Psychology of Leadership – What Neuroscience Suggests

Psychology of Leadership

What we can learn from Neuroscience (an introduction)

by Julian Martin Clarke

VANITY MAY NOT EQUATE WITH SANITY

Global society would benefit from better appreciating 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, the opposite of what is expected of managers and leaders, no matter the size, nature or location of the entity.

With leadership associated with “motivating a group of people to achieve common goals”, what can the evolving field of “neuroscience” tell us about the positive or negative impact on people’s minds, behaviour and creativity that arises when they are managed or led by those who are themselves far more expert at either encouragement and motivation or discouragement and demotivation, people this research describes as either “Constructive” or “Destructive Leaders”?

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 behaviour which others could describe as unacceptable and even “wicked”, yet remained absolutely 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 own worst experiences in business but also many apparent conflicts and failures in business and society, from small to major and local to 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 nations 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 any larger entity in national or international society, is that it makes you appreciate the behaviour, traits and probably far more kind and generous mindset associated with the vast majority of people in every nation who could be described as amongst its “best”, especially those who would seek no such acclaim for themselves or the “success” they bring to the groups they manage and lead.

It is extraordinary the number of poor or wrong decisions people and organisations make in the expectation that “no-one will find out” – until others do find out (perhaps due to conscientious whistleblowers ).

This can especially be the case when the decision was forced on others by those this research refers to as “Disordered Leaders” who practice “Destructive Leadership”, or bullies for short, who intimidate their people to the degree that the “management team” fails to function as a “team” at all, indeed may even become redundant as a decision-evaluating entity, especially when the members believe they have no option but to sycophantically follow the lead and opinion set by their “selfish, difficult and proud” boss, notably when the interests of the organisation (or nation) become secondary to satisfying the self-serving whims of the “Disordered Leader” (eg Hitler).

Being “found out” produces the challenging decision whether to “own-up” or “cover-up” and risk further reputational damage, which could so easily have been avoided had the time been taken to properly consider the issues and what may be the real motivations behind the decision(s).

However, for this small (“disordered”) subsection of global society, incapable of “doing the right thing”, which across all sectors of all nations holds a disproportionate number of senior positions requiring responsibility and accountability, their self-interest is their overarching and perhaps sole priority and the lens through which they view all situations, notably from the perspective of “what’s in it for me?”, which contributes to they being amongst the most irresponsible and least accountable people possible and extraordinarily inappropriate for any seniority of position, no matter the nature of the entity or role.

Neuroscientific research  from “brain scans” of  those I refer to as “Disordered Leaders” (using a variety of techniques, some described below) suggests their brains are DIFFERENT from the norm, with some regions larger or smaller than typical, some areas and systems more or less active than normal in specific situations, and with the uncountable myriad of connections between them impaired, which contributes to the critically important observation that:

These people are very DIFFERENT from normal.

They appear to see & perceive things DIFFERENTLY.

They experience things & consider matters DIFFERENTLY.

They experience and treat other people DIFFERENTLY.

They behave very DIFFERENTLY from most people in society.

But (critically) may NOT see themselves as being DIFFERENT… (projecting blame for their failings on other people or circumstances despite seeing no wrong in doing wrong)…

So everyone else involved need to avail of all their skills, talents, tact and peacemaking abilities to do what the troublemakers 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 harmonious “NORMALITY” is to be permitted… no matter the walk in life.

This paper, arising from a decade of research, attempts to begin to bridge a gap which the author believes may have developed between those who research how people OUGHT to behave (justly and considerately with integrity) and those whose expertise is analysing WHY people ACTUALLY behave as they can do in business and indeed throughout global society, both admirably and badly, justly and unjustly, fairly or unfairly, ethically and unethically, morally or immorally, selflessly or selfishly, ruthfully or ruthlessly and in a kind and considerate or inconsiderate and even cruel manner, with a commensurably positive or negative impact on the entities and people they either lead or mis-lead and the variety of factors important for continuing success, not least trust and reputation.

At its most basic, one of the primary conclusions from this research is that ultimately, when many factors are taken into consideration, “GIVERS” being “more interested in others than themselves” make far better, more effective and motivational leaders and managers than “TAKERS” who are fundamentally “more interested in themselves than others”, more likely to discourage, diminish and demotivate than encourage and inspire those unfortunate to work with or for them.

This is quite the opposite of the “motivation of a group of people to achieve common goals” normally associated with “leadership”, typically expected or assumed to be achieved by way of many (unspoken) factors notably encouragement, cooperation, collaboration, harmony, rational progress and “doing the right thing when no-one is looking”, meaning “with integrity”. Such factors though may be taken for granted in most organisations, only appreciated in environments or situations when they are more absent than readily apparent, replaced by the discouragement, conflict, disharmony, irrationality and lack of integrity which this research associates with “Disordered Leaders” who practice “Destructive Leadership”.

Yet global society continues to appoint TAKERS to senior roles, positions associated with responsibility, rationality and a genuine interest in the organisation or nation, its people and sensible and satisfactory progress, not satisfying themselves and their self-interest (their covert priority), with entirely inevitable consequences.

Fortunately their “maladaptive” nature – inflexible and hence predictable – permits decision-makers to familiarise themselves with precisely what to look for to “IDENTIFY AND DENY” such people the positions of power they can only abuse. One of the primary goals of this research was to explains how achievable this is, identifying 400 behavioural traits of narcissistic leaders and 125 ways everyone in their circle can “IDENTIFY AND ADAPT” their own behaviour to diminish the degree of harm their “Destructive Leadership” invariably results in.

It is extraordinary the number of organisations from businesses to non-profits, educational to governmental and religious to sporting 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 if not downright dangerous people in society to mal-manage and mis-lead them, then suffer the further adverse consequences when maintenance of the power they should never have been granted becomes their over-riding priority. 

Yet time and time again all such entities, apparently in every nation and perhaps in every sector of global 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, incredibly even to themselves as many “Disordered Leaders” believe themselves to be entirely “normal” and attribute the plethora of problems they create to anything and everything else, no matter how implausible, perhaps a form of “projection”  practiced by those who may be “delusional”, especially those who “gaslight” and criticise their critics to the degree that it may well be described as “character assassination”.

While “Constructive Leaders” motivate their people to collectively steer their entities sensibly and rationally forward, based on strong foundations of a collaborative and generally harmonious organisational culture, “Destructive Leaders” thrive on disagreement, conflict and irrationality, engender the “Five C’s” of “Counterproductively Competitive and Combative Corporate Cultures”, intimidate and demotivate their people, behave with “consistent irresponsibility” and“emotional impunity”, drive their entities in wrong directions, potentially threatening their future to the degree that many (except themselves, given their gargantuan but misguided self-belief) consider them to be a “viability liability”

Even after their organisation has collapsed, with many people’s lives adversely affected, “Destructive Leaders” (perhaps with a “Personality Disorder”) can still fail to appreciate what they did wrong, especially when they blame their many failings on anything and everyone else, often quite implausibly.

They may believe themselves to be strong and mature, but in reality they are weak and childlike, both behaviourally and emotionally, likened by psychiatrists, psychologists and sociologists to primary school children having to “get their own way”, throwing tantrums and “spitting the dummy” when they don’t, unable to take advice, criticism or do what others request of them, constantly seeking praise yet denying it to those far more worthy, much preferring discouragement to encouragement, demotivation to motivation and disharmony to harmony, being so “emotionally impoverished” that they possess an insatiable need to humiliate and damage the emotions of others.

In time people may begin to notice what may be their true inner coldness and suspect they may be lacking in the warmer and kinder emotions which most people possess, the very essence of “humanity”. 

Yet we continue to make them “leaders”, of organisations, nations and other people, despite they lacking many of the required qualities, as both leaders and emotional beings.

When will we learn?

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.

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 and most creative, seeking cooperation and wanting to fully engage, while when they are scared, fearful or unhappy, they avail of a different and rival set of brain regions (only one of which can appear to be active at any given time) more likely to bring out the worst in them, the response triggered when they are disrespected rather than encouraged by others.

Hence the importance of leaders and managers behaving in a predominantly positive manner – cajoling, encouraging, motivating and even inspiring those they have responsibility for, even when they have not quite performed to their potential, which those with ample “emotional intelligence” are often very well equipped to both realise and practice.

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.

So many of global society’s problems, challenges, disasters, conflicts and wars, past and present throughout human history, would appear to have arisen because we have trusted this small subgroup of society, warmongering troublemakers who thrive on perversity, conflict, disagreement, disrespect and disharmony (upset with harmonious collaboration), being innately overtly and covertly dysfunctional, emotionally shallow (cold, callous and calculating), labile (moody) and unstable, for the lives and emotions of many others, when they cannot even successfully harness or manage their own.

At its most basic, the outlook of “Disordered Leaders” who only know how to practice “Destructive Leadership” is primarily focussed on “me” not “we” or “us” and this guides much of their behaviour.

Until this is fully understood, they will continue to be be misunderstood.

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.

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

“Society Needs those with empathy, well capable of love & incapable of hatred,

not those well capable of hatred & incapable of love, who experience others as objects not people and who are ultimately only interested in themselves,

to accept responsibility for its organisations & institutions”

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.”

My compatriot Oscar Wilde wrote:

“Conscience is the trade name of the firm.”

With some leaders appearing to have a more active conscience than others, when the extremely self-centred traits associated with society’s most “illegitimate leaders” are examined, it could transpire they may not be capable of “moral reasoning” (the process of determining right or wrong in a given situation) beyond the “pre-conventional” level of self-interest which prioritises achieving their own desires, associated by Kohlberg with primary school children, if at all.

Could it be that for some business and societal leaders, irrespective of “race nation, tribe and language”, self-interest is not an option they willingly choose, rather is their prevailing state of mind?

What are the implications for society if some such people managing and even leading organisations and nations may be incapable of reasoning morally beyond the stage associated with primary school children?

What if such people are mistakenly chosen for leadership roles when they lack the fundamental ability to manage their own emotions, let alone accept responsibility for the welfare of those they are tasked with leading, their organisation and its role in society?

Talking the talk is no substitute for actually being capable of walking the walk. Indeed in their case there may be a deep disconnect between their talk, deeds and reality.

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

Those who seem to thrive on disturbing harmony and prefer conflict to cooperation and discouragement to encouragement may even be disturbed themselves.

Those who have no option but to associate with such people well appreciate that, when dealing with those who may themselves be disturbed, there is nothing to be gained from disturbing them. 

Indeed quite the contrary, as coping with those who thrive on being contrary can involve keeping them on an even keel, praising them when unwarranted and not rising to the bait when they criticise, demean and humiliate others they are employed to encourage and motivate.

What constitutes a “Disordered Leader”  could be one of global society’s best kept secrets, given the number of business and national leaders capable of being so diagnosed by professional psychiatrists and psychologists, in the unlikely event they ever meet.

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

The definition I proposed for discussion at the US Vincentian Universities annual IVBEC Business Ethics Conference, held 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.”

The task of identifying this small sub-group of society is compounded by their supremely confident ability to “talk the talk” and give “lip-service” support to whatever others expect of them in their role, including showing an interest in the Organisation itself and the People they are tasked with leading, while this suits them.

This though will transpire to be pure pretence as they are fundamentally and innately only interested in themselves, with their (covert) priority being satisfying their self-interest, sometimes in a quite premeditated and planned manner and on other occasions quite impulsively.

Being superb actors and often quite “Intelligent, Charming and Eloquent” (as well as ICE-cold emotionally, their lack of compassion facilitating their ruth-less-ness), their pretence can include faking an interest in Values Statements, Codes of Conduct, Mission, Integrity, Transparency, Social Responsibility, Human Resources and Personal Development, Education & Training, Core Values, Climate Change, Public Relations, Stakeholder Relationships and many other noble and well-intentioned attempts to create a culture of respect, honesty and unity of purpose throughout the entity, even if such interest may transpire to have been shallow, pure pretence and readily dropped when it clashes with impulsively satisfying their self-interest, irrespective of any adverse consequences for other people or the business, organisation or even nation they mis-lead.

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  LEARNow to behave differently towards them (“denying narcissistic supply”),
4  MINIMISE the damage & havoc they will inevitably create, and ultimately
5  DENY them positions of influence & responsibility throughout global society.

How can we IDENTIFY such people in advance and DENY them the power they can only abuse?

How can those unfortunate to work with and for such people IDENTIFY them for who they really are and ADAPT their own behaviour to diminish the real harm they can do, to other people’s emotions and lives, to interpersonal trust and organisational or national reputation?

For starters, we need no longer be impressed by their impressive words nor charmed by their apparent charisma.

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 at people management and rational leadership, indeed at much of what is required of leaders, with their main talent being their ability to blow their own trumpet.

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 organizations 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, misinterpreting 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 Intelligence (even if they transpire to be ICE-cold), referred to by some of their victims as their “magnetic personality”, which essentially provide a “mask of normality” to hide their truer, darker, more innately devious and cruel tendencies.

The fact that the most “ruth-less” (meaning sympathy-free) have been shown to so readily and perhaps unwittingly and naturally engage in high levels of pathological lying and deceit, cunning manipulation and egocentric, callous and impulsive behaviour, characterised by a consistent lack of responsibility, empathy, kindness, remorse and conscience, are also well versed in using their charm, confidence, eloquence and arrogance to hide their true traits even from experienced psychologists, poses many challenges for global society, and has done for millennia, especially when they believe themselves to be “normal” and see nothing wrong with words and deeds which many other people wouldn’t or couldn’t even countenance. 

At its most basic, “Disordered Leaders” drive their entities (businesses, governmental, educational, sporting, religious and indeed all areas of human activity) at full speed, taking short-cuts only they can see down cul-de sacs or one-way streets in the opposite direction from everyone else, accelerating through red lights and pedestrian crossings in uniquely designed vehicles from a specialist “megalomania” manufacturer whose apparently exciting and dynamic (but ultimately disappointing and over-rated) model range includes “selfish, difficult and proud” (offering personalised registration plates “SDP 001”), “delusional”, “impulsive”, “deceitful”, “combative”, “maladaptive”, “irresponsible”, “tactless”, “warmonger”, “motor mouth” and (their best sellers) “untrustworthy” and “troublemaker”, with their recently revamped top model now renamed from “parallel world” to “paranoid” and its supercharger replaced by a self-charging hybrid which seamlessly switches between “apparently normal”, “shallow charm” and “deeply destructive” modes, without any apparent warning to passengers, other road users and often even the “SDP” driver themselves, especially owners of the exclusive “impulsive” model.

All versions  feature tunnel vision (with no need for windscreen-wipers), darkened windows so no-one else can look in and understand who (or what) is driving, if anyone actually is, lacking a reverse gear, neutral, park, mirrors, brakes, bumpers/fenders, warning lights, indicators (allowing the drivers to change lanes without advance notice), adaptive cruise control (as their drivers are “maladaptive”) or steering wheel, with the optional “emotional heater” stuck on cold, typically driven by the most dangerous drivers on the (overheating) planet at night with no lights on, ignoring the warnings of their far more astute and emotionally intelligent passengers and driving instructors (before they are consigned to the boot/trunk), which inspires “Disordered Leaders” to do the opposite of what their advisers suggest while severely criticising their character, often quite fictitiously, for the sheer thrill of the experience, unconcerned whether they crash and burn the entity they were mistakenly trusted with leading.

Although the “Disordered Leaders” regularly tell people loudly (indeed anyone who will listen as they like talking about themselves, their favourite person) they have won many grand-prix and are world champions, they probably haven’t even passed their driving test. They may even have failed it many times, as they do the people and organisations which trust them to provide responsible leadership, which they are innately incapable of providing.

While they believe they are the most extraordinarily talented person ever born, those who cross their paths and have no option but to work with or for them, wish they never had been.

After wrecking one entity, they move on to cause initially quite subtle and then increasingly more covert havoc elsewhere, appearing at first to have many of the the right credentials although this transpires to be a sham, given that their greatest talent is acting, deceiving, manipulating and fiction-spinning, while pretending to be competent, responsible, rational, truthful and normal, which they totally believe themselves, although no-one else who has experienced their relationship-damaging, trust-destroying, reputation-impairing, self-centred, emotionally incontinent and delusionally “Destructive Leadership” would or could concur.

Extraordinarily many organisations, misled by their shallow charm, smart words and false promises, disconnected from reality or subsequent action, continue to trust those incapable of successfully managing their own emotions with responsibility for the lives, welfare and emotions of others.

But as they are identifiable, prevention is preferable to the improbability of cure.

Due to their “maladaptive” nature, including the inflexibility of their mindset, to those who understand them well, their apparently peculiar, irrational and bizarre behaviour, not focused on “doing the right thing” for the organisation (or nation) they mis-lead, becomes quite predictable, which means when their traits are more universally understood and appreciated (the primary goal of this research), they CAN be denied the power and influence they will inevitably mis-use, irrationally in a manner which they (perhaps delusionally) perceive to benefit themselves and facilitate satisfying their main goal and only true passion in life – their self-interest.

This is especially so when their victory (even in trivial matters) both advantages themselves and disadvantages others, given that they greatly prefer “win-lose” to the “win-win” outcomes most leaders aspire to achieving.

Their polar opposite in almost every respect –  “Constructive Leaders” – recognise that when both parties are satisfied with the outcome arising from any situation, this is more likely to  result in healthy and ongoing relationships, perhaps of white a long-term nature involving a significant degree of both “repeat business” and the “word of mouth referrals” that all successful business require, which are most certainly and in due course very evidently NOT the concern of “Disordered Leaders” especially when they impulsively seek “Instantaneous Personal Gratification” from any given situation, being more motivated by “win-lose” than the “win’win” outcomes sought by more innately rational people, whatever their role in society may be.

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 and most creative, seeking cooperation and wanting to fully engage, while when they are scared, fearful or unhappy, they avail of a different and rival set of brain regions (only one of which can appear to be active at any given time) more likely to bring out the worst in them, the response triggered when they are disrespected rather than encouraged by others.

Hence the importance of leaders and managers behaving in a predominantly positive manner – cajoling, encouraging, motivating and even inspiring those they have responsibility for, even when they have not quite performed to their potential, which those with ample “emotional intelligence” are often very well equipped to both realise and practice.

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.

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 “5C environments” involving “Counterproductively Competitive & Combative Corporate Cultures” may well describe the resulting environment as “Paradise Lost”.

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

However the acceptance of low integrity by leaders of a lesser calibre ensures instances are permitted and hence more likely to recur by the more combative, fearful and destructive nature of the culture prevalent within their organisation.

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”.

Indeed there may be something “wrong” with those who see nothing “wrong” with wanting to make others feel bad, quite the opposite of what society expects of anyone in any form of supervisory, managerial or leadership role.

The “elephant in the room” in such cases may well be that it is the rude, arrogant, inappropriate and discouraging behaviour associated with “Destructive Leaders” (especially when they show little or no appreciation to or real interest in those they manage or lead), which leads to “sub-par” performance in those capable of far better.

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.

Yet time after time every sector of global society continues to choose the most inappropriate, irresponsible and untrustworthy people for its most senior and responsible roles, those for which they are (innately) deeply, utterly and fundamentally ill-equipped, with entirely inevitable and highly predictable consequences.

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.

Charles Dickens may have concluded “A Tale of Two Cities” with:

“It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known”

but in considering “A Tale of Two Leaders” it is far, far better that organisations, entities and nations choose “Constructive Leaders” over “Disordered Leaders”, as the “Destructive Leadership” they malpractice may well satisfy their dysfunctional personal desires and ambitions, but is unlikely to allow those unfortunate to work with or for them any form of rest of body, mind or spirit and may well damage their emotional and even physical well-being, which is simply not their concern, with their unique focus being on themselves and satisfying their self-interest.

In extremes they may even derive personal pleasure from belittling, disparaging, humiliating, demotivating and causing emotional damage to those who work with and for them.

Yet leaders are expected to “motivate a group of people to maximise their efforts towards achieving a common purpose”.

So why do many entities choose leaders who thrive on many forms of “demotivation”, resulting in too many followers not “maximising their efforts” nor being as fully committed to the cause as they might be, had they instead been inspired to do so by far more astute (and selfless) leaders?

“Emotional Intelligence” (or EQ) is the ability to (a) “recognise, understand and manage our own emotions” while (b) simultaneously being able to “recognise, understand and (positively) influence the emotions of others”.

So why do so many entities choose leaders and managers who (a) cannot successfully manage their own emotions, perhaps with temper outbursts and intolerance of others the norm, especially when they are unable to accept criticism or alternative viewpoints to their own, and (b) who are unwilling or unable to understand other people as real people with their own feelings and desires and (even more damning) prefer to negatively rather than positively “influence the emotions of others”?

That 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”.

People who are disinterested in the interests and needs of other people should not be trusted with responsibility for other people, yet society continues to choose such self-centred people for senior roles.

I should not have had to add the word “positive” to the definition of emotional intelligence as it is assumed or expected that those with responsibility for leading and managing other people will “recognise, understand and influence the emotions of others” in a positive and constructive rather than negative and destructive manner.

Lacking the ability to “recognise, understand and (positively) influence the emotions of others” is one matter, but deriving personal pleasure from belittling and humiliating other people and in effect damaging their emotions is quite another.

Yet such situations are far too common throughout the institutions of global society, evidenced by the numbers of people for whom their highlight of their day is going home after a dissatisfying working experience, especially when they are ridiculed and allowed to feel diminished, incompetent, inadequate and treated as being of little or no importance, quite the opposite of  “motivating a group of people to maximise their efforts towards achieving a common purpose”.

Which is why (again at its most basic) I strongly argue that Society Needs leaders and managers who themselves feel good from making others feel good, never bad, considered to be indicative of a “Personality Disorder”.

An inability to seek and listen to advice, or accept criticism constructively, or accept the suggestions or ideas of anyone other than themselves, associated not only with the most arrogant and stubborn, who believe they are always right and everyone else wrong, but also Personality Disorder(s), making the “management teams” they disrespect almost redundant as a forum for discussion, debate and informed decision-making, resulting in “Destructive  Leaders” (whose priority is “getting their own way”) not only bullying, intimidating, frustrating and demotivating their people, but (even more damaging, if this is possible) steering their entities in the wrong direction, down a one-way street from which they may not be able to return.

When the main beneficiaries from their mal-leadership are their competitors, there is clearly something wrong, even if they may be the last to realise this themselves.

So why are such “viability liability” people chosen to mis-lead when their track record throughout history is so appalling, from business disputes and failures to conflicts and even wars between nations?

Does Dickens, like many authors whose works have proved to be timeless, with his deep understanding of human nature, need to send spirits of Past, Present and Future when there is ample evidence from both the Present and Past that the Future can be damaging if not dangerous and destructive when anyone other than highly responsible and trustworthy “Constructive Leaders” are trusted with responsibility for the many organs of global society?

Just because “Disordered Leaders” cannot learn from their prior experiences, notably their mistakes which they consequently repeat time and time again, doesn’t mean that the rest of global society shouldn’t from theirs when they appoint perhaps the most inappropriate and irresponsible people possible to its most important and responsible positions, with entirely predictable and inevitable consequences.

If Charles Dickens could identify this, so too can the rest of society today.  

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, speaking adversely about them being their back or even firing them for no apparent reason. 

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? 

The FUTURE can be far brighter, more cooperative, collaborative, creative, harmonious, positive and peaceful when we learn from the PRESENT and PAST how to identify the world’s most overt and covert TROUBLEMAKERS for what really are, a task which will test the tact, patience and ingenuity of its most talented PEACEMAKERS, well capable of identifying “DISORDERED” people and denying them the power they will inevitably abuse. Prevention is far preferable to the improbability of cure.

At its most basic, global society needs leaders whose expertise includes making other people feel good about both themselves and their contribution, being predominantly encouraging by nature.

It most certainly does not need those who derive personal pleasure and feel good about themselves by way of making others feel bad, notably by discouraging, disparaging and even humiliating them. The preponderance of such “destructive” behaviour in organisations throughout all sectors global society has contributed to a belief that negative behaviour towards other people is an acceptable form of both management and leadership.

It isn’t and never will be, especially now that neuroscientific research suggests that there are many advantages arising from:

  1. positive rather than negative emotional arousal;
  2. hormonal or endocrine arousal of the “parasympathetic nervous system” (rather than the “sympathetic nervous system” or the “fight or flight” response to stressful situations) depending on whether experiences are pleasant or unpleasant and positive or negative, and

  3. neurological activation of the brain regions associated with the “default mode network” (rather than the “task positive network” associated with attention-demanding tasks, analysis and problem solving) which enables people to be open to new ideas, other people and emotions, as well as considering the moral perspective of situations.

Essentially when people are predominantly in a “good mood” they perform better as individuals, are more likely to be cooperative in a social context and the group as an entirety will be more capable of proceeding with constructive organisational change.

When people are under more regular stress, which they can be in the workplace, not only are they not at their best but they may be under a degree of cognitive, perceptual and emotional impairment.

Their peripheral vision is greatly diminished from the more normal 180 to 270 degrees to as low as 30 degrees. Not only will they be less capable of “thinking straight” and their capacity for creativity and idea-generation diminished, but when exposed to new ideas or any form of change they are more likely to react with rejection rather than acceptance, which they may be more willing to consider when they are more “open-minded”.

Yet far too many workplaces involve far greater levels of stress than necessary, which this research strongly argues is totally counterproductive, especially when the stress is a result of the “Destructive” behaviour of “Disordered Leaders”, who are more likely to trigger the body’s “Sympathetic Nervous System”, starting with the amygdala within a split second of the adverse situation, before our conscious thought is even aware of the situation.

The amygdalae (right and left) are usually associated with emotion, behaviour and the processing of fear, but also seem to play a role in orchestrating emotional responses to both positive and negative stimuli and forming memories of both.

Nevertheless significant activation of the amygdalae together with other brain regions, especially those in the limbic system, are more associated with fear and negative emotions, which should not be the goal of anyone in managerial or leadership roles in any branch of society.

Of course difficult situations arise in business and organisational life, but the role of managers and leaders is to manage these matters calmly, effectively, astutely, constructively and productively, not create problems and challenges themselves to the detriment of not only everyone else involved but ultimately potentially the harmonious progress, success or even viability of the organisation itself.

Have you ever noticed how you can’t tell a selfish person they are selfish, as they just can’t seem to be able to see this for themselves?

Even when informed of their “selfish streak” by exasperated and maybe concerned others (even with the best of intentions), they fail to grasp the real significance.

They are who they are and behave the way they always have done – prioritising themselves and predominantly considering matters from the perspective of “what’s in it for me?”

Likewise it can be as impossible to explain to someone lacking in empathy and emotional depth, because they cannot properly appreciate something they have never had, especially when this involves aspects of kindness, compassion, sympathy and the warm feelings most can experience from saying or doing something which brings a smile to the face of another.

They are who they are and behave the way they always have done – treating others with disrespect varying from a lack of appreciation for their efforts to outright humiliation, as ultimately other people just aren’t that important at all and their interests and needs are irrelevant.

Yet these two factors – an innate self-centredness and a lack of warm emotions – with other related traits, notably huge self-belief and supreme confidence bordering on arrogance, whether warranted or not, can determine the nature of the workplaces they manage or lead and whether the “culture” is warmly hospitable, welcoming, harmonious, cooperative and encouraging or coldly discouraging, competitive, combative and even hostile, quite the opposite of what is expected of those in positions of authority – motivating people to perform well both individually and collectively and collaborate towards achieving group or organisational goals, usually by way of excelling at servicing those the entity was established to serve and indeed prioritise, not themselves and their insatiable self-interest.

These are amongst the reasons why the personality of leaders is important, with organisations better served by GIVERS “more interested in others than themselves” than TAKERS “more interested in themselves than others.”

In due course, however, it may become more apparent that no matter how well they succeed at masking their true tendencies, perhaps fooling most of the people most of the time, TAKERS are fundamentally not only solely interested in themselves, but incapable of showing a genuine interest in anyone else.

Other people exist to be used, abused and dismissed when they have served their purpose of being useful to the most self-centred, or have dared disagree with them, or just held a different opinion on any matter, when they can be mercilessly disparaged, slandered and have their good name damaged (described by psychologists as a “borderline distortion campaign” or “psychopathic character assassination”) by those lacking many of the more admirable character traits themselves, apparent to almost everyone except themselves.

Given that TAKERS can be expert actors, this “discovery” of their true selfishness, disinterest in others, penchant for conflict and trouble, and maybe even cruelty, is usually made too late, especially when they take self-centred decisions rather those in the best interests of the entity they mis-lead and in so doing may do more harm than good.

When they adversely alter the strategic direction and disrupt operational harmony, perhaps ignoring the advice of colleages, they may threaten the success or even survival of the group at large and may even need to be seen as a “VIABILITY LIABILITY”.

Even after their organisation has collapsed, with many people’s lives adversely affected, such cold and mean-hearted people can still wonder what they did wrong, immune to the consequences of their mal-leadership and untroubled by the trouble they have caused, which they may even enjoy.

This makes it all the more imperative that they are identified in advance by responsible others and denied the opportunity to demotivate people and damage relationships, rather than respect, encourage and motivate people and (at minimum) safely and successfully lead organisations in the right direction.

“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 significant self-praise and penchant for criticism and conflict, which can result in a variety of forms of disharmony and disorder, including the havoc which can arise from one-sided conversations in the absence of reasonable discourse and a lack of clarity in future direction, especially when this can change (dependent on the whims of the “leader”) on a daily or even hourly basis.

The American Psychological Association defines “normality” as “a broad concept that is roughly the equivalent of mental health. Although there are no absolutes and there is considerable cultural variation, some flexible psychological & behavioural criteria can be suggested:

  1. freedom from incapacitating internal conflicts;
  2. the capacity to think & act in an organised & reasonably effective manner;
  3. the ability to cope with the ordinary demands & problems of life;
  4. freedom from extreme emotional distress, such as anxiety, despondency & persistent upset; and
  5. the absence of clear-cut symptoms of mental disorder, such as obsessions, phobias, confusion & disorientation.”

In the organisational context “normality” could refer to those who are “well capable of genuinely wanting the organisation they work for to succeed & the people who work with or for them to thrive in the pleasant and collaborative environment they contribute to”, which with many other matters this research generally associates with “Constructive Leaders”.

In stark contrast, 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 and talk themselves into seniority of positions for which they could not be more fundamentally ill-equipped, being deeply self-centred, irresponsible and untrustworthy.

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

Perhaps their greatest deficiency is their inability to understand other people as real people, no different from inanimate objects or “possessions” such as their phone, home or car, being fundamentally cold by nature and lacking truly warm and generous emotions, facilitating their behaving in a callous and “ruth-less” (meaning “sympathy-free”) manner.

Lacking the ability to love and be loved or share compassion does not prevent them from seeking pity for themselves (“poor me, everyone is behaving badly towards me” / “out to get me”), constantly critical of others yet incapable of accepting an iota of criticism without a volcanic over-reaction, contributing to “Disordered Leaders” being far better at feeling and expressing hatred (holding lifetime grudges against people even for trivial reasons) and innately being more adept at “encouraging” dissent and disunity, while simultaneously spreading hatred between individuals and groups.

Society really needs to recognise that it needs leaders for whom empathy comes easily and hatred is near impossible, rather than those for whom hatred comes easily and empathy with others is near impossible.

Indeed one of the main conclusions from my decade of research into “Disordered Leaders” and the stark differences between those who practice “Destructive” or “Constructive Leadership” is 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.”

No matter how well “Disordered Leaders” succeed in hiding their true inner coldness, often by way of (apparent) Intelligence, (shallow) Charm and (insincere) Eloquence (as their smart words are totally disconnected from promises or actions), their ICE-cold nature eventually surfaces when they or their self-interest is challenged.

Given that “getting their own way” and “winning at all costs” are their (covert) primary motivations in life, when these are in any way challenged their nature is so extraordinarily impulsive and their urge to “win” is so strong that observers may consider that they seem to have disengaged all other mental faculties and bypassed brain regions associated with rational decision-making.

This research describes their deep umpilsivity as their “IPG-imperative”, appearing to cognitively ignore all other factors to achieve “Instantaneous Personal Gratification”, irrespective of the cost to or consequences for other people/stakeholders, the entity they mis-lead and (incredibly)  even themselves, as they can transpire to be the most damaged by their impetuous desire to satisfy themselves, especially when this is at the expense of others.

Rational thought (if they ever possessed this faculty in the first place, which many who work with or for “Disordered Leaders” are given frequent “reason” to doubt), with their whims changing on a daily or hourly basis, appears to be totally suspended when they are suddenly afforded the opportunity to “get their own way”.

It would not be a surprise to those who have no option but to work with or for “Disordered Leaders”  (or even those who observe the sometimes subtle or often highly apparent “bizarre” nature of their behaviour, words, actions, discussions, decisions and mis-deeds), to be informed that neuroscientists believe their brains differ from those of most other people in society, with some regions larger or smaller than typical and the huge number of connections between them somehow either disrupted, disengaged, bypassed or accelerated.

They can often be Intelligent, Charming and Eloquent, but eventually their intelligence can transpire to be misused when seen to prioritise achieving personal goals, their Charm like their emotions can be seen to be shallow and insincere, and their Eloquence be seen to be just that – smart words with no real connection with actions (past, present or future) – nor with any actual intention to do what they say they will, with commitments and promises quite meaningless and just as likely to change within the hour as their opinions, commands, whims and recollection of situations when these differ from others present.

This can leave almost everyone else quite confused and not knowing who or what to believe, until they gradually begin to realise how deceitful and manipulative such challenging people can be.

They are only interested in others while they believe they may be of use to them, especially while they may serve a purpose of contributing to their satisfying their primary goals of “getting their own way” and “winning at all costs”, totally inconsiderate of the consequences for other people, the organisation which employs them and (extraordinarily) even themselves, such is the degree of their impulsivity and inability to take the advice of others, which they may prefer to do the opposite of, nor weigh up what may be the right or wrong thing to do in situations, especially when their self-interest may be challenged, with their level of “moral reasoning” and indeed other aspects of their behaviour likened to that of primary school children.

They are always right and everyone else wrong. Indeed this can sometimes appear to be the limit of their sense of right and wrong, especially when they seem to be incapable of learning from their prior experiences, notably their mistakes, which they thus keep repeating. Groundhog Day Everyday.

Indeed there must be something wrong with those lacking a sense of wrong.

This makes it all the more wrong to trust them with positions of responsibility, especially those which may require ethical judgement, including postponing the opportunity for short-term gain when this may result in longer-term pain such as eroded trust and damaged reputation, recognised by Socrates and likened to a fire – far easier to keep lit than try to relight when permitted to be extinguished.

They can be expert criticisers, blaming everyone and anything else for their own failings,  but cannot take an iota of criticism without a significant and perhaps even volcanic overreaction.

Being “emotionally labile” (or moody), everyone else learns to avoid being critical of them and “walk on eggshells” in their presence.

They can be cold, mean-hearted and ruth-less (sympathy-free) and seem to lack the ability to understand other people in an emotional manner. Although they believe they can, they can’t and probably never will, failing to appreciate they have little or no (emotional) empathy, not realising they lack something they have never possessed, like a conscience, which may explain some of their deeply unconscionable behaviour.

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

They seek pity for themselves, especially when they believe others are “out to get them”, indeed can behave in quite a pitiful manner (apparent to everyone except themselves), yet are incapable of showing concern for or sympathy to others, even when most appropriate and required.

They may even be at their happiest when making others unhappy and can be unhappy seeing others happy, so they can derive pleasure from disturbing harmony and can thrive in damaging the reputation of those who have done no wrong at all nor to them.

They can hold grudges and hate other people for little or no apparent reason, then be incapable of apologising when their many forms of manipulation and deceit are “found out”.

They seem to enjoy lying, see matters quite differently from others and may even be incapable of differentiating between fact and fiction.

They don’t say “sorry”, not only “too proud” but because they feel no remorse or guilt for words and actions which others couldn’t even contemplate.

They struggle to genuinely praise people, even for considerable achievements, instead can find some opportunity for critique, yet  can constantly seek praise for themselves. When not being praised by others they can engage in considerable self-praise, so everyone else learns to praise them even when this may be totally unwarranted and quite inappropriate.

An Irish wit laughs saying they were born with extra-long arms so they can clap themselves on the back, although for those who have to deal with them, this is no laughing matter.

These are the kind of traits associated with a variety of “Personality Disorders”.

Extraordinarily these are also the kind of people global society chooses to lead other people and organisations, although incapable of kindness.

Such “destructive” people are far too often trusted with positions of responsibility throughout international society, although both deeply untrustworthy and highly irresponsible, given their penchant for troublemaking, conflict, many forms of disharmony and damaging rather than developing relationships.

When will we learn?

Indeed when considering such people it may not be too “basic” to suggest that 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. 

Getting to understand such challenging people does permit others to:

(a) deal differently with them and adapt their own behaviour to diminish the harm they can do,

(b) identify them in advance to deny them the positions of power they can only abuse and will prioritise maintaining, no matter the cost to others or the organisation (or nation) they mis-lead, and

(c) make them appreciate almost everyone else, especially those “Constructive Leaders” with a genuine interest in other people and the entity they responsibly lead, whose pride is derived not from speaking of themselves and taking credit for the achievements of others, rather praising, encouraging and motivating “their people” to want to perform well and achieve the goals of the group or entity, deflecting credit for achievements to others yet accepting responsibility for their mistakes (which they own up to rather than try to cover up), while taking rational and “constructive” decisions likely to benefit both the entity and as many stakeholders as possible (not just in the short term), thus creating an admirable and progressive “culture”, building trust and enhancing reputation, all of which they take in their stride.

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” who practice “Destructive Leadership” 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”.

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 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.

Indeed while most people are at their happiest seeing others happy, especially as a result of something they have said or done, there are also those who can be at their happiest seeing and especially making others unhappy.

Those who have experienced such people in organisational life and seen the damage they can do to groups that used co-operate  and collaborate but now can be “at each others’s throats” given the conflict that such people thrive on, may well wonder why some encourage cooperation and others spread conflict?

It should be unnecessary to suggest that global society and its many types of organisations need managers and leaders who make friends out of enemies rather than enemies of of friends.

Nor should it be necessary to suggest that those in positions of responsibility should be those who find it easy to love and be be loved and impossible to hate, rather than those for whom hatred and enmity comes naturally and love and kindness are near-impossible, indeed which they may also see as a sign of weakness, which actually describes those who are innately “ruth-less” meaning compassion or sympathy-free. 

But these suggestions are alas necessary because a  small minority of society – those with a specific range of Personality Disorders – thrive more on troublemaking and conflict than peacemaking and cooperation and prefer disharmony  to harmony.

Not being equipped with the full range of “warm emotions”, such as being lacking or even deficient in both empathy and emotional intelligence, people this research refers to as “Disordered Leaders”, the outcomes arising from their “Destructive Leadership” will inevitably not transpire to be what those who selected or elected imagined would be the case when they were initially chosen, often because they appeared to be Intelligent, Charming and Eloquent, even if they were subsequently discovered to be “ICE-cold”.

This can especially be the case when they then go to “any lengths”, irrespective of the consequences for other people or the organisation they mis-lead, to maintain or  hold on to the positions of power they crave but cannot perform in the manner expected, potentially going on to cause even more damage and perhaps wreak further havoc, no matter the nature of the entity or the nation, race or culture they inhabit, forcing many others to ponder “what is really going on here?” as their behaviour can well differ from what many would consider to be”the norm”, or indeed “normal”.

Fortunately it is their very “maladaptive” or inflexible nature which can make them highly predictable, but only when others learn what traits, behaviour, words and (mis) deeds to look for.

So what may actually be happening positively or negatively in the minds, brains, emotions and bodies of people who are either respected or disrespected by Constructive or Destructive managers and leaders?

When people are made to feel good or bad, experience positive or negative feelings, what is actually happening in their brains?

As it transpires advances in neuroscience techniques over the last generation or so have allowed researchers to form the opinion that different brain regions and indeed collections and connections between brain regions referred to as “systems” are either activated, deactivated or remain inactive during experiences with people who make them feel good or bad.

From studies which asked business executives to recall experiences with “Constructive Leaders”, one finding was that our “mirror neuron networks” seem to be activated when recalling satisfactory experiences with “Constructive Leaders” and deactivated or suppressed when recalling less favourable experiences with “Destructive Leaders”.

Mirror neurons were first discovered when macaque monkeys were shown humans or other monkeys performing motor tasks, such as using their hands to do something. An unexpected finding was that certain brain regions were activated not only when the monkeys performed the task, but also when they saw others doing the same thing.

Humans were then also found to activate certain brain regions when watching someone else perform a goal-directed action, which has led researchers to believe that something similar happens when people are perceiving the intentions of others and understanding the feelings of others and thus may be the foundation for empathy and communication.

Like many areas of neuroscience, damage to mirror neurons may help inform why some people with specific disabilities struggle with communication, so could even explain why some managers are ineffective, especially in their inability to properly understand and communicate with those they are supposed to be leading.

So Constructive Leaders with the ability to inspire others seem to be capable of activating the mirror neurons of those they lead, while those who fail to inspire or maybe even terrify them, Destructive Leaders, do not.

Another finding was that emotions are contagious, both positive and negative, which allows for social interaction.

By way of a process of behavioural mimicry, people are able to pick up the behaviour of others, which they can then replicate or repeat.

However people are also able to pick up the emotions of others by way of a process called emotional contagion. For instance our ability to sense the good or bad mood or sadness or joy of another is an extremely quick split-second automatic reaction by way of our von Economo or spindle cell neurons which contribute to the ability of people to transmit and receive emotions.

The extension of this, especially in groups, is social contagion which doesn’t just pick up on the behaviour and emotions of others, but also when these change. So when others see someone change their behaviour, such as giving up cigarettes, they are capable of changing their own as a result.

Emotional contagion is constantly happening, such as in a (less inspirational) meeting when one person yawns or folds their arms, others may quickly do the same.

This has an impact on management and leadership. With followers watching their leader more closely than the leader is capable of watching the larger group of followers, what the leader says or does is more likely to be contagious amongst the group than what any one follower may say or do.

Emotional contagion is therefore fundamental to building or rebuilding successful relationships and is thus one of the key ingredients of more effective leadership, given that those we describe as “Constructive Leaders” are not only “in tune” with their own emotions but are also capable of sensing and responding appropriately to the emotions of others.

This also supports one of the main arguments of this research, which is that emotionally shallow “Disordered Leaders” cannot or should not be trusted with the responsibility for the lives and emotions of those they are tasked with leading, when they may be unable to manage even their own emotions.

This is especially if they are “emotionally labile” or moody, blowing hot and cold and forcing followers to be constantly “walking on eggshells” in their presence.

In such instances it is the followers who need to be particularly emotionally aware, to keep the leader and indeed entire group on an even-keel, given the inability or mental deficiency of the leader to be aware of their own and the emotions of those they lead.

In these situations, “managing upwards” may never be more required or indeed more challenging and it is the “hemodynamic sympathetic systems” of the followers which need to be activated, especially when they leader may be incapable of sympathy.

There are two brain systems that seem to act like a see-saw, one up when the other is down and vice versa.

One is the “Task Positive Network” which is the part of the brain that allows us to focus on attention-demanding tasks and engage in analysis and problem solving

The downside of the activation of the TPN is that our capacity to be creative and engage in social interaction is diminished. This is because the see-saw effect means activation of the “Task Positive Network” seems to operate in parallel with the deactivation of the “Default Mode Network”.

When people engage in social tasks, such as being kind, helping others or seeking help, they activate the Social Network which is a part of the Default Mode Network in their brain. This set of connected regions enables people to be open to new ideas, other people and emotions, as well as considering the moral perspective of situations.

The Default Mode Network, also known as the Default Network or Default State Network, like the Task Positive Network, is a network of brain regions which interact and are highly correlated with each other and distinct from other networks, including being negatively correlated with the Task Positive Network.

It is known as the Default Mode Network because it activates “by default” when someone is not involved in a task, not focused on the outside world and the person is relaxing and their brain is at “wakeful rest”, such as when daydreaming and mind-wandering.

One part of it is also known as the “Social Network”, as it can be activated when someone is thinking about themselves, thinking about someone else, remembering instances from the past and considering the future.

While sometimes referred to as the Task Negative Network, being de-activated when people are occupied with attention-demanding tasks and more associated with involuntary actions, it can be activated during other types of goal-oriented and more autobiographical tasks and social working memory.

The “Task Positive” and “Social/Default” networks are, by and large, independent and suppress each other.

Yet everyone, especially experts, managers and leaders, need to be able to use both the Task Positive and Social/Default Networks to be effective at setting and achieving goals, social interaction and people management as well as creativity and not only imagining the future but also taking steps to ensure the group gets there.

Two other systems are the “Sympathetic Nervous System” which is quite the opposite of the “Parasympathetic Nervous System”, both parts of the “Autonomic Nervous System” which release various hormones and neurotransmitters depending on whether experiences are pleasant or unpleasant and positive or negative.

Despite its name, the Sympathetic Nervous System or SNS is actually the body’s “fight or flight” response to stressful situations, whether trivial or severe.

We may not realise it, but we actually experience minor stressful situations during a day including when someone or something annoys us or we are facing a task we would rather not do and may tend to defer, due to procrastination, or can’t make our mind up what to do given a variety of choices.

Indeed we can change from one state to another in under a second, with our brain responding before we are even aware that it and our body are about to react to the situation.

The fight or flight response or the “Sympathetic Nervous System” actually involves activation of the “Hypothalamus Pituitary Adrenal Axis”, amongst which involves secretion of three endocrines, notably Epinephrine, Norepinephrine and Cortisol.

Epinephrine and Norepinephrine are both hormones and neurotransmitters, acting as vasoconstrictors.

Vaso” means blood vessel and “Vasoconstriction” refers to the narrowing or constriction of the blood vessels, which can stabilize or raise blood pressure, reduce loss of body heat in cold temperatures, send more nutrients and oxygen to organs that need them, protect the body against blood and fluid loss and generally control how blood is distributed through the body.

Vasoconstriction reduces the volume or space inside affected blood vessels, so blood flow is also reduced. At the same time, the resistance or force of blood flow is raised, which causes higher blood pressure.

Shock is the body’s response to emergency conditions which all cause low blood pressure. The body’s first response is to protect the brain, heart and lungs by narrowing the blood vessels in the hands, feet, and limbs. This emergency vasoconstriction temporarily raises blood pressure and keeps blood flowing to the organs most needed for life.

As blood pressure goes up, so to does the pulse rate and breathing starts to get more shallow.

Epinephrine is pulling blood from capillaries, fingertips, nose, ears and extremities, to go to the large muscle groups in the arms so the body is better prepared to fight.

Norepinephrine sends blood to the large muscle groups in the legs the body can run away from trouble, or flight.

However blood is also being pulled from capillaries in the brain, so during this build up of stress, people don’t have access to all of their neural networks.

At the same time cortisol steroids are going into the blood stream which has a variety of effects.

While it is the body’s natural anti inflammatory tool, which can keep the body going when experiencing pain and helps convert fat cells to glucose to be available for energy when most needed, it also has detrimental effects. It lowers the immune system so the body is more prone to disease and also inhibits neurogenesis which is the growth of new neural tissue.

This means that when people are under more regular stress, which they can be in the workplace, not only are they not at their best but they may be under a degree of cognitive, perceptual and emotional impairment.

Without regular and periodic positive “renewal” experiences, chronic stress can contribute to deteriorating personal performance in whatever area of life the stress is created.

In stark contrast, “Constructive Leaders” are far more likely to trigger the body’s “Parasympathetic Nervous System” with far more positive effects arising from their far more affirmative leadership.

Indeed renewal of the body especially after stressful situations is activated by the Parasympathetic Nervous System, which is the neural hormonal endocrine activation that allows the body to rebuild itself.

While a positive, constructive, considerate and even caring personal “disposition” can bring out and inspire the best in people, the opposite negative, destructive, inconsiderate, uncaring and self-centred disposition can bring out the worst, which can be the response sought by “Disordered Leaders” who prefer many forms of conflict, trouble and disharmony over harmonious cooperation and collaboration, which should disqualify them from consideration for senior roles throughout global society but (extraordinarily) doesn’t.

Indeed “Destructive Leadership” can even bring out the best in the best of people in the worst of environments (who for decades I have described as “Corporate Saints”).

So why do we tolerate and even applaud intimidatory and fear-inducing behaviour in organisations and workplaces, although neuroscientists describe this as switching off people’s creativity and cooperative abilities?

Might we misinterpret what contributes to “strength” or “weakness” of both “character” and “leadership ability”, as we somehow associate intimidation and even humiliation of others with “strength” and a sympathetic interest in other people and their needs as “weakness”?

Might we misinterpret self-centred arrogance and shallow charm as being somehow indicative of “strength of leadership”, when what is really expected of leaders is a more selfless and genuine interest in the organisation (or nation) and all its people, together with a determination to create, oversee and even inspire sensible and harmonious progress, while not seeking much personal credit for performing the role expected of them, perhaps even deflecting warranted praise to those they lead while accepting responsibility for their failures?

But as most organisations cannot have an MRI scanner in their basement to assess candidates for seniority of position, fortunately “disordered” people “give the game away” themselves by way of what they (being “maladaptive”) cannot change – their own behaviour.

The prevalence of this minority in important roles throughout global society suggests that many who select or elect people to senior positions of responsibility are (currently) unaware what behavioural traits to look for to IDENTIFY such highly untrustworthy and deeply irresponsible and self-centred people, in order to DENY them positions of power that they can only mis-use and abuse, being granted it for the purpose of serving others although only capable of being self-serving.

Their self-centred abuse of power is as inevitable as the sunrise and sunset, as the fascinating field of “Personality Disorders” seems to be one of the world’s best kept secrets (a matter this research intends to rectify), especially as “Disordered Leaders” with their quite extra-ordinary self-confidence believe that they are the reason for the sunrise as they derive pleasure from darkening the lives of many others unfortunate to work with them, or be subject to their peculiar (but quite predictable) words, empty promises, disconnected actions, impulsive reactions, mis-deeds, general untrustworthiness and irresponsible decision-making, typically the opposite of what better-informed advisers suggest and indeed what many others want them to do.

Those who know them well fully expect them to be Consistently Contrary and Perversity Personified.

Given that “Constructive Leadership” is well beyond their very limited horizon, their peculiar mindset ensures that the people they are responsible for are likely to live in a near permanent winter (of discontent), only briefly experiencing the sunshine associated with the summer months when their “leader” is away.

Indeed the one season followers (other than the most sycophantic) wish on their “Disordered Leader” is the “Fall”, as until their leaders fall from both grace and power there is little real future for the business, organisation, entity, nation or the people they mis-lead, as they cannot fool all of the people all of the time, then prove to be extraordinarily difficult to replace, as maintenance of the power they never properly used for the purpose intended becomes their over-arching priority.

Which is why I strongly argue that “Prevention is preferable to the improbability of cure”.

Global society needs to learn how to identify “Disordered Leaders”, with no real interest in anyone other then themselves,  in advance of trusting them with responsible roles which their extraordinary degree of irresponsibility and untrustworthiness should disqualify them from consideration for.

Global society needs leaders who give rather than take pleasure, with empathy and warm emotions (well capable of love & incapable of hatred, not those who are well capable of hatred & incapable of love), to accept responsibility for its organisations & institutions and “motivate a group of people to achieve common goals” , or what is commonly referred to as “leadership”.

It is difficult to tell a selfish person that they are self-centred, as they cannot see this for themselves, living life the way they always have done – prioritising themselves over others and perhaps treating other people in a cold-hearted manner.

Similarly, how can others tell someone without empathy that they lack something they have never possessed and are more than likely to never experience? Lacking warm emotions and the ability to genuinely love and be loved permits such people to behave in a “ruth-less” manner towards others, meaning sympathy and compassion-free, also behaviour which some mistakenly believe to be useful or even necessary to achieve business “success”.

The reality is that such behaviour may satisfy the most ruth-less but can be quite counterproductive when it results in people performing below their best and eventually, becoming demotivated, not really wanting to contribute to achieving common goals, quite the opposite end-result than that expected from “leaders”.

Throughout my entire career I have argued against ruthlessness having and validity or merits as “success” within a group is better achieved by way of co-operation and collaboration. Indeed for over 20 years I have been suggesting to entrepreneurs and university students that “treating people with the respect you would like to be treated yourself” is far more likely to achieve whatever successes any group may be seeking.

Now though, following a decade of psychological and neuroscientific study and research, what I would add is that:

“it is not that ruthlessness is necessary for business success, quite the contrary, rather that some who happen to be “successful” in business, happen to be quite ruthless by nature”.

This sends out quite the wrong signal to those who look up to such people as being role-models, especially when they themselves come to believe that disrespecting, disparaging and even humiliating others is part and parcel of either management or leadership. It isn’t.

It also depends on what “success” is deemed to be, such as in terms of:

  1. – individualistic achievement of position, title, power, prestige, wealth (even if disrespected by some or many of those who are led, including for misusing the position for personal advantage or gain);
  2. – personal respect, especially when associated with “good character”, often achieved by way of “showing an interest” in other people and prioritising their interests and needs;
  3. – organisational (or national) progress, in terms of satisfying the goals for which the entity was founded (satisfied customers or citizens), especially when their interests are prioritised over the self-interest of leaders and/or management teams who do the right thing for themselves but not necessarily the “primary stakeholders”.

At the end of the day, success and power without “moral authority” and the “genuine respect” of “followers” is “shallow”, just like the emotional depth of those who derive personal pleasure and even greatly enjoy being “ruth-less”, lacking the emotional intelligence to appreciate how counterproductive and demotivational this can be, quite the opposite of both the behaviour and end-result expected of those holding the important role of “leader”, irrespective of the type, size or location of the enterprise.

Bullies, self-centred by nature, who thrive on intimidation just do not have a role to play in the modern, efficient organisation, especially when you do not need to be a neuroscientist to appreciate that people better respond to encouragement than discouragement.

Global society needs to deny people who display what psychologists term “consistent irresponsibility”, well capable of routinely acting against the common good and doing so with what they refer to as “emotional impunity”, the opportunity of holding positions of authority they will inevitably misuse and abuse, no matter the nature or nationality of the entity.

Global society needs to discontinue trusting those incapable of successfully managing their own emotions with responsibility for the lives, welfare and emotions of others.

Global society needs to discontinue assigning responsibility for its businesses, organisations and nations to amongst the most self-centred, difficult, proud, perverse, contrary, dishonest, untrustworthy and irresponsible people possible, described as “Disordered Leaders” who practice “Destructive Leadership”.

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.

Yet 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 (such as Hitler).

Most “disordered” people are never even required to meet a psychiatrist or psychologist, for a variety of reasons, including:

  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 and even discredited, 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 in more senior positions they report the matter to do not understand the nature of “Personality Disorders” themselves,
  5. nor what traits to look for and how to identify such people by way of their own behaviour,
  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,
  8. often “behind the scenes” and in a covert manner resulting in other innocent and perhaps good and well-intentioned people being blamed for the many problems which arise, as
  9. the “disordered” person is likely to have used their considerable but shallow “charm” to ensure that the most influential people are “on their side”, even if based on fiction, lies, deceit and considerable self-promotion, as
  10. the character of the “disordered” person is such that they are likely to have already tried to criticise, demean, disparage and confuse other people, including those they may (wrongly) believe to be “rivals” or critics,
  11. as they strive to damage the “responsible” person’s own character or reputation,
  12. so no-one knows quite who or what to believe;
  13. Indeed it can be the “responsible” person or people disbelieved, demoted or even fired, and the “disordered” person believed, promoted, elected or hired,
  14. especially when those who appointed the “disordered” person in the first place do not want to admit that they may have erred,
  15. or those who had been warned in advance and ignored the warnings lack the courage to deal with the consequences themselves,
  16. or have been sufficiently threatened and “intimidated” by the “disordered” person that they are scared of the retribution if they do try to deal with the problems they invariably create;
  17. Yet it can be the “responsible” person or people (with a strong conscience who really want to do the best for their organisation, often with genuine leadership potential themselves) who can be disadvantaged,
  18. while the “disordered” person (perhaps lacking a conscience who cares little for the organisation or its people, only self) can be advantaged,
  19. 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),
  20. 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,
  21. while it can be the most self-centred and irresponsible, the most unethical and immoral, the most “powerful” and power-hungry, who care little for their organisation or its people nor sensible progress, indeed  “couldn’t care less” about other people at all, who perhaps lack a conscience and behave in an unconscionable manner,
  22. who can be seen to go from strength to strength and “win”
  23. as every matter to them can be a “game or contest to be won” even if this involves “defending the indefensible” and “denying the undeniable”,
  24. especially when their primary but most covert goals in life can include “getting their own way” and “winning at all costs”,
  25. irrespective of the consequences for other people, their organisation or nation (and incredibly sometimes even themselves), as once they have “personally prevailed” nothing else really seems to matter to them, still preferring to criticise and disparage rather than praise and encourage those they mis-lead,
  26. 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,
  27. switching off their creativity and switching on their sycophantic subservience, requiring them to “walk on eggshells”, do what they are told rather than have their constructive opinions and ideas sought,
  28. more likely to be ignored and the opposite, sub-optimal option instead chosen, not because its merits were unappreciated but because the “great idea” was not originated by the “disordered” person themselves, who in their own mind are the only person that counts; 
  29. 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, if they were even in the room (or  mind of the “disordered” leader”) in the first place,
  30. as when their self-interest, pride or prestige is challenged, no such matters are their concern, let alone priority, more likely to involve “winning at all costs” and “getting their own way, irrespective of the consequences”,
  31. indeed they may tend to exclude and criticise rather than include and encourage their very best people,
  32. 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
  33. 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.”

Such scenarios, or elements of them, are alas far too common in the organisations and entities of global society. If I as a lone individual have observed them far too frequently during my own career, how frequent are they?

How often do those who have no option but to adapt their own behaviour to sycophantically satisfy the whims of “Disordered Leaders” find that their own emotional lives can be damaged as as a result?

How often are talented and conscientious people forced to try and take their skills elsewhere (if they can), preferably to more satisfying environments where their talents are better appreciated and utilised by “Constructive Leaders”?

Perhaps we will never know, except that such situations are far too common and indeed prevalent in far too many organisations, at all levels, because they mistakenly chose the wrong type of people to become supervisors, team-leaders, managers, senior executives and even chief executives, secretary generals, heads, priors, principals, editors, captains or whatever the leadership title may be.

It took the author 25 years in industry to realise, thanks to a psychologist while planning a “Corporate Conscience” conference in Dublin in 2013, that he had worked with over 50 “Destructive Leaders” internationally during his own career and, having witnessed at first hand the covert manner by which they cause disagreement, disharmony and trouble, feels a responsibility to share what he has learned about these fundamentally “ruth-less” and dangerous people, how they can be identified in advance and what admirable traits society should instead look for in appointing “Constructive Leaders”.

When the potentially more wonderfully fair, just, co-operative, united, harmonious, caring (for people and planet), calm, tranquil and peaceful world we share, including the unnecessarily combative, individualistic, disconnected, divided, unfair and unjust branches of global society, led by the wrong type of people, troublemakers in disguise who prioritise their needs over the entity they mis-lead…

…better learns how to identify such ICE-cold people, often Intelligent, Charming and Eloquent, but ultimately primarily Interested in themselves, Cold (maybe Cruel) and Empathy-free, then deny them the power they will inevitably mis-use, it will perhaps better appreciate that:

“Prevention is infinitely preferable to the improbability of cure”.

Just like one of the greatest cognitive or mental disabilities of “Disordered Leaders”, an inability to learn from their prior experiences (so they keep repeating the same mistakes day after day), do we never seem to learn when those who seemed to possess many of the required credentials transpire to be incapable of providing the constructive vision, imaginative direction, sensible and rational decision-making, inspirational motivation, admirable example, integrity, wisdom, conscience, cooperation, harmony and “tone at the top” expected of “leaders”?

“Disordered Leaders”, because they practice “Destructive Leadership”, not least because they are TAKERS who prioritise themselves over those they mis-lead, possess power but lack proper authority, so their followers feel compelled to do so.

In stark contrast, for the many far more acceptable and indeed attractive aspects associated with “Constructive Leadership”, not least because followers have many reasons to believe that their leader has a genuine interest in them and their endeavours, often being a GIVER more interested in others than self, “Constructive Leaders” possess the power they can be trusted to use for the purposes intended and the moral authority to astutely lead the entity in the right direction and inspire their people to actually want to follow them and the example of an admirable “tone at the top” they set.

Perhaps the ultimate irony is that those who act in a powerfully authoritarian manner may lack authority, while those who lead in a non-authoritarian manner may be perceived by those they are responsible for to possess authority, seen to use their power for the constructive purpose intended.

INSTEAD OF THE SELF-CENTREDNESS, ARROGANCE, DOMINANCE, INTIMIDATION, FEAR, DISCOURAGEMENT, NECESSITY TO “WALK ON EGGSHELLS” AND ULTIMATELY (EXTRAORDINARILY) THE DEMOTIVATION ASSOCIATED WITH THE NEGATIVITY ARISING FROM “DESTRUCTIVE LEADERS”, WELL CAPABLE OF TAKING THE ENTITY DOWN THE WRONG PATHS JUST TO SATISFY THEIR INSATIABLE PERSONAL NEEDS, BUSINESS AND INDEED GLOBAL SOCIETY 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 and encouragement, 

perception to offer astute guidance and advicewisdom to know what to change and when, humility to admit to error rather than persist with doing the wrong thing,  patience to calmly resolve rather than instigate and exacerbate conflict, astuteness to seek alternative viewpoints, opinions and options while ensuring disagreement is generally harmonious and constructive,

courage to tackle the issues others might ignore and to own-up not cover-up when things go wrong and learn from the experience, tact to deal with matters diplomatically, modesty to deflect praise to others yet accept responsibility for their errors,

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 genuinely cooperate within and between collaborative teams and follow their leader in top gear, because at the end of the day,

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 far too prevalent absence of such admirable traits may be 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 the reason that 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.

Prevention is far preferable to the improbability of cure.

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 a 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 disinterested 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.

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 well capable of love & incapable of hatred, rather than those well capable of hatred & incapable of loving  (anyone other than 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, speaking adversely about them being their back or even firing them for no apparent reason. 

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 they 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 as a definition of a a DYSFUNCTIONAL ORGANISATION:

“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 realistically be considered as being a role model(s) 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 well capable of love & incapable of hatred, rather than those well capable of hatred & incapable of loving (anyone other than themselves), 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.

“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.”

Do these describe characteristics that those appointing others to managerial and especially leadership roles would advocate and actively seek?

Yet far too many leaders, managers, team-leaders and supervisors as well as those with similar titles with responsibility for the lives and emotions of people in all types of organisations worldwide DO display these characteristics, which in some sectors and nations are actually applauded.

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, allied to their inability to see anything wrong with themselves and tendency to blame anything and everyone else for their failings and the many problems they create, for which they accept no responsibility.

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

One of the definitions of a “Personality Disorder” is:

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

Some can feel “invincible” described as “a belief in one’s uniqueness and invulnerability” and absolutely convinced about their superiority, whether with any foundation or not.

Why might this be? Let’s revisit two of our earlier definitions, not from a psychological handbook rather from one of the world’s leading dictionaries:

“Self-centred” is defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary 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 the “Cluster B” Personality Disorders especially  “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. Belief that they are special and most others are inferior, not worthy of being associated with them
  4. Sense of entitlement and expectation of special treatment from others
  5. 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)
  6. Cannot accept responsibility for their innate irresponsibility
  7. Need for praise from others
  8. Need to belittle those they perceive (often wrongly) to be rivals, critics or they believe disagree with or disrespect them, attacking and slandering their good name, often quite fictitiously/delusionally, while falsely assassinating their character
  9. When not being praised by others they can praise themselves, sometimes extravagantly, including for achievements only they recognise
  10. Behave arrogantly with a conceited, pretentious & pompous manner
  11. Boastful of their talents or achievements, even if greatly exaggerated or totally fictitious, only present in their own version of reality, the unique world they live in
  12. Active imaginations especially about themselves and rules to be obeyed (their own not society’s)
  13. Huge belief in their invulnerability and ability to “get away” with anything
  14. Tendency to fantasise about success, power, brilliance or beauty
  15. Expect to be recognised as superior, even without commensurate achievements
  16. Find it easy to be “ruth-less”, meaning free of sympathy/compassion
  17. Envious of others or belief they may be envious of them
  18. Insist on being and having the best of everything
  19. Others need to “walk on eggshells” in their presence given their volatility
  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. Total disregard for the emotions of others, which they may not be able to experience, or wish to damage, due to an inability to empathise with the feelings of others
  22. Manipulate and take advantage of others to get what they want
  23. Interest shown in other people only while they are deemed to serve a useful purpose, otherwise they can be ignored, discarded or even verbally attacked and disparaged
  24. People can be coldly experienced, no different from inanimate objects (such as shopfront mannequins)
  25. Other people exist to be used to satisfy their insatiable personal needs
  26. Otherwise they have no intrinsic value as people, nor any interests or needs worthwhile knowing, as ultimately they just do not matter
  27. Despite their constant need for praise, they struggle to genuinely praise others, preferring to find reason or fault, even when praise may be most warranted
  28. Thrive on criticism but can’t cope when this is directed at them; warranted or not, always without merit in their mind given their huge self-belief
  29. Grossly over react to anything they perceive to be criticism, even if there was none or no critique was intended
  30. Blame other people, events or situations for their own errors, inadequacies or failings, perhaps by way of “projecting” these on to others rather than “facing facts” and trying to deal with their personal issues themselves; until aware of their tendencies, third parties are more likely to believe their criticism of others, not realising they may be some (perhaps only) form of recognition of their own failings
  31. “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 suggesting or proffering a different opinion from theirs
  32. They can derive more pleasure from disrespecting than respecting others, especially those who dare to criticise them
  33. Poor at regulating their emotions, so can be moody (“emotionally labile”) and temperamental, with anger always lying just beneath the surface, ensuring others tread very carefully in their presence and do not say or do anything which differs from their opinion or could even be remotely perceived as criticism or an alternative opinion
  34. Impatience or temper tantrums when criticised or don’t receive special treatment.
  35. React with cold indifference or feelings of rage or emptiness in response to criticism, indifference or defeat
  36. Cold when others would expect them to be warm
  37. Disinterested or no genuine interest in other people or their interests, needs and achievements, including  in situations when others would expect them to be interested
  38. Create a wide variety of interpersonal problems (probably better appreciated by the others involved) including when they require others to be subservient and sycophantic
  39. Can treat others with contempt and hatred for little apparent reason, preferring intimidation to encouragement, making others wonder what they may have done to incur their hatred and wrath (perhaps very little) and requirement to extract deep revenge
  40. Much of their behaviour can be seen to promote themselves and put-down, discourage, disparage and even humiliate others
  41. Struggle to change or adapt their behaviour
  42. Struggle to learn from their mistakes, which they can regularly repeat even when alerted by others to them; what may appear to be “stubbornness” (a refusal to respond to the requests of others) in such situations may in fact be an inability to learn from their prior experiences
  43. 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 and other deficiencies
  44. Even after their organisation or entity has collapsed, with many people’s lives adversely affected, they struggle to consider they may have been at fault or what they did wrong
  45. Those without a sense of wrong must have something wrong with them
  46. Making others feel bad can make them feel good
  47. They seem to get a special kick from openly disagreeing with and publicly putting down others, even if quite wrong to do so
  48. Those who have been in relationships with narcissists, professional or personal,  say amongst the worst aspects is their disloyalty, only capable of loyalty to themselves, deriving pleasure from both disparaging others and promoting themselves while fictitiously slandering those they may be expected to be agreeable with and loyal to
  49. 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, as they see nothing wrong with themselves and blame anything and everyone else for their many failings
  50. Those astute, insightful and peacemaking colleagues capable of adapting their own behaviour need to respond daily to diminish the degree of harm and havoc these inveterate troublemakers and skilled but often charming liars invariably and innately bring to ANY group situation
  51. Given they can seem to live in a world all of their own, in which they are the most extraordinary person ever born and everyone else significantly inferior, all their assertions and declarations will necessitate independent third party verification
  52. 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. 

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 and most creative, seeking cooperation and wanting to fully engage, while when they are scared, fearful or unhappy, they avail of a different and rival set of brain regions (only one of which can appear to be active at any given time) more likely to bring out the worst in them, the response triggered when they are disrespected rather than encouraged by others.

Hence the importance of leaders and managers behaving in a predominantly positive manner – cajoling, encouraging, motivating and even inspiring those they have responsibility for, even when they have not quite performed to their potential, which those with ample “emotional intelligence” are often very well equipped to both realise and practice.

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 doing so and may not even realise 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 being “perversity personified” they don’t like taking advice and will tend to do the opposite of what others ask them to do, “contrary” by nature;
  4. NEVER CRITICISE THEM as, despite being masters at dishing out criticism and many other 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, angry and even “histrionic” manner; so in such scenarios others learn to SAY NOTHING their “Disordered Leader” could find the opportunity to disagree with, let alone critique, or indeed anything they may perceive to be anyone doubting their undoubted (in their own mind) “brilliance”;
  5. Others learn to 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?
  6. Ensure the GREAT IDEA is seen to be theirs, otherwise it won’t be actioned, as they need to take credit for it and deny praise to those most responsible;
  7. BE PEACEMAKERS AND REMAIN CALM when they try to stir up trouble, saying 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 not always in their presence, when others 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, whims and grudges of self-centred leaders;
  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 sometimes entire management teams;
  15. DO RIGHT WHEN THEY DO WRONG and appreciate “THERE IS NO RIGHT WAY TO DO A WRONG THING”, hence doing 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;
  16. The necessity for others to AVOID TROUBLE by being SYCOPHANTIC does not auger well for organisations making the best progress possible based on pooled ideas, informed discussion, healthy debate, rational decision making considerate of the interests and needs of the variety of “stakeholders” affected and how they may be impacted by the possible outcomes of their decisions, nor for the many forms of cooperation and collaboration required for sensible progress to follow; indeed it makes “management teams” almost redundant…

there is clearly something very wrong, especially in those who seem to lack an internal sense of wrong and whose “vision” is focussed not on the constructive and harmonious future of the entity (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. They never have been and they 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.

For many in society self-interest is just one matter to weigh up when decision-making, which some are better at evaluating or discounting than others. Indeed for many years I have advocated that, before they finalise a decision, management teams step back and identify to what degree their self-interest (monetary, prestige, promotional opportunity et al) may have impacted on their planned decision and, when notionally removed from the equation, consider whether they would still take the same decision.

If so, they can be even more satisfied that they are doing the right thing for the entity which employs them and the key “stakeholders”, or the people and groups of people affected or impacted directly and indirectly by the decision or resulting action.

If not, they may need to further deliberate, notably taking the longer-term perspective including considering the likely reputational impact and which “stakeholders” may benefit or suffer as a result, while discounting what may then be better seen as short-term opportunism, especially if their decisions and actions may risk damaging trust and reputation if more widely known.

It is extraordinary the number of poor or wrong decisions people and organisations make in the expectation that “no-one will find out” – until others do find out (perhaps due to conscientious whistleblowers ).

This can especially be the case when the decision was forced on others by those this research refers to as “Disordered Leaders” who practice “Destructive Leadership”, or bullies for short, who intimidate their people to the degree that the “management team” fails to function as a “team” at all, indeed may even become redundant as a decision-evaluating entity, especially when the members believe they have no option but to sycophantically follow the lead and opinion set by their “selfish, difficult and proud” boss, notably when the interests of the organisation (or nation) become secondary to satisfying the self-serving whims of the “Disordered Leader” (eg Hitler).

Being “found out” produces the challenging decision whether to “own-up” or “cover-up” and risk further reputational damage, which could so easily have been avoided had the time been taken to properly consider the issues and what may be the real motivations behind the decision(s).

However, for this small (“disordered”) subsection of global society, incapable of “doing the right thing”, which across all sectors of all nations holds a disproportionate number of senior positions requiring responsibility and accountability, their self-interest is their overarching and perhaps sole priority and the lens through which they view all situations, notably from the perspective of “what’s in it for me?”, which contributes to they being amongst the most irresponsible and least accountable people possible and extraordinarily inappropriate for any seniority of position, no matter the nature of the entity or role.

Given that their:

  1. cognitive or mental priority is “getting their own way” and “winning at all costs, irrespective of the consequences” for other people, their organisation (or nation) and (incredibly) even themselves (as they can transpire to be the most damaged by their errors of judgement),
  2. such is the degree of their “impulsivity” which (especially when their self-interest is challenged) prevents them from properly evaluating situations, failing to properly weigh up the merits, demerits or likely consequences of alternative courses of action, or indeed even evaluate matters from any perspective other than their own,
  3. not concerned whether their actions or decisions may be “right or wrong in specific situations” (“moral reasoning”), as when their self-interest is concerned their priority and concern can seem purely to be that they are right and others wrong, which can make it difficult (at first) for others (who may consider them to be totally wrong, yet feel powerless to rectify the matter) to try and understand the rationale for their peculiar decision-making, which can run contrary to the best interests of the body which employs them, given that their motivations and perceptions differ from most other people in society;
  4. when combined with their “vindictive” nature (holding long-term grudges for short-term trivia), seeking to extract revenge against those they perceive to be rivals or critics (even if not),
  5. given they can also be “paranoid” and believe others to be conspiring against them,
  6. they do “whatever it takes” to damage their “opponent’s” reputation, even entirely fictitiously (termed a “distortion campaign” or “character assassination”), which many unaware of their traits may believe,
  7. given their tendency to exaggerate both their talents and achievements (highly imaginatively, including pure invention) and
  8. the wrongs they perceive others to have done to them (even if they haven’t, sometimes quite the opposite as they actually may have been trying to help or be kind to them), and
  9. their quite different worldview (termed “distorted thinking patterns”) of (a) situations (as if there were no other perspective other then their own, notably “what’s in it for me?”),
  10. (b) of people in general, with “shallow emotions” or, “lacking empathy”, coldly, callously and “unemotionally” (lacking the warm emotions which permits most people to understand and respond appropriately to the feelings and emotions of others),
  11. instead experiencing other people as if they were no different from “inanimate objects” (treated like “possessions” no different from their phone, car or home) and
  12. (c) of colleagues/coworkers and other “stakeholders” in particular (who exist to be used, manipulated and deceived) and
  13. not only their inability to separate fact from fiction, especially when the fiction is one they invented or spun themselves (perhaps “delusional” if not “psychotic”),
  14. but also their exceptional talent at “deception”, including pure delight in lying (not bothered at all by being “found out”, when they just change their story, confusing other people further),
  15. part of the thrill or excitement they get from “fearlessly” engaging in “risky behaviour”,
  16. and engaging in other forms of  “anti-social behaviour”, often damaging to others,
  17. being fundamentally only interested in themselves, which they can succeed in masking from many people, most of the time,
  18. until others challenge them or their self-interest (which can be fatal for any relationship) when their charm can be dropped and their true “self” revealed,
  19. which due to their “poor behaviour controls” can rapidly change to impatienceintolerance and temper, especially when they perceive the person’s purpose has been served,
  20. or they have disappointed them in any way, or spoken favourably of people they dislike or hold a grudge against (the list of people they hate can be a long one),
  21. or others simply disagree with them in any shape or form (their arrogance hides a very thin skin) as they cannot cope with any form of critique,
  22. or alternative opinion from their own, despite thriving on being critical of others,
  23. or of other people getting the attention they believe should be uniquely theirs (which can produce a “histrionic” over-reaction),
  24. as given their “gargantuan ego” and “sense of entitlement”, they believe that only they should be the “centre of the universe” and everyone else exists to serve their needs,
  25. their moodiness (or “emotional lability”) which forces those in their circle to “walk on eggshells”,
  26. the personal pleasure they derive from embarrassing, ridiculing, belittling, disparaging and humiliating others (as making others feel small helps them feel big),
  27. their unsurpassed expertise at demotivation is quite the opposite of what is expected of leaders, especially when they exclude the most capable people for petty reasons,
  28. given that they derive pleasure from making others miserable,
  29. can be happy making others unhappy and be unhappy seeing others happy, which they can then seek to disrupt,
  30. it should not be a surprise when they actively seek conflict and engender the “Five C’s” of “Counterproductively Competitive and Combative Corporate Cultures”,
  31. seemingly unaware of the benefits of cooperation except when manipulating others to assist satisfying their self-interest,
  32. only capable of  seeing matters from their own extraordinarily self-centred and myopic perspective, seeking or demanding “my way only”,
  33. failing to appreciate that inclusive debate and discussion is a constructive opportunity to maximise collective progress,
  34. while being so disagreeable by nature, not only cause trouble even in situations when this would seem to be improbable or even impossible,
  35. but seek to perpetuate and deepen the conflicts they have (often unnecessarily) created,
  36. without any semblance of guilt or remorse or sense of wrong (which delegates out of necessity the role of  both rational and moral reasoning as well as peacemaker to those unfortunate to work with or for them),
  37. which permits them to behave in an unconscionable manner, without any semblance of conscience (notably when it comes to satisfying themselves),
  38. which many can perceive to be quite childlike behaviour,
  39. as their “emotional state” and “ability to engage in moral reasoning” has been likened to that of primary school children, having to “get their own way” in everything, satisfy themselves and throw a childlike tantrum when they don’t,
  40. even whinging or almost crying when they don’t get what they want,
  41. as “seeking sympathy” can be one of their priorities and a tool they use in relationships,
  42. although they themselves (being cold, impersonal and “lacking warm emotions” especially genuine kindness) deny others the sympathy or compassion that may be warranted in situations, allowing them to be “ruth-less” or sympathy-free,
  43. as for some their challenging behaviour begins during their childhood,
  44. especially when they engage in cruelty, subtle and covert or  demonstrable and overt,
  45. unnecessarily damaging rather than building relationships, both interpersonal and between institutions, organisations and even nations,
  46. inconsiderate of the implications for anything or anyone else (not their concern, although it should be), not least damaged trust and eroded reputation;
  47. being experts at making enemies of former friends rather than friends of enemies,
  48. preferring to to unite rather than divide the people they are responsible for;
  49. despite being absolutely insensitive to the interests and needs of others,
  50. they can be incredibly sensitive to personal criticism, leading to an excessive (perhaps “histrionic”) over-reaction,
  51. their necessity for constant praise (despite denying others praise and credit when most warranted),
  52. even praising themselves when others make the mistake of not doing so,
  53. their ability to take credit for the achievements of others, while
  54. accepting no responsibility for their many personal failings,
  55. which they “project” and blame on everyone and anything else,
  56. as they find it easy to hate and impossible to love, be loved, or be genuinely kind and considerate of the interests and needs of others,
  57. treating many life situations like a “game” to be won,
  58. including the mind games they also delight in playing with other people,
  59. facilitated by their often considerable “charm” (utilised when people serve a useful purpose to them, in which case they may be temporarily treated quite well),
  60. even if their charm can seem to be quite insincere, “glib, superficial” and purely used to get something they want or gain some form of advantage, rather than be out of a genuine interest in other people, something they are quite incapable of,
  61. especially when their necessity for “control” becomes uncontrollable, and
  62. their extraordinary sense of invincibility and their delusional self-belief convinces them that they can do (and get away with) anything they want,
  63. even if fundamentally ill-equipped for many of the tasks they are mistakenly trusted with, evident to almost everyone except themselves, believing themselves to be experts in areas which they know little or nothing about,
  64. all of which contribute to their extraordinary degree of irresponsibility, lacking a sense of wrong, while invariably believing themselves to be “normal”,
  65. with the myriad of problems they create being due to situations and other people who they then may get to hate and need to attack in some manner,
  66. failing to appreciate that when they try to damage the character of others, that it can be their own which can become most doubted, being absolutely lacking in integrity, tact, patience, remorse, empathy, compassion or anything remotely associated with warm emotions, modesty, humility, modesty or conscience,
  67. initially appearing to have many of the the right credentials although this transpires to be a sham, given that their greatest talent is acting, deceiving, manipulating and pretending to be competent, rational and normal, which they even totally believe themselves, although no-one else who has experienced their self-centred and delusionally “Destructive Leadership” would or could concur,
  68. there could not be a group of people more inappropriate for supervisory, managerial or (perish the thought) leadership roles in any organisation or institution of global society, especially our nations.

So many of global society’s problems, challenges, disasters, conflicts and wars, past and present throughout human history, would appear to have arisen because we have trusted this small subgroup of society, warmongering troublemakers who thrive on perversity, conflict, disagreement, disrespect and disharmony (upset with harmonious collaboration), being innately overtly and covertly dysfunctional, emotionally shallow (cold, callous and calculating), labile (moody) and unstable, for the lives and emotions of many others, when they cannot even successfully harness or manage their own.

At its most basic, the outlook of “Disordered Leaders” who only know how to practice “Destructive Leadership” is primarily focussed on “me” not “we” or “us” and this guides much of their behaviour.

Until this is fully understood, they will continue to be be misunderstood.

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.

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.

No matter how well some succeed in masking their actual abnormal tendencies with Intelligence, Charisma and Eloquence (although not all could be so described), the real traits of these dangerous ICE-cold people do surface, especially when they or their self-interest are challenged, sometimes in a quite shocking manner to those unfamiliar, making those who hired, promoted, selected or elected them wonder how they could have been so mistaken, especially when they go to great lengths to maintain the positions they are incapable of performing in the manner expected by society of them.

Prevention is far preferable to the improbability of cure.

At the end of the day “Disordered Leaders” demotivate and discourage people from producing their best. They may even want to bring out the worst in others as they try to turn people against each other, rather than engender teamwork and co-operation, quite the opposite of what all entities in global society expect of their managers and leaders, yet extraordinarily can be accepted as part and parcel of “strong management” rather than a fundamental character flaw totally out of place in an organisational context, indeed inappropriate in any group situation.

Indeed those who regularly criticise, discourage and ultimately discourage others are not only inappropriate for any managerial position but are those who leaders will need to deal with to prevent them damaging the culture of the organisation and emotional welfare of their people, not promote experts in demotivation to seniority of position well beyond the limitations of their personality.

No matter what their other talents may be, including intelligence and eloquence, 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”.

People such as this are entirely predictable, which means when others learn how to identify them by way of what they struggle to change – their own behaviour – they can be denied the positions of power within society which they can only mis-use.

One “giveaway” is when they consistently seem to prefer discouraging and disparaging others, rather than praising and encouraging them.

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.

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

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”.

For instance, people with “Cluster A – Paranoid Personality Disorder” 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.

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

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.

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

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.

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.

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, the opposite of what is expected of managers and leaders, no matter the size, nature or location of the entity.

There is clearly something wrong when the working day (or night) seems excessively long and the highlight is neither going in to work or performing it, but escaping an inhospitable environment to get to the emotional safety and security of their homes and families, given that “Disordered Leaders” thrive on hostility and conflict and are at their most comfortable when making others feel uncomfortable.

Such people being chosen for seniority of position throughout global society is also likely to result in integrity challenges, as the interests of other people let alone wider society and matters of ethics and morality are just not on the personal radar of people secretly or more overtly so obsessed with themselves that when their self-interest is threatened the rest of their mental faculties appear to be switched off.

This seems to be a mechanism which allows them to exclusively consider “what’s in it for me?”, so in the many situations in life which they perceive as being “games” to be won, they can concentrate solely on achieving all that really matters to them – “getting their own way” and “winning at all costs”.

This ambition invariably leads to some form of conflict as they see “win-win” compromise as failure and derive far more personal satisfaction from “win-lose” outcomes, even if at the end of their day it is also their organisations (or nations) and people they mis-lead which also lose.

This is simply not the concern of “Destructive Leaders” exclusively interested in themselves and satisfying their own needs, often quite impulsively, and yet we let such fearless people, incapable of moral reasoning or properly evaluating risk, reward and consequences (all traits associated with Psychopathy), lead our organisations, financial institutions and even our nations, with quite predictable outcomes.

No wonder human history has featured so many business failures and scandals as well as wars and conflicts between both organisations and nations when such people are mistakenly permit to lead, given that that such inveterate troublemakers not only thrive on creating confusion and starting conflicts, even in situations when this seems quite impossible, but they can get an even greater kick out of perpetuating battles which they do their best to turn into wars (amongst the indications of Antisocial or Dissocial Personality Disorder).

Nor will they be the people to try and end conflicts, especially when they were responsible for starting them, ignoring the efforts of the peacemakers most likely to possess the qualities associated with “Constructive Leadership”.

What makes such people even more dangerous is that they see conflict when there is none, hold grudges for life for reasons others may believe to be trivial and seek to extract significant revenge against those who may be unaware that they may have wronged them.

When they doubt the loyalty and trustworthiness of others who they believe are trying to deceive them, look for hidden meanings or criticism when there may be none, are secretive and keep things to themselves because they don’t know who they can trust, can tend to hold negative views of other people who they thrive on criticising, yet are overly sensitive to criticism and can significantly overreact with anger outbursts to perceived criticism, hold grudges and seek revenge, even if unwarranted, and believe their reputation or character are being attacked by others, without objective evidence (all indications of Paranoid Personality Disorder), they simply cannot be trusted to hold positions with any degree of responsibility, especially for other people.

While some of the traits such as emotional shallowness or coldness are common to a number of the related Cluster B disorders as well as Paranoid from Cluster A, it may be less important to try to identify what specific Personality Disorders may be relevant (the role of psychologists and psychiatrists), rather to recognise that one or more Personality Disorders may be present, and hence take steps to behave differently in and around them to better cope with the many challenges they invariably present or, better still do not hire, promote or elect them in the first place, especially if they may have little genuine interest in other people at all.

They can be identified but only when others learn and appreciate what to look for.

For instance there are some in life who are expert criticisers but cannot take an iota of criticism without a significant and perhaps even volcanic overreaction, so everyone else learns to avoid being critical of them. Although some struggle to praise people even for considerable achievements, instead finding some opportunity for critique, they  can nevertheless constantly seek praise and when not being praised by others will engage in considerable self-praise, so everyone else learns to praise them even when this may be totally unwarranted and quite inappropriate (amongst the indications of Narcissistic Personality Disorder).

As already mentioned, an Irish wit once said they were born with extra-long arms – so they can clap themselves on the back!

When people seek attention for themselves and are upset when others are receiving acclaim instead of them (amongst the indications of Histrionic Personality Disorder) they prove the argument (such as that proposed by Jim Collins in “Good to Great”) that people with humility can make for far more effective leaders than those full of personal pride.

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

When people are overly controlling in relationships in order to avoid being exploited or manipulated (an indication of Paranoid Personality Disorder) or themselves are considered to be deeply cunning, devious, deceptive, untruthful and manipulative (all indications of Psychopathy), they really cannot be trusted with any degree of control of either organisations or people.

While they are cold and unsympathetic towards others, (associated with a variety of Personality Disorders), they seek pity for themselves (suggestive of Psychopathy) and indeed one of the ways they can be identified is when they cry like a child saying “poor me”, to which they may even add “everyone is out to get me” (amongst the indications of Paranoid Personality Disorder).

Given that psychaitrists, psychologists and sociologists (such as McCord and McCord) in many respects liken them to primary school children, those that know them best are not at all surprised, given that so much of their adult behaviour can seem to be quite childlike.

Unfortunately the very same boys and girls who start fights in school playgrounds, if permitted, go on to cause conflicts within and between organisations and even wars between nations. In children, especially when they seem to enjoy harming other people, siblings and animals, in effect being cruel and incapable of genuine kindness and warm emotions, these can be early indications of Psychopathy.

Just like one of their greatest cognitive disabilities (an inability to learn from prior experience is another indication of Psychopathy), do we never seem to learn?

But we can’t unless we better understand the true nature of Personality Disorders, including how such people can be identified and denied positions of responsibility which their personality limitations prevents, prohibits or limits them from performing as well as would be expected of them.

Those who are deeply self-centred, cunning, manipulative, deceitful, impulsive, untruthful and expert liars, with their “shallow emotions” including little or no empathy (amongst the indications of Psychopathy), who cannot take one iota of criticism yet thrive on criticising and blaming others and are constantly in need of praise yet struggle to genuinely praise and encourage others, especially when most warranted (amongst the indications of Narcissistic Personality Disorder) just cannot be trusted with responsibility for other people in any shape or form.

Those who are well capable of cold cruelty and spreading remorselessly malicious rumours, including a campaign of verbal disparagement of others, recognised by psychologists as a “Borderline Distortion Campaign” (associated with Borderline Personality Disorder) or “Psychopathic Character Assassination”  designed to damage the reputation of rivals or those who disagreed with them and they want to extract revenge against or they just want to damage other people, which may involve partial or total distortion of reality or “the truth”, possibly arising from a “delusional” mindset, those who perceive other people differently (as objects) and indeed the entire world quite differently from most others in society, prioritise themselves, their “self-interest”. remorseless ambition and necessity to “get their own way” and “win at all costs”, may even threaten the long-term viability of the organisation itself.

Indeed when such fundamentally irresponsible people are employed in senior and highly responsible roles within organisations they may need to be seen as a potential  “Viability Liability”.

Even when their organisations collapse with many people’s lives adversely affected, such disordered people can still wonder what they did wrong.

The organisations and governments they lead become “one man (or woman) bands” and in such situations one wonders why they bother having “management teams” at all, except to do what they are told by their “Disordered Leader”, even if this is quite the wrong direction for their organisation (or nation) and more likely to cause considerable harm than do good.

Yet time and time again we choose people for managerial and leadership roles whose cold hearted self-centredness, greater interest in themselves than others and preference for conflict over cooperation, criticism over praise, discouragement over encouragement, ordering over asking and ultimately demotivation over motivation, all of which contribute to what for many years I have referred to as the “Five C’s” associated with “Counterproductively Competitive & Combative Corporate Cultures”, which actually achieve little (and certainly not a committed, satisfied, motivated workforce) except satisfying something else – the ego of those who, because they get a greater kick out of making other people feel bad than good (amongst the indications of Sadistic Personality Disorder) should never, ever be given responsibility for other people no matter the walk of life.

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.

Intimidation and aggression produce fear, anxiety and discouragement, which prevent our minds from being creative, something which astute leaders would prefer their followers to be maximising rather than preventing.

Yet somehow people who regularly rather than exceptionally put-down, humiliate, discourage and disrespect others can extraordinarily be quite wrongly associated with “strength” of management, leadership or personality, believing consistent bullying is part and parcel of acceptable people management. It isn’t, and never will be, just an aspect of a disordered personality less capable of “moral reasoning” or separating right from wrong and acting accordingly

Surely quite the opposite applies and intimidation in its many forms should never be considered to be a “strength:, and certainly not in those trusted with responsibility for other people.

The need to feel good from making others feel worse in reality is not only a weakness of character but perhaps even a deep character flaw and maybe even a “Personality Disorder”, given that encouragement not discouragement are well known to be key aspects of management and leadership, both associated with motivation and never, ever demotivation.

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.

Yet such situations are entirely avoidable because at the end of the (excessively long) day the behaviour of Disordered Leaders and similar people in other roles throughout society is entirely predictable and can be seen to be so when others learn what traits to look for.

Indeed they provide invaluable assistance themselves, as psychologists refer to those with a variety of Personality Disorders as being “maladaptive”, meaning they struggle to change or adapt to different situations, so those most familiar with their words, deeds, actions and reactions can in almost every situation predict the predictable of those who are experts at denying the undeniable and defending the indefensible.

Indeed it is their very predictability that can be their downfall. The more that others learn what behavioural traits to look for, the better they can diminish the harm such people with a Personality Disorder can do when already in situ in roles of significant responsibility, or (preferably) deny such deeply irresponsible people the seniority of position they crave but, as they lack what is required to successfully carry out such roles prioritising both the entity and the people they are responsible for, they need to be denied the very opportunity to cause the damage they inevitably will and so prevent this becoming irreparable.

Those without a sense of wrong must have something wrong with them. Yet time and time again, these very people are hired, promoted, selected and elected to seniority of position for which they could not be more inappropriate, with entirely inevitable consequences.

Those who intimidate and induce fear in others can also be fearless themselves, which makes them less capable or incapable of evaluating risk and reward and finding an appropriate balance between the two. Yet we let such people mis-lead large corporations especially financial institutions, with entirely inevitable consequences.

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.

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

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

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

Somehow throughout the generations and indeed centuries we consistently see to have mistaken outwardly dynamic displays of confidence, arrogance and talk of integrity for “strength of character” and intimidatory traits for “strength of leadership”, due to a “Leadership Fallacy” which mistakenly considers strength of personality and intimidatory tactics to be indicative of strength of character and leadership ability, rather than the probable absence of both.

They may believe themselves to be strong and mature, but in reality they are weak and childlike, having to “get their own way”, throwing tantrums when they don’t, unable to take advice or do what others ask them to do, and being so emotionally impoverished that they need to damage the emotions of others. In time people may begin to notice what may be their true inner coldness and suspect that they may be lacking in the warmer and kinder emotions which most people possess.

Indeed their inability to what others request of them can seem to be an invitation to “DO THE OPPOSITE”, so colleagues learn to “ASK THEM THE OPPOSITE” of what they want them to do and first BELIEVE THE OPPOSITE of much of what they say or assert, as this may be closer to “reality” or “the truth” in any matter.

The reality about those who seem to live a different reality from everyone else, is that their need to feel good from making others feel worse is not only a “weakness of character” but perhaps even a “deep character flaw” and maybe even a “Personality Disorder”, given that encouragement not discouragement are well known to be key aspects of management and leadership, both associated with motivation and never, ever demotivation, which may say far more about the true character of the leader than the followers.

Being rude, crude, arrogant, critical, disparaging and generally discouraging to others may give “Destructive Leaders” some personal satisfaction, but is unlikely to endear themselves to those they lead, nor inspire them to either want to “follow their leader” nor produce anything close to their best or their true potential, “which “Constructive Leaders” excel at and accept as being one of their many leadership responsibilities, creating an environment or “culture” in which people really look forward to coming in to work and “giving it their best shot” knowing that their contribution is respected and appreciated by those who consistently praise and encourage people who they know are trying their best.

This is in stark contrast to those who find it impossible to praise (yet seek it for themselves) but are experts at many forms of disrespect and criticism (even if they cannot cope with an iota of this when directed at them).

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

However the acceptance of low integrity by leaders of a lesser calibre ensures instances are 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.”

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.

I have drawn many quite practical conclusions from a combination of both my own psychological research since 2010 (and Personality Disorders in particular from 2013)  as well as many challenging experiences with over 50 “Selfish, Difficult and Proud” leaders during my own career (with over 333 organisations on all continents, bar Antarctica).

For 25 years I am sure I was not alone in failing to understand the peculiar behaviour and motivations of the self-centred culprits, unable to attribute the damage they did to interpersonal relationships, trust, organisational culture and even decision-making, operational and financial performance and wider reputation to the possibility that they may have been capable of being diagnosed by psychiatrists and psychologists as having one or a combination of the recognised “Personality Disorders”.

This notably included those who seemed to be at their happiest when making others unhappy and somehow felt big and important when making others feel small and unimportant, specialists at discouragement and disagreement, dissent and disharmony, disparagement of others yet considerable self-belief and self-promotion, thriving at humiliation yet incapable of humility, together with many other related and not dissimilar factors quite the opposite of what is expected of leaders and managers, irrespective of nationality, race, society or culture.

Here are just a few of the many observations or conclusions that I have drawn (with more extracts from my research and writing at “Society Needs”):

A highly-competitive, combative, fearful, blaming or even “toxic” organisational culture could be due to one or more leader(s) and/or manager(s) 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”.

This counterproductive malaise could be organisation-wide or exist in just one or a few “business units”or departments when (mis)led by the wrong type of person.

Those without an apparent SENSE OF WRONG may actually have something wrong with them.

Prevention is far preferable to the improbability of cure.

FOREWARNED IS FOREARMED. 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 both (a) adapt their own behaviour to diminish the damage such people can cause and (b) even better, 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”.

Inclusion beats exclusion, encouragement beats discouragement, praise beats rebuke and humility beats humiliation, any time, any place, anywhere.

Society Needs leaders well capable of love & incapable of hatred, rather than those well capable of hatred & incapable of loving  – anyone but themselves.

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

Yet time after time every sector of global society continues to choose the most inappropriate, irresponsible and untrustworthy people for its most senior and responsible roles, those for which they are (innately) deeply, utterly and fundamentally ill-equipped, with entirely inevitable and highly predictable consequences.

Why does this happen and what can everyone else do about it?

Prevention is far preferable to the improbability of cure.

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.”  His assertion could also apply to leaders, with outcomes for others contributed to by their own constructive or destructive “mindset”.

While most leaders are capable of making a heaven of hell, a minority are more naturally disposed to making a hell of heaven, with those unfortunate to work for “Disordered Leaders” well describing the resulting environment as “Paradise Lost”.

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

Of course leaders 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”.

While a positive, constructive, considerate and even caring personal disposition can bring out and inspire the best in people, the opposite negative, destructive, inconsiderate, uncaring and self-centred disposition can bring out the worst. Indeed “Destructive Leadership” can even bring out the best in the best of people in the worst of environments (who for decades I have described as “Corporate Saints”).

So why do we tolerate and even applaud intimidatory and fear-inducing behaviour in organisations and workplaces, although neuroscientists describe this as switching off people’s creativity and cooperative abilities?

Might we misinterpret what contributes to “strength” or “weakness” of both “character” and “leadership ability”, as we somehow associate intimidation and even humiliation of others with “strength” and a sympathetic interest in other people and their needs as “weakness”?

Might we misinterpret self-centred arrogance and shallow charm as “strength of leadership” when what is really expected of leaders is a more selfless and genuine interest in the organisation (or nation) and its people and a determination to see both progress sensibly and harmoniously, while not seeking much personal credit for performing the task they are set, perhaps even deflecting warranted praise to those they lead while accepting responsibility for their failures?

A cornerstone assumption of “business ethics” research appears to be that all corporate decision makers are actually capable of reasoning morally, whether they do or don’t “do the right thing” in specific situations.

But is this a valid assumption? What might the implications 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 they will inevitably abuse?

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

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.

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.

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.

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?

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.

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).

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.

Yet time and time again entities in every nation and 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 kept secrets.

The “secret” about Personality Disorders extraordinarily (or not) extends to the disordered too, believing themselves to be normal and all the problems they create perceived by them as being caused by (and hence blamed on) anything and everyone else, who they see as the people with the real problems.

This belief, allied to their considerable self-belief, just proves what a grave problem these people pose to global society.

There is no humiliation in humility, nor any humility associated with humiliation. Yet somehow far too many in society (including business school students) continue to associate arrogance with strength and modesty with weakness, despite the track record of the proud and arrogant more interested in themselves than others often being destructive when mis-trusted with responsibility for anyone other themselves, and the modest being such “quiet achievers” that they seek no personal publicity or acclaim, being more interested in those they lead than themselves, given that they constructively, sensibly, rationally and harmoniously set an admirable vision, tone at the top and worthy example, calmly guiding their organisations, entities and even nations to steady and consistent progress, ignoring short-term opportunities which could risk damaging trust and reputation, amongst the cornerstones of longer-term “success”.

Fortunately the vast majority in global society can be trusted to provide “Constructive Leadership” and we hear very little about them, most certainly not from themselves. However not all leaders and managers are fundamentally responsible, rational 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 and adverse consequences which almost inevitably arise.

Just because “Disordered Leaders” cannot learn from their mistakes doesn’t mean the rest of society shouldn’t from theirs, disbelieving those who seem to suffer a disconnect between their words, promises, actions and deeds and learning how to better identify and identify with the many far more positive and worthy traits associated with “Constructive Leaders”, including a vision for and genuine interest in the success of the entity and the needs of the people they lead, to whom they deflect praise for successes while accepting responsibility for their inevitable mistakes, once they learn how not to repeat them, blaming themselves not others if they do.

Leadership involves encouragement not discouragement and bringing out the best rather than worst in the people they lead, if they are to collectively, collaboratively and constructively achieve the goals the entity was formed to satisfy, not the self-centred whims of “Disordered Leaders”.

This is especially so of those who seem to thrive on disagreement, dissent and conflict while preferring disharmony and even chaos to harmonious, sensible and rational progress, utopian goals which too many organisations, employees, nations and citizens throughout global society are alas denied when they make the avoidable mistake of hiring, promoting, selecting or electing the wrong type of person or people to provide the “Constructive Leadership” they ultimately are incapable of.

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 well capable of love & incapable of hatred,

not those well capable of hatred & incapable of loving, 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.

Society needs leaders who give rather than take pleasure.

When the potentially more wonderfully fair, just, co-operative, united, harmonious, caring (for people and planet), calm, tranquil and peaceful world we share, including the unnecessarily combative, individualistic, disconnected, divided, unfair and unjust branches of global society, led by the wrong type of people, troublemakers in disguise, better learns how to identify such ICE cold people, often Intelligent, Charming and Eloquent, but ultimately primarily Interested in themselves, Cold (maybe Cruel) and Empathy-free, to deny them the power they will inevitably mis-use, it will perhaps better appreciate that:

“Prevention is infinitely preferable to the improbability of cure.”

As far as leadership is concerned, all the intelligence in the world is of little or no value if none of it is emotional, as humility beats humiliation any time, any place, anywhere and in any situation.

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.

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”.

This is a glimpse into research from 2010 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)

Julian Martin Clarke 2010-2021

Comments welcome to

jmcpsychresearch@gmail.com

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