs, or interests” and “independent of outside force or influence”.

“Narcissistic Personality” is described as “a pattern of traits and behaviours characterised by excessive self-concern and overvaluation of the self.”

Amongst the traits associated with “Narcissistic Personality Disorder” are:

  1. Long-standing pattern of grandiose self-importance and an exaggerated sense of talent and achievements
  2. Exhibitionistic need for attention and admiration from others
  3. Others need to “walk on eggshells” in their company given their volatility
  4. Belief that they are special and most others are inferior, not worthy of being associated with them
  5. Sense of entitlement and expectation of special treatment from others
  6. They believe they are normal and all the problems and challenges they create are the fault of situations or other people who they find it easy to blame, but cannot accept responsibility for their innate irresponsibility
  7. Need for praise from others who can be belittled and even have their character assassinated falsely and fictitiously for disrespecting their superiority
  8. When not being praised by others they can praise themselves, sometimes extravagantly, including for achievements only they recognise
  9. Behave arrogantly with a conceited, pretentious & pompous manner. Boastful of their talents or achievements even if greatly exaggerated or even totally fictitious, only present in their own version of reality, the unique world they live in
  10. Active imaginations especially about themselves and rules to be obeyed (their own not society’s)
  11. Huge belief in their invulnerability and ability to “get away” with anything
  12. Tendency to fantasise about success, power, brilliance or beauty.
  13. Expect to be recognised as superior even without achievements that warrant it
  14. Total disregard for the emotions of others which they may not be able to experience, due to an inability to empathise with the feelings of others
  15. Take advantage of others to get what they want; interest will be shown in other people only while they serve a useful purpose, otherwise they will be ignored and discarded
  16. All other people can be coldly experienced no different from inanimate objects (such as shopfront mannequins) who only exist to be used to satisfy their insatiable personal needs, but otherwise have no intrinsic value as people, nor any interests or needs worthwhile knowing as ultimately they do not matter
  17. Find it easy to be “ruth-less”, meaning free of sympathy
  18. Envious of others or belief they may be envious of them
  19. Insist on being and having the best of everything
  20. Need unquestioning compliance from others and may not be able to cope with non-compliance or criticism as they can be “thin-skinned” and easily slighted
  21. Need praise but cannot genuinely praise others, preferring to find reason for fault when praise may be most warranted
  22. Thrive on criticism but can’t cope when this is directed at them; whether warranted or not this always seems to be without merit in their mind as they can grossly over react to anything they perceive to be criticism, even if not or no critique was intended
  23. Blame other people, events or situations for their own errors, inadequacies or failings
  24. “With prejudice” well describes those who hold deep and long-lasting grudges and seek revenge and retaliation, even for trivial reasons such as others merely offering a different opinion from theirs, as they can derive more pleasure from disrespecting than respecting others, especially those who dare to criticise them.
  25. Poor at regulating their emotions so can be moody and temperamental
  26. Impatience or temper tantrums when criticised or don’t receive special treatment. React with cold indifference or feelings of rage or emptiness in response to criticism, indifference or defeat
  27. Cold when others would expect them to be warm.
  28. Disinterested in others or their interests and achievements when others would expect them to be interested
  29. Interpersonal problems, require others to be subservient and sycophantic and can treat others with contempt and hatred for little apparent reason
  30. Much of their behaviour can be seen to promote themselves and put-down, discourage, disparage and even humiliate others
  31. Struggle to learn from mistakes, change or adapt their behaviour
  32. They cannot properly understand other people and never will, but a major problem for society is that they think they can, unaware of their own emotional deficiencies
  33. Even after their organisation or entity has collapsed, with many people’s lives adversely affected, they struggle to see what they did wrong
  34. Those without a sense of wrong must have something wrong with them
  35. Making others feel bad can make them feel good
  36. Those who have been in relationships with narcissists, whether professional or personal,  say amongst the worst aspects is their disloyalty. Only capable of loyalty to themselves, they seem to get a special kick from openly disagreeing with and publicly putting down those they are supposed to be agreeable with and loyal to
  37. Given their own fundamental inability to change, the onus to tactfully adapt to the many challenges they present lies with everyone else involved for any semblance of harmonious normality to be feasible
  38. Those astute, insightful and peacemaking colleagues capable of adapting their behaviour need to respond daily to diminish the degree of harm and havoc these inveterate troublemakers invariably and innately bring to ANY group situation
  39. Given they can seem to live in a world all of their own, in which they may be the most extraordinary person ever born and everyone else significantly inferior, all their assertions and declarations will necessitate independent third party verification and the most apt advice, especially when they promote themselves and criticise, disparage and even damage the reputation of others, often quite falsely, may be to FIRST BELIEVE THE OPPOSITE of what they say or assert (which may be closer to reality or the truth of any situation) until this can be verified, as otherwise they just cannot be believed at all. If this advice sounds bizarre, it is because their words, deeds, behaviour and indeed mindset can seem irrational if not bizarre when compared with the rationality of others. VANITY MAY NOT EQUATE WITH SANITY.

None of these traits are those which anyone would advocate in a leader. Yet time after time some or many of them are present, proving how frequently other people in society simply choose those with the wrong personality type for management or leadership of other people, either charmed or intimidated (or both) into appointing them before the gravity of this mistake in due course becomes more apparent. This is then compounded by the extent they will go to to maintain the power they should never gave been granted, having no qualms about damaging other people, their reputation and that of the organisation itself en route.

Ultimately they are more likely to do more harm than good to the entity they mis-lead and the people they disrespect, those they should be setting an admirable example for.

Yet such situations are entirely avoidable because at the end of the (excessively long) day their behaviour is entirely predictable. 

Fortunately it is their very predictability and inability to amend their own behaviour which allows “us” an insight into the very different world “they” inhabit, but this predictability only becomes apparent when other people first learn what traits to look for, then act on this knowledge by denying such fundamentally irresponsible people any (significant) position of responsibility.

Smart words do not make for smart leadership when there is a deep and fundamental disconnect between words, actions and reality.

This can be especially so when leaders do not seek or listen to the astute and perhaps conciliatory advice likely to be available from their more collegiate colleagues and they show no apparent remorse nor learn from the experience when the results of their angry and impulsive behaviour, necessity to hold grudges and seek revenge, even for triviality, disadvantage other people (including those they are supposed to be leading and setting an example for) and damage relationships which someone else will subsequently have to re-build, or at least try.

Perhaps throughout human history (so maybe this piece should be titled “the not so new abnormal”?) society would appear to have mistaken charm, intelligence, smooth talking, arrogance and even callous ruthlessness for “managerial ability” due to a misconception associated with appointing highly self-centred people to leadership positions, consistently mistaking outwardly dynamic displays of confidence and eloquent talk of integrity for strength of character and intimidatory traits for strength of leadership, when in reality such fundamentally weak and perhaps childlike people may possess neither good character nor genuine managerial or leadership ability.

Children describe such traits as bullying, so why does adult society find intimidation acceptable in its managers and leaders, including in those who psychologists liken to primary school children?

It should go without saying that people like feeling appreciated and valued, yet too many managers and leaders do not make other people feel important.

When the only people they value and appreciate are themselves, the organisation or indeed any grouping or entity they are in charge of is likely to face problems it would not if it were instead managed and led by people with a different personality or “dispositional attribution”.

In stark contrast with situations involving inclusion, persuasion and respect, a group intimidated into only doing what the dominant leader wants is unlikely to evolve, especially when “getting their own way” is very important to their leader.

If people are afraid to “speak up” and uninspired to suggest a variety of alternative ideas or courses of action, how likely is more visionary progress?

Intimidation and aggression produce fear, anxiety and discouragement, yet somehow people who regularly rather than exceptionally put-down, humiliate and disrespect others can extraordinarily be associated with “strength” of management or leadership rather than weakness of character and indeed perhaps even a “Personality Disorder”.

While many people in society feel good from making others feel good, what needs to be better and indeed more globally appreciated is that there may be something wrong with those who themselves feel good when they make others feel bad.

Personality Disorders can vary from being shy, timid, anxious and afraid to face life to supremely self-confident and arrogant with little regard for other people, perhaps even taking pleasure from being cruel, lacking warm emotions and maybe believing that others are “ganging up” and “out to get” them.

The key issue for everyone else, including most in society unfamiliar with the “extra-ordinary” world of Personality Disorders, is that they actually do inhabit a quite different world, although they may not realise this themselves.

The world they inhabit is the only one they know, incapable of experiencing life in the manner that everyone else can.

Despite the problems such people create throughout society from impaired relationships and damaged reputations to business failures, chaos and even wars, which throughout history they may not only have started but then perpetuated, being troublemakers not peacemakers, the concept of Personality Disorders needs to become more widely appreciated to better understand “difficult” people and their initially bizarre, but in due course entirely predictable behaviour, to sufficiently realise that their motivations differ from those of most “normal” people.

Surface level appeal can transpire to be shallow, like the emotions of the most charming who ultimately can disappoint, especially when they favour short-term expediency, narrow-minded popularism, their own ambitions, giving the impression of doing right rather than doing it and taking credit for the achievements of others, given that their peculiar sense of right and wrong is limited to believing that they are always right and everyone else wrong and can see no wrong in their own words and deeds when these fall far short of what society would expect of them.

Yet we appoint such people to lead our businesses and nations.

At the end of the day, it isn’t all about them, although they persist in believing that it is, often appearing to be unaware of their inadequacies and immune to the real damage they do, given the opportunity.

The gaelic expression “mé féin” or “me myself” is not that which should be associated with leaders.

Indeed so many of the world’s problems, little and large, local and international, could so readily be prevented, or constructively solved, if collectively we better appreciated how to choose the right people with the right intentions and the most appropriate personality for the responsible roles we trust them with, not the most irresponsible, untrustworthy and destructive people possible, with entirely predictable and inevitable consequences, not their concern or responsibility, as they always find someone or something else, or both, to blame, criticise, disparage and diminish, without remorse, as they deny the undeniable and defend the indefensible.

So why can we not predict the predictable?

People with identifiable Personality Disorders can be “found in every race, culture, society and walk of life”, so one of the most critical matters to appreciate is that as “Disordered Leaders” see things differently, experience people differently, perceive many matters differently, think differently, behave differently and inhabit a quite different world from most others in society, it is imperative that they be recognised by decision-makers as being substantially different from the norm, being consummate actors hiding their true selves much of the time, hence need to be dealt with significantly differently, including denying them positions of power which they can only abuse, if they are no longer to be permitted to continue to damage the world that everyone else inhabits.

Because “Destructive Leaders” do inhabit a different world, the rest of the world would benefit from appreciating the importance of being able to identify them, to deny them the opportunity of damaging the world in which many others, including “Constructive Leaders”, do their best to live in collaboratively and harmoniously, in the company of many other decent, kind and encouraging people, with a genuine interest in both other people and whatever they may be interested in.

Those who see nothing wrong in words, deeds and actions which many others couldn’t even countenance, who seem to operate within their own parameters of what many be right and wrong, especially when others may see these as being confused and bizarre but they believe to be entirely normal and the way they have always lived life and dealt with other people, may indeed have something wrong with them.

It is critically important to stress that Psychiatrists (medical doctors) and Psychologists caution against “amateur” diagnosis of people who may occasionally display some of the more adverse traits discussed here. It is when these traits are pervasive and occur frequently or persistently that a diagnosis of Personality Disorder may be appropriate.

Although people with Personality Disorders can vary from being very shy, insecure, depressed and scared of life to those quite different, being excessively confident, arrogant, believe they are special and do not appear to fear anything or anyone, a significant problem for society is that many who may have one or more of the recognised Personality Disorders (past and present) do not believe their is anything wrong with them, especially when they attribute all their own problems and those they cause for others to everyone except themselves.

Such people may go through their entire lives causing difficulties and in extremes even havoc, especially for others, yet may either not be suspected by others as having a Personality Disorder (given the widespread societal lack of awareness of what actually constitutes a Personality Disorder and such Disordered individuals) or may never actually be recommended for treatment by expert mental health professionals.

It is not just the general public who lack knowledge of what constitutes a Personality Disorder, but General Practitioners or Family Doctors who may have greater appreciation of people with depression or anxiety than the level of deceit and manipulation and many other traits associated with some of the disorders, which can make such “charming liars” exceptionally convincing to the extent that it may be their victims who may not be believed when they try and raise the many challenges they create with their own local doctor.

This though is rectifiable by way of Continuing Professional Development which, given the challenges such almost invisibly disordered people create for society in general and difficulties they cause other people and relationships in particular, could be one of those areas which medical students will need to be trained in and practicing medics learn more about as they keep up to date professionally.

Some disordered people may even try and treat psychological assessment and treatment like another game to be played, not being convinced they need to be treated, only complying if they consider doing so may be in their self-interest, such as gaining early release from prison, or they are given no alternative. But as many do not engage in overtly anti-social behaviour they may never be evaluated psychologically nor arrested for their more subtle mis-deeds, no matter how much damage they do to both people and organisations, whether subtle and covert or tactlessly brazen and overt.

Nevertheless, whether their behaviour ever contributes to an actual professional diagnosis of a Personality Disorder or not, none of the more negative traits we outline here, especially those which may be damaging to other people, are those I associate with people I describe as “Constructive Leaders”, who I strongly argue make for far more effective, and safer, leaders throughout global society, for many, many reasons.

Fortunately though many of the traits which may assist Psychiatrists and Psychologists come to a diagnosis, whatever it may be, are clearly identifiable by other people, whether they currently attribute them to the possibility of a Personality Disorder or not.

Indeed given the deeply deceitful and manipulative nature of “Cluster B’s” in particular, well capable of arguing they are normal and it is other people with the problems, including those they badmouth and slander, it is actually third party descriptions of their actual behaviour that can greatly assist mental health professionals form their own opinions and diagnosis.

For over 20 years, despite working with many organisations, I just considered such people to be “Selfish, Difficult and Proud” and maybe “Perverse, Contrary and Disagreeable” too. Then organising a business ethics conference in Dublin entitled “Corporate Conference” in 2013 led to a coffee with a psychology lecturer and practicing psychoanalyst who explained Narcissistic Personality disorder to me, in response to my longstanding but previously unanswered query “how can someone harm someone in business without scruples’?

I immediately realised this was the answer I had been seeking both all my career and during a decade attending and then speaking at international business ethics conferences, so started researching the extraordinary world of Personality Disorders there and then in 2013.

It has been an extraordinary feeling to recall adverse experiences and to realise that many of the traits which contributed to being cheated, deceived or diminished in both private and public were those associated with people capable of being diagnosed by psychiatrists and experienced psychologists with one or more of the Cluster B Personality disorders, especially Borderline Personality Disorder, as Malignant Narcissists and/or with Psychopathic/Sociopathic tendencies, which go well beyond the more basic definition of Anti-Social Personality Disorder.

Many are far too subtle and cunning to be ever seen or caught engaging in more overt antisocial behaviour, preferring their deceit, manipulation, humiliation and “getting their own way” to be more covert, quite invisible except to those who have made the mistake of crossing their path or threatening their self-interest.

As already mentioned, at its most basic, much of the “business ethics” debate discusses why fundamentally good people do something wrong, usually under some form of pressure. Unethical acts may also be performed by people who may themselves be fundamentally bad, doing what comes most naturally to them, causing harm to others, but who have developed a well-practiced expertise at portraying themselves as being good people. Most of the time. Then someone crosses their path when their true nature and covert characteristics may be exposed. Their thinly veiled lack of concern for others, camouflaged emotional poverty, hidden hatreds, cloaked or even absent conscience and other previously concealed attributes and clandestine traits are no longer obscured by their charming veneer and disguised by their mask of sanity.

I now recognise that I have worked with or for over 50 business people, men and women, capable of being diagnosed with one or more Personality Disorders, although I doubt very much that any of them have ever been examined by a mental health professional let alone received expert assistance such as with Cognitive Behavioural Therapy or Dialectical Behavioural Therapy.

That is one of the reasons why I realised the importance of researching this matter and writing about it in a manner that most people should be able to understand, given that many people should be well capable of observing much of the behaviour I describe here without ever studying psychology, neuroeconomics or neuroscience  themselves.

If other people can better familiarise themselves with some of the more apparent behavioural traits and associate them with the possibility of a Personality Disorder, then they can begin to adapt their own behaviour in such a manner that they can diminish the degree of harm such damaging people can do to interpersonal relationships and organisational life.

They can ultimately transpire to be be more destructive than constructive and hold both the organisation and its employees back from fulfilling its and their potential. The most progressive people can become too scared to suggest alternative opinions to those of their “Destructive Leaders”, who would rather do the opposite of what others want if the ideas are not seen to be their own.

In due course the smarter co-workers learn how to frame situations so the “Destructive Leaders” believe that the most forward-looking options were first thought of by themselves and so have a better chance to be actioned, although having to engage in such behaviour is not only an utter waste of their time but also talents, which “Constructive Leaders” innately maximise by way of praise, encouragement, inclusion and vision, in addition to many other characteristics discussed in this paper.

In stark contrast the outlook of Destructive Leaders is primarily focussed on me not we or us and this guides much of their behaviour. Until this is understood they will be misunderstood.

Their mindset is essentially quite different from that of most other people – yet they frequently achieve positions of responsibility in society. 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 and disordered mind operates.

Those who work with or for such people quickly learn to incessantly praise and never criticise them, directing too much of their time to trying to satisfy their whims. They spend an inordinate amount of their emotional energy trying to keep them on an even keel, rather than devoting their collective talents to working collaboratively and constructively to achieve their organisation’s goals.

Whether diagnosed or diagnosable or not, which is the prerogative of specially trained and experienced mental health professionals, recognising that a minority of society may be “different” from the norm will allow informed others to deal with them “differently” and better cope with their peculiarities, or preferably deny them the positions of power they are most likely to abuse, as trying to deal with them “normally” will probably result in abject and perhaps incomprehensible failure.

As they perceive many matters differently, see and experience other people differently, think differently and behave quite differently from most other people in society, they CAN be identified and dealt with quite differently, given that at the end of the day it is their own actions, reactions, moods and behaviour, which give the game away to those astute enough to notice.

But they cannot be treated differently unless other people recognise them as being different and familiarise themselves with the identifiable behaviour, especially when others may begin to appreciate that there may actually be a consistency in their apparent inconsistency, given that psychologists believe that many are actually “maladaptive” and struggle to change their behaviour or adapt it to changing circumstances, which makes them easier to identify.

Decision makers may need to assess their better qualities and talents, which may be considerable, and weigh these up against the past, current or potential damage they have done or could do both to other people and the organisation itself, as the most appropriate solution may be to tell them “you’re fired”, especially when they are given the opportunity to improve or change but don’t because perhaps they can’t.

It must be stressed that entirely normal people can behave badly or abnormally occasionally, especially when under considerable pressure (notably that exerted by their most intimidatory peers). But when bad, challenging or self-centred behaviour can be observed by others to be arising regularly, be seen to be recurring and can be predicted by others, that a Personality Disorder may indeed be present.

Society may even need to be protected from Disordered Leaders, initially by way of denying them positions of authority which their personality peculiarities prevent them from using for the responsible purposes intended, something they alone may be aware of. People need to be protected from the harm which can be done by those who delight in causing harm and disturbing harmony.

A self-centred person may not see themselves as being selfish, even when this is very apparent to everybody else, who they are unlikely to seek advice from nor listen to even if offered.

Those more likely to be mean than meaningful, prefer harm and humiliation to humility, cold calculation to compassion and themselves to other people, no matter how well they manage to mask these tendencies, at least much of the time, cannot be trusted with responsibility for other people as they simply do not have what it takes to be other than a one-person band.

Those whose vision is limited to their own perspective, evaluating matters by primarily considering “what’s in it for me?”, are incapable of providing a worthwhile vision for the entity they lead nor inspiring the people they mis-lead to follow their unworthy example.

They lack the subtlety and tact associated with guiding a jazz group or Irish ceili band in the right direction, or the respect and other qualities required to successfully lead an organisation in the style of an orchestra, with every musician sharing the same sheet-music and playing the same tune, with the goal of achieving organisational goals rather than satisfying the self-interest and varying whims of the Disordered Leader, whose greatest talent may be blowing their own trump-et and playing off different sheet music, which they keep to themselves and deny to the other players.

Harmony is just not something which seems to come naturally to those who seem to have played out of tune with everyone else throughout much of their lives and who innately practice “Destructive Leadership” when mistakenly permitted to bring their disruptive nature to any form of organisational life.

Those who seem to behave the same way all time, being “maladaptive”, lack one of the most critical qualities expected of managers and leaders of all entities in society, the flexibility required to adapt to constantly changing situations and respond in a responsible manner appropriate to varying circumstances.

Those who feel supremely self-confident, whether warranted or not, but cannot experience the feelings of others, do not have what it takes to influence, inspire and motivate others to produce their best, meaning provide the critically important leadership which so many other more modest and less arrogant people throughout global society do in such a subtle manner that the followers they inspire hardly seem to notice, given that tactful encouragement and harmonious cooperation are the order of the day.

All my organisational life I have observed that there can be as much to be learned from seeing management and leadership conducted badly, especially by those emotionally labile, proud and self-centred folk who believe they are great, but aren’t (although unknown to them), and hence advocating and doing quite the opposite of what “Destructive Leaders” say and do, as can be learned from working with or for those selfless peacemakers with great emotional depth and ability to find common ground and compromise, who make management and leadership seem easy.

Such people take every situation which arises in their stride, without apparent fuss, rebuke or the necessity to apportion blame, given that “Constructive Leaders” accept responsibility for the faults of those they lead, yet pass on credit to others when things go well.

Those being led know that humility beats humiliation, any time, any place, any where, any culture, any walk of life.

People like feeling appreciated and valued, yet too many managers and leaders do not make others feel as important as they should. The most astute leaders with the deepest emotional intelligence know they cannot go wrong when they practice the simple mantra of treating everyone the same – with the respect they would like to be treated themselves.

Far too many  leaders and managers throughout global society evidently do not, prioritising making themselves feel good at the expense of making those they are supposed to be responsible for feeling bad, who are simply not their concern, ultimately only being interested in themselves. Such people need to be in solo roles without responsibility for other people where their technical expertise can be availed of, if any, not their inability to responsibly manage and inspirationally set an example all their followers will aspire to following.

What the most self-centred fail to appreciate is that this runs quite contrary to one of the core requirements of management and leadership – motivating people to produce their best in their cooperative attempts to achieve the goals of the group and the stated purposes the entity was formed to satisfy in the first place – which are unlikely to include discouragement, disrespect and humiliation in their mission statement.

Those whose perception of matters may be “delusional”, holding personal ideas or beliefs that are maintained with conviction in spite of irrationality or evidence to the contrary, who see criticism or persecution where there is none or none intended and unnecessarily make enemies out of former or potential friends, need to be disregarded when serious consideration is being given whom to hire, promote and even vote for, no matter how charming and eloquent they may appear on the surface to be.

Smart words do not make for smart leadership when there may be a deep and fundamental disconnect between their words and actions and the reality which most people except themselves can see.

But as those with a Personality Disorder rarely see themselves as being different or as being the problem, as they blame all their faults and failings on everyone else, this places the onus to be “responsible” and “constructive” on those who, out of necessity, spend an inordinate amount of their time dealing with the whims of their unbalanced and perhaps “Disordered Leader”.

Their self-interest does not just appear to be an option they persistently prioritise, rather it can seem to be their sole child-like state of mind, overriding all other considerations when the opportunity arises to “get their own way” and “win at all costs”, irrespective of the consequences for anyone or anything else, with their fixed focus fixated on “what’s in it for me?” and “we” or “us” not even on their personal radar.

Charm, especially when seen to be shallow and insincere, should never be mistaken for, or preferred to, good character and the courage to do the right thing even when no-one is looking, nor eloquent talk or false promises for real evidence of integrity.

“Disordered Leaders” who practice “Destructive Leadership” are actually easier to spot than people may realise, so responsible people can practice “identify and deny” such deeply irresponsible people the positions of power they can only inevitably abuse, given that they are fundamentally really only interested in themselves, prefer covert cruelty to overt kindness and see empathy and interest in others as a sign of failure and intimidation, humiliation and ruthlessness as the ultimate signal of success.

Fortunately there is a consistency in their apparent inconsistency, so their bizarre behaviour and mindset may with greater familiarity be seen to be entirely predictable.
Indeed it is their very predictability and inability to amend their own behaviour which allows “us” an insight into the very different world “they” inhabit, but this predictability only becomes apparent when other far more trustworthy and responsible people first learn what traits to look for, then act on this knowledge by denying such fundamentally untrustworthy and irresponsible people any position of responsibility.

Society increasingly needs “Constructive Leaders” who prefer encouragement to discouragement, humility to humiliation, cooperation and compromise to conflict, harmony to disharmony and the interest of others to their self-interest, being peacemakers who find it easy to be kind and impossible to be cruel rather than troublemakers who find it easy to be cruel and impossible to be kind, capable of diminishing not thriving on hatred and making friends out of former enemies, not enemies out of past or potential friends.

No matter what their other talents may be, including the ICE characteristics of “Intelligence, Charm and Eloquence”, a “selfish-streak” when combined with an inability to show any genuine interest in other people is not indicative of a naturally endowed ability to influence and motivate a group of people towards achieving a common goal, or what is commonly referred to as “leadership”.

When “leaders” feel better from making others feel worse, there is clearly something wrong, especially in those who seem to lack a sense of wrong, and questions need to be asked why they were chosen to lead in the first place.

When colleagues and coworkers have to spend an inordinate amount of their time tending to the whims of their leaders rather than working as a team to prioritise the goals of the organisation or entity and the needs of those it was founded to serve, such as customers or citizens, rather than the insatiable personal needs and interests of a few individuals, there is clearly something wrong and it should be evident that the wrong people are in charge.

Yet time after time we choose such people for senior roles for which they are deeply, utterly and fundamentally ill-equipped.

Do we never seem to learn?

Despite the major problems such people create throughout society, from impaired relationships and damaged reputations to business failures, chaos and even wars, which throughout history they may not only have started but perpetuated, being Troublemakers not Peacemakers, the concept of Personality Disorders needs to become more widely appreciated to better understand “difficult people” and their initially bizarre, but in due course entirely predictable behaviour, to sufficiently realise their motivations differ from those of most “normal” people.

How abnormal “Disordered Leaders” must be, because when they look out on the world, all they seem to see is their own, as if blinded to the world which everyone else shares, inconsiderate of the interests and needs of anyone and anything else, not even the entity which erroneously employs them.

Yet we let them “lead”, or rather “mis-lead”.

Despite most people far better responding to encouragement than discouragement, extraordinarily some believe the intimidation they practice is indicative of some form of strength of either character or leadership, rather than a deep character flaw.

Until intimidatory traits become more associated with illegitimate management, this misconception, which may have blighted global society for generations, will continue to the detriment of interpersonal trust and the reputation of the entities who appointed them, before they may subsequently be given sufficient reason to doubt their own sanity for choosing them.

Those who gradually get to know and begin to understand, as best they can, narcissistic people and what seems to motivate them, will realise that any interest they may show in others is likely to be pure pretence. Putting others first does just not appear to be part of their psyche.

Their pride of seems to innately focussed on themselves, inconsiderate of the interests and needs of those they lead. Some can be merciless, remorseless and ultimately disrespected by their peers, who do what they demand out of fear of the consequences of failing to do so, although this sends out entirely the wrong message to those nearer the beginning than end of their careers, unfortunate to work for the wrong role models.

Victims of their insensitive callousness can include respect, honour, trust, reputation, integrity, professionalism and healthy relationships, all of which are important to those with a genuine interest in other people and the organisations which employ them, but of little real concern to those who are fundamentally cold and ruthless at heart with little authentic interest in anyone but themselves.

Which type of person makes for a better leader, not just of businesses but also political parties, governments, nations and other entities and organisations in society from schools and public bodies to charities and clubs?

Surely not those who are always right and never wrong, incapable of accepting responsibility for decisions and events with poor outcomes, who blame others for all their failings, being naturally combative, won’t be the first to offer an “olive branch” to try and build bridges with opponents and more likely to escalate than seek a solution to conflicts, which perhaps might not have arisen in the first place had they not been in charge.

When we choose for leadership positions those who may be perceived by their peers as troublemakers rather than peacemakers, who prefer disharmony to harmony, intimidation to persuasion, animosity to kindness, antipathy to sympathy, discord to accord, aggression to compassion, contention to compromise, petulance to patience, rancour to rapport, enmity to placidness, acrimony to courtesy, animosity to diplomacy, bad blood to goodwill, dissension to conformity, friction and hostility to friendship, rivalry to collaboration, disrespect to respect, competition to cooperation and ultimately malevolence to benevolence, why are we surprised when the outcome is closer to war than peace?

When we elect those who are more naturally antagonistic, contentious, contrary, controversial, pugnacious, quarrelsome and argumentative rather than agreeable and consensus-seeking, who throw temper tantrums when they do not get their own way, who hold grudges and find it difficult to forgive and forget, who are so opinionated that they find it a challenge to accept the suggestions of others and who seem to prefer conflict, trouble and strife to calm co-operation, disputes to compromise and disagreement to agreement, are we mistaking strength of will for strength of character?

Ultimately when we permit those who are innately more cruel than considerate to achieve their goal of reaching senior positions, are we succumbing to the misconception that somehow seems to assume or accept that ruthlessness is a valid managerial or even leadership trait?

Management and leadership are supposed to be constructive processes, yet we continue to choose fundamentally destructive people to manage and lead our organisations, mistaking conflict and exclusion to be an acceptable alternative to cooperation and inclusion, being bullied into misinterpreting aggression and intimidation as a satisfactory and even admirable alternative to praise and encouragement.

Some lack the tact to realise that most people better respond to humility than humiliation, because somehow they feel better when they make others feel worse.

Yet time and time again we appoint such spiteful, vindictive, unforgiving, merciless and malicious people to seniority of position, trusting them with important roles in society despite their deep and utter untrustworthiness, perhaps scared of their retribution if we don’t grant them the power they insatiably crave but ultimately can only abuse; power which their self-centred focus switches to maintaining at any cost, rather than using astutely and constructively for the purpose granted.

Those who specialise in denying the undeniable and defending the indefensible need to be denied the opportunity to create situations which they will later deny as either not having happened, defend as having been appropriate when actually quite inappropriate or pass the blame as having been someone else’s fault, incapable of neither recognising their own failings nor learning from them, especially when they are regularly repeated.

Society most needs people capable of accepting responsibility for the faults of others as its leaders, not those who blame everyone but themselves for their many failings, like the emperor’s new clothes apparent to everyone but themselves.

Remedial action will inevitably be required arising from the destruction associated with “Disordered Leaders” before it is too late and the damage they inflict becomes irreparable, evidenced by the multitude of defunct corporations in global business graveyards, as well as other organisations and even nations which also no longer exist.

And yet for centuries we have chosen such people to (mis)lead our organisations and even nations.

Indeed more and more must wonder how such inappropriate people were allowed mis-lead in the first place when they make rational progress difficult, posing considerable challenges to those who have no option but to do what they cannot in trying to responsibly deal with their irresponsibility – adapt and amend their own behaviour.

Prevention is preferable to the improbability of cure.

This though is not a new abnormal, as throughout history from as early as this has been recorded, we seem to have let similarly “disordered” people mis-lead, with entirely inevitable combative, uncooperative, soul-destroying and destructive consequences, being troublemakers not peacemakers, starting then arrogantly justifying and perpetuating conflicts between colleagues, organisations and even nations, without a semblance of remorse or suspicion they may have learned from their mistakes, making this the most significant mistake which humanity seems doomed to repeat, time after time again.

The behaviour and indeed mindset of such “selfish, difficult and proud” people, especially when they prefer cold-hearted meanness and even cruelty over consideration for others and being disruptive to constructive, is totally and absolutely predictable, being “maladaptive”, with warning signs well displayed, which we do not seem to heed.

So when will we learn to instead choose the most responsible people for the most responsible roles, from business to politics, government, education, charities, sport and religion, indeed across global society in all its nations and branches, those with the talent and interest in others to drive the entity they are responsible for tactfully, constructively and sustainably forward, rise to not create challenges and by word and deed set an admirable example involving inclusion, encouragement and harmonious collaboration, not the most irresponsible who innately seem to prefer discouragement, dissonant disharmony and (most importantly to them) themselves and their insatiable personal goals to those they are supposed to be leading, guiding, cajoling and persuading, not intimidating, immune to their interests and needs, irrespective of the consequences?

Those only capable of loyalty to themselves lack the fundamental ability to inspire and lead others, unaware of personality deficiencies blatantly apparent to others, unable to set an admirable example for those they should be role models for, incapable of showing a genuine interest in them or even the organisation whose future they are entrusted with, yet risk, being so innately and incredibly consumed by their self-interest and having to personally prevail in every situation that nothing else seems to matter in their peculiar version of reality and truth.

They do excel at one aspect of  “management”. Although poor at managing their own emotions, especially when their self-interest is challenged, no matter how well they do “manage” to hide their true inner coldness and insensitivity behind a “mask of normality”, often composed of Intelligence, Charm and Eloquence, eventually others begin to realise that their talents can be wasted when all they are really interested in is – themselves.

Is it not common sense that demotivated and uninspired employees are unlikely to want to contribute their best, with the highlight of their working day perhaps being going home, sometimes even counting the hours and minutes before they can leave the inhospitable environments which “Disordered Leaders” create, not just at the end of the day but also permanently as they take their talents and enthusiasm elsewhere instead, to environments where their efforts are more likely to be appreciated, more likely to be   fun place to work which “positive psychologists” such as Martin Seligman and Barbara Fredrickson may refer to as “playful” or the Irish as “craic”?

So in closing our discussion of this question, please indulge me if I do so by having some fun with words, taking nothing away from the extremely serious nature of the subject, given that those we have discussed may well transpire to be amongst the most difficult and challenging people others encounter during their entire lives, if not even dangerous, whether within or outside society’s organisations.

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 prioritize 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 tantalizingly 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.

While “Constructive Leaders” are astute enough to try and minimise harm to their people and entity from difficult but necessary decisions and actions, “Destructive Leaders”, being combative by nature, may even like to be ruth-less and actually seek to maximise the damage done to other people and entities, perhaps even take unnecessary decisions and actions, unconcerned with any negative impact or adverse consequences, once they can be seen to “personally prevail”.

How short-sighted can they be?

How counterproductive ruthlessness can transpire to be, although the last people to ever realise this can be the most ruthless themselves. Those who seek “win-lose” may end up as the “losers” when fewer and fewer want to do business or work for them again.

Those lacking in feelings can seem to have no real feeling for how damaging their own behaviour can be, nor appreciate that others may perceive them to be cold, cruel and even sadistic, although unnecessarily harmful and counterproductive.

Society needs to strongly consider when time and time again it appoints such spiteful, vindictive, unforgiving, merciless and malicious people to seniority of position, trusting them with important roles despite their deep and utter untrustworthiness, perhaps scared of their retribution if not granted the power they insatiably crave but ultimately can only abuse; power which their self-centred focus switches to maintaining at any cost, rather than using astutely and constructively for the purpose granted.

Just because “they” can’t seem to learn from their prior experiences and mistakes doesn’t mean the rest of the world shouldn’t from theirs, especially when making the greatest mistake possible by choosing the wrong people for the most important roles, those more interested in “me” than “we” and for whom serious matters become a “game” to be played between “them” and “us”, preferring “win-lose” to “win-win”.

When those who have to deal with those who seem to believe they are the greatest person ever born, would privately prefer they had never been born, there is clearly something wrong and people may well wonder how they were ever trusted with leadership roles when they transpired to be so untrustworthy.

Indeed there is clearly something wrong with those who seem to lack a sense of wrong and their “ability” to engage in “moral reasoning”, or discern right from wrong in many situations, would appear to be no better than that of primary school children.

How “great” can they really be if those who know them well believe them to be quite childlike in nature, having to “get their own way” in every situation and “spit the dummy” or greatly over-react when they don’t, yet their shallow emotions, indeed emotional impoverishment, cold-hearted and ruth-less (sympathy-free) meanness, dearth of empathy, lack of guilt, remorse, fear, compassion and interest in other people (indeed in anyone other than themselves) and inability to love and be loved, contributes to their extraordinarily believing that discouragement, fear, intimidation, disharmony and conflict is preferable to encouragement, praise, harmony and cooperation?

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

There is more than sufficient evidence available to suggest what makes for effective and ineffective leaders, notably those more capable of being constructive than destructive, preferring harmonious cooperation to disharmonious conflict and building rather than damaging relationships, being empathatic and generous peacemakers who make friends out of enemies rather than cold-hearted and mean troublemakers who make enemies out of friends, while making the people they lead feel better, never, ever worse.

Yet we continue to select and elect the most arrogant and conceited to senior positions in society, roles for which they transpire to be incredibly poorly equipped, with quite inevitable and predictable consequences.

We do not need leaders whose primary goal seems to be satisfying their self-interest and, when it suits them, that of their sycophantic cronies, blaming others for their failings, accepting no responsibility for error yet taking credit from others for successes, constantly criticising and diminishing others yet cannot take an iota of rebuke themselves, seeing criticism and persecution when there is none, holding grudges for trivial reasons, unable to forgive or forget yet expect others to forgive them foe their almost unforgivable behaviour, seeking praise but denying others their gratitude, seeking pity but denying others their sympathy, with their innate insensitivity and cruelty masked by their skin-deep charm and clever but meaningless words.

Those “charming liars” who suffer a deep disconnect between their talk, deeds and reality, confuse fact and fiction, are not bothered at all when they lie, deny, distort, deceive and manipulate, struggle to differentiate between right and wrong, seem more interested in themselves than others, thrive on humiliation and see humility as weakness and ruthlessness as strength, demand loyalty but are deeply disloyal to even their most ardent followers and supporters, fundamentally only capable of loyalty to themselves, who have no qualms trying to damage the character of good people who have done them no harm and are unable to apologise when their deceit is “found out”,  together with many other damaging and un-leaderlike traits, should no longer be seen as strong and effective leaders, rather weak, childlike and ineffective (perhaps even “sad, bad and mad” and well worthy of the pity they seek).

Those who seem to inhabit an alternative (delusional and self-centred) world need to be identified and denied the opportunity to damage the (potentially more wonderful) world that the rest of us try to live in as peacefully and collaboratively as possible, preferring fun to fear and harmony to disharmony while making opportunities of our difficulties rather than difficulties out of our opportunities.

What is a “Disordered Leader”? 

Given their deep self-centredness, disinterest in other people or the organisation which employs them and extraordinary impulsivity, let me repeat the definition I proposed for discussion at the IVBEC Business Ethics Conference in Dublin in October 2019:

“Someone trusted with supervisory, managerial or leadership responsibilities

who due to what may be a personality/mental disorder(s)

may be incapable of responsible management or leadership,

including prioritising the interests of stakeholders other than themselves,

 especially when these impede satisfying their self-interest.”

I chose these words carefully over perhaps a year, as this group of people are well capable of giving a good impression and arguing hypothetically and quite plausibly about “the right thing to do” (once this does not impact on them or their self-interest). 

Indeed they can be very adept at talking about “integrity” and could even be worthy of being invited to speak at a business ethics conference, such can be their affinity with finding the most appropriate words for the occasion, which partly explains why they are trusted with senior roles in society in the first place.

However those who know them and their antics well appreciate the extraordinarily deep “disconnect” between their words and deeds; between what they say, commit or promise to do, and what they actually do; as well as the “disconnect” between what they advocate others do and what they may do themselves, which some may describe as “hypocritical”, especially when they lie, deceive and confuse fact with fiction.

For instance, shortly after committing to do “A” they can do “B”, the opposite, perhaps telling no-one in advance, then deny ever promising “A” and argue they actually said they would do “C”, before going on to do “D”.

This can initially confuse those unfamiliar with such tendencies before they learn what to expect.

In due course their unpredictably becomes entirely predictable.

Smart words do not make for smart leadership when words are meaningless and not associated with any real intention to do what has been promised or committed to.

“Talking the talk” is no substitute for actually being capable of “walking the walk”, something which those who speak less arrogantly seem to be far more adept at, meaning what they say, doing their best to keep their promises and apologising when something goes wrong.

People tend to trust those who hold senior positions in society, especially if they are members of respectable professions, until they discover how deeply untrustworthy “Disordered Leaders” can actually be.

Furthermore, when it comes to themselves, especially when satisfying themselves (notably at the expense of others) becomes an issue, and notably when their self-interest is challenged, any consideration of what may be right or wrong in the circumstances or any apparent rational ability to do so, can seem to become disengaged, as they will immediately proceed to impulsively “do whatever it takes to get their own way” and “win at all costs”, inconsiderate of and ignoring the advice of others while apparently oblivious to any adverse consequences for other people, their organisation or (extraordinarily) even themselves.

There is not only psychological but also neuroscientific support for such a claim or assertion, which I have witnessed and experienced so often in industry I don’t doubt its accuracy, although this is of course worthy of further research and scientific verification.

As most organisations do not have the luxury of an MRI scanner in their basement, identifying the “giveaway” of the behaviour “Disordered Leaders” who practice “Destructive Leadership” typically display, becomes of paramount importance if they are to be identified and preferably denied the positions of power they will inevitably abuse, seeking to use it to satisfy themselves rather than the best interests of the organisation they mis-lead.

Indeed identifying the “tell-tale” signs associated with “Disordered Leaders” may deny them the opportunity to do what they do best – “tell tall tales” either about their own abilities and achievements or the fiction they spin when criticising others, given that separating facts from fiction can prove to be one of their greatest challenges, or rather one of the greatest challenges for those who havens option but to deal with their self-centred perversity.

TMS or “Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation”, also known as Repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation when used repeatedly over one region of the brain, is a noninvasive (surface level) form of brain stimulation in which a changing magnetic field is used to cause electric current at a specific area of the brain through electromagnetic induction.

TMS is a “neuromodulatory technique which applies magnetic pulses to the brain via a ‘coil’ head just above a specific area of the head.

“An electric current is delivered to the coil, which acts as the magnetic field generator in the procedure. The generated magnetic field induces an electrical current in the brain. Different coil types are used to elicit different magnetic field patterns, and using more focal points can elicit a deeper magnetic field to stimulate deeper “cortical layers”.

“Stimulation is typically applied at a sufficient intensity to trigger “action potentials in proximate neurons” meaning getting specific groups of neurons to “fire” when they may not others have done so.

After a few decades of useful technology being available, at this stage of neuroscientific research, most brain regions are well known and their primary purposes well documented. However the myriad of connections between them and their variety of secondary purposes are still only partially understood, and in many respects still remain a “mystery”, especially when considering the brains and minds of those with variety of “disorders”, both physical and mental or “cognitive”.

While TMS can be used to stimulate specific brain regions and treat people with the likes of depression, it can also serve a very useful purpose when facilitating the enabling or disabling of specific regions with particular functions, or dysfunctions in those whose actions or behaviour may not be typical of the vast number of people in society.

TMS permits researchers to experiment with temporarily disabling some brain regions from performing normally, or typically, which can help identify certain functions or behaviours and prevent some from playing their usual role during specific experiments. This role or ability can be useful in researching what may be behind dysfunctional behaviour, including for instance that associated with the coldness and lack of emotional warmth as well as supreme self confidence and many other factors associated with hat I describe as “Destructive Leadership”.

There are undoubtedly some managers of “Management Teams” or “Boards of Directors”, especially those whose deliberations are disrespected and even ignored by “Disordered Leaders”, who would pay a small fortune to be able to use a device such as TMS to temporarily disable some of the more irrational or harmful tendencies of such leaders, especially at times of key decision-making.

Indeed it could perhaps be the shareholders who would prefer to disable the more destructive tendencies in those they may well regret appointing to a senior role, given that the person who transpired to be a “Disordered Leader” may be the greatest impediment to the rational progress respected and expected by stock markets, specially the displaying narcissistic tendencies.

A gadget such as a (quite portable TMS) could be all the more important when colleagues  know the decisions of their “Destructive Leader” are unlikely to be made in the best interest of the organisation, unless they happen to coincide with satisfying their personal desires, such as the self-serving whims of the leader (capable of changing from minute to minute), or whatever direction they believe will boost their personal finances (even if this may risk damaged trust or reputation), or their necessity to “win at all costs”, especially in (mind) games against other people to satisfy their mental imperative of having to “get their own way”.

Indeed it is perhaps those leaders whose risky decisions may imperil the success or even survival of the organisation, those I refer to as a “Viability Liability”, who could make the most interesting subjects for neuroscientific research, including whether they experience “fear” in the manner most do and are actually capable of rationally deliberating in situations involving a compromise or balance between “risk and reward”.

For those who have no option but to work with or for such fearless yet fear-inducing people, whose walnut-shaped “amygdalae” may be indicative of a personality well described as being a “tough nut to crack”, they may be interested to know that a “lack of grey matter” is most certainly not a laughing matter, and that an unusual set of” brain connections” is more likely to lead to a disconnected and unnecessarily divisive workplace.

Their extraordinarily dominant impulsivity would make for very interesting electromagnetic research, especially those thought by some to have very “magnetic” personalities. 

This may particularly apply to situations in which those who, at the end of the painfully long working day, their coworkers begin to appreciate that their apparently magnetic charm, which seemed to initially “attract” people to them, may actually transpire to hide darker and more “repulsive” traits in those who seem to lack a “moral compass” and whose “true north” will always point in whatever direction best satisfies their personal desires and ambitions.

There is a simpler alternative “methodology” though to fMRI and TMS and other forms of equipment, perhaps better described as a “remedy”.

Rational decision-makers could avail of their greatest asset – their own responsible, constructive and preferably compassionate, modest and more selfless minds – to avail of work such as mine to identify people likely to be self-centred, contrary, impulsive, perverse and in many other respects divisive and destructive in advance, and thus:

DON’T HIRE OR PROMOTE THEM IN THE FIRST PLACE.

Prevention is far preferable to the improbability of cure.

Whether the “cure” be of their personal deficiencies or the many problems and challenges their “destructive Leadership” creates for whatever entity is unfortunate enough to initially fall for their (apparent) Intellect, Charm and Intelligence, even if they transpire to be ICE-cold, Indifferent to the interests and needs of others or even their entity, highly Combative preferring conflict to collaboration, and who prefer to practice Exclusion of those who they may mistake to be rivals, but may be far more talented and more capable at running the organisation they mis-lead.

Not even an MRI scanner may be able to divulge that what can be referred to by some of their victims as their “magnetic personality”, may actually operate to disguise their truer, darker, more innately devious, manipulative, deceitful and cruel tendencies.

An MRI scanner could be useful though in researching whether those for whom the phrase Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive” could have been written. Given their penchant for deceit and delusion, neuroscientific research might usefully reveal whether the lies that many others know them to be telling may actually be their delusional form of the truth and not in their mind “lies” at all, as well as suggesting quite why they find it so easy to just change their story when caught in a lie.

Indeed if a neuroscientific project could reveal why many believe those I describe as “Disordered Leaders” may lack a conscience, deficient in whatever prevents many others from engaging in unconscionable behaviours, nor experiencing guilt or remorse afterwards or being sufficiently aware of the likely adverse consequences of their actions and decisions, this could prove very worthwhile for the integrity if not sanity of global society, as would an insight into the reason for their “hidden hatreds” especially if these could be less hidden and better understood.

However they would of course be quite likely to try and convince the researchers that they themselves were expert neuroscientists, know more about this field than anyone else on the planet and should in fact be masterminding the research themselves, given that they could well assert that they had already written a number of papers in journals that only their exceptionally imaginative mind is aware of.

The reasons why they can seem to genuinely believe such assertions and so readily confuse fact and fiction would be well worthy of neuroscientific research. If such research often avails of “games” to be played between volunteers, they would be very adept at this given that every area of activity they are involved in, especially business and politics, can seem to them to be a “game to be won”. 

On advance condition that may need to be made is that the MRI scanner would need to be located in the world which everyone else inhabits, not theirs.

Indeed whether their ego would fit inside the narrow confines of an MRI scanner could be as uncertain as the reasons for their unreliability and deceitfulness, their impulsivity and self-centredness, their lack of empathy, remorse, guilt, conscience, warm emotions, ability to love and be loved and disinterest in anyone but themselves.

Getting them to volunteer for research though may pose a challenge, given that they believe there to be nothing wrong with them. However if they were to be persuaded that the research was designed to explain why they were more brilliant than anybody else, the queue or line of senior executives and other well established people in business, politics, government, religion, sport, education and indeed every other conceivable branch of global society may be very long.

Longer indeed than Pinocchio’s nose, with whom they have been favourably compared, not only for their deep affinity with lying, but also their quite wooden, unsympathetic and quite ruthless hearts! 

The “tangled web” phrase is appropriately often “wrongly” attributed to Shakespeare rather then the Scottish author Walter Scott, writing about a challenging man who appeared to have no impediment from engaging in “wrong” behaviour, as he attempted to destroy the character of a love rival, who he accused of treason. Having achieved his devious goal and defeated him in a duel, he lost out when the woman instead (perhaps herself a good judge of character) chose to enter a convent, with the inference being that his lies could start an adverse domino effect of unexpected consequences, something which “Disordered Leaders” can seem to be immune to.

Amongst the key findings likely to show up in a brain scan of “Disordered Leaders”, using a variety of techniques, is that their brains are DIFFERENT from the norm, with some regions larger or smaller than typical, more or less active than normal in specific situations and connections between them impaired or disrupted, which contributes to:

These people being very DIFFERENT from normal.

They appear to see & perceive things DIFFERENTLY.

They experience things & consider matters DIFFERENTLY.

They treat other people DIFFERENTLY.

They behave very DIFFERENTLY from most people in society,

But (critically) may not see themselves as being DIFFERENT…

So all others need to do what they most struggle to do – adapt their own behaviour – to behave, act, react & especially think very DIFFERENTLY in and around them,  notably patiently, calmly, kindly, astutely & predictively to DENY them the trouble they seek in many situations if any semblance of “NORMALITY” is to be permitted… no matter the walk in life.

That is why I strongly argue, amongst many other related suggestions, that:

“Society needs those with empathy who find it easy to love & difficult to hate, not those who find it easy to hate & difficult to love, who experience others as objects not people and are ultimately only interested in themselves, to accept responsibility for its organisations & institutions.”

As I mentioned from the outset, when performing the not so pleasant task of considering amongst the worst people we have met during our careers and indeed lives, it 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

  1. vision to realise how great the group they are responsible for could be, with the
  2. strategic insight to know what direction(s) to take,
  3. perception to not only know how to get there, but when a change of direction may be needed,
  4. integrity to set the right tone at the top,
  5. moral compass to guide everyone in the right direction and avoid short-term gain which may result in longer-term pain, 
  6. honesty to speak truthfully, not deceptively, and only make promises likely to be able to be met,
  7. remorse to be able to know when wrong has or could be done,
  8. 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 
  9. creativity to explore new opportunities,
  10. (emotional) empathy to understand people in all their humanity, 
  11. interest in others to encourage and willingly provide support, 
  12. perception to offer astute guidance and appreciate the importance of trust and reputation,
  13. wisdom to know what new opportunities to explore and what to change and when,
  14. 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, 
  15. 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,
  16. strength to tackle the issues others might ignore and own up to rather than cover up mistakes or wrongdoing,
  17. persistence to surmount obstacles and “never give up” on worthwhile matters which may be in the longer term best interest of all involved,,
  18. resilience to tough out difficulties, remain positive and constructive in seeking to find optimal solutions, 
  19. 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,
  20. 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,
  21. modesty to deflect praise to others. yet accept responsibility for their mistakes,
  22. 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 
  23. charisma which endears people to their leader and makes people feel important, warmly welcomed and appreciated, 
  24. enthusiastic personality which creates the positive culture and sets the
  25. 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 find it easy to love and difficult to hate, rather than those who find it easy to hate and difficult if not impossible to love (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.

Leadership and Management require those whose expertise includes motivation, never, ever humiliation.

Society needs leaders who derive their primary satisfaction from making the people they lead feel better, never, ever worse.

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

Indeed this also applies to any form of responsibility for managing the working lives and emotions of other people, a responsibility which should not and cannot be trusted to those incapable of managing even their own emotions.

Many on the surface who can appear to be Intelligent, Charming and Eloquent, may use these facets to hide a fundamentally ICE-cold interior, lacking the one quality essential in anyone tasked with leading and managing other people – basic humanity.

Those who themselves lack humanity and seem to inhabit a DIFFERENT WORLD from the rest of humanity, need to be denied the opportunity to damage the far better world that everyone else inhabits. Prevention is far preferable to the improbability of cure, and those who prevent such challenging people reaching seniority of position in any role throughout global society could well be doing a far, far better thing than they have ever done before, contributing to a far, far more harmonious environment than they would otherwise have ever known.

Better appreciating and acting on this observation alone, let alone others suggested by this paper, could indeed make the potentially more wonderful world we share a far, far better place, for everyone except the “Takers”.

As far as leadership and management of people are concerned, humility beats humiliation, any day, anywhere. Humility, honesty, generosity of spirit and a lack of arrogance and overt pride is appealing to followers.

Humiliation, arrogance, pride (and other forms of self-centredness) are not only counterproductive in terms of being demotivational (the opposite of what is expected of leaders) but also potentially quite destructive, in that they can damage the very relationships upon which successful organisations are built.

Putting people down, especially in public, endears very few to those who feel the necessity to do so. As “Constructive Leaders” are more than well aware, “Public praise and private criticism” achieves far more and can build rather than damage trust, loyalty, enthusiasm, commitment and relationships, one of the primary roles of leaders of all types of organisations. 

There is no humiliation in humility, nor any humility associated with humiliation.

My fellow Dubliner Oscar Wilde, while attending a very boring dinner, was asked by the hostess whether he was enjoying himself. He replied “madam, it is about the only thing I am enjoying”. As well as dinner guests, Oscar could also have been referring to the best and worst of society’s leaders when he observed that: “some cause happiness wherever they go; others whenever they go”.

As we say in Ireland: “Ní neart go cur le chéile”.

Julian Martin Clarke 2013-2020

Comments welcome to

jmcpsychresearch@gmail.com

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