Leaders Lacking Integrity

Disordered Leadership


The fascinating and incredibly important field of research, clinical diagnosis and treatment described as PERSONALITY DISORDERS perhaps remains one of the world’s greatest secrets, little understood by those outside the specialist mental health profession.

This assertion is perhaps evidenced by the numbers of NARCISSISTIC people (one of a number of groups of Personality Disorders) who throughout history would appear to have been chosen, hired, promoted, selected and elected to responsible roles throughout global society, including those who forcibly took power, notably DICTATORS, despite they being categorised by psychiatrists and psychologists as being “consistently Irresponsible”.

This is one of a number of descriptions, classifications and categorisations which should actually disallow such people from being even considered for positions of responsibility throughout the institutions and nations of global society, but as the traits are often quite covert and well hidden, much of the time, including by way of eloquence and charisma, and many non-psychologists are unaware of the behaviours which  may actually be associated with a “personality disorder”,  they consider to talk, flatter and intimidate their way into positions of power which they will inevitably misuse and abuse.

To those more familiar with both their behaviour and personality disorders, the consequences of trusting the most irresponsible and untrustworthy with positions requiring great responsibility and integrity, were or are highly predictable, as they typically favour themselves and disadvantage not only other people, but potentially even the entity they (mis) lead, which transpires in due course not to have been their priority at all.

Despite giving the impression that they were concerned for the interests and needs of the entity (or nation) and it’s people, those who know them well will be able to testify that their only real concern is for themselves and their only real interest is satisfying their self-interest.

As many of these individuals can be found

“in every race, culture, society and walk of life”

(Robert D Hare, Without Conscience, 1993)

this is an issue which not only Business Ethicists but also Decision-Makers in ALL walks of life need to be better aware of.

They are well described as “individuals” because they are most certainly not team-players, except when this suits their self-centred ambitions, before their extraordinary disloyalty returns when they deem the other members of the group to no longer be of use to them.

Greater awareness and understanding of Personality Disorders, and the impact and implications, would help avoid the many dangers posed by potentially self-centred, arrogant, deceitful yet charmingly DESTRUCTIVE people, in favour of the vast majority of society with a far more positive and CONSTRUCTIVE personality, far more likely to have a genuine interest in the people and entity they responsibly lead, especially those more selfless and modest by nature who may not be inclined to flaunt their achievements and indeed may well deflect praise to their coworkers, which in turn enhances the respect with which they are often held by those fortunate to work with or for them.

Yet too often throughout global society the most arrogant, self-centred, irresponsible and trustworthy are hired, promoted, selected and elected over the far more modest, selfless, empathetic, responsible and trustworthy, purely based on their surface level appeal and promises which they have no intention of keeping.

Indeed they may be incapable of keeping their word, such is the deep disconnect between their words, stated intentions and subsequent actions, which can change a few times within an hour, such is their emotional lability (moodiness), inability to learn from their prior experiences (especially mistakes which they can regularly repeat), extraordinary degree of deeply convincing deceit, and quite exceptional disinterest in anyone but themselves.

Promises to others will be soon forgotten if they believe their self-interest is better satisfied some other way. Indeed they are well capable of not only denying they made the promise in the first place, but genuinely believing this themselves. Indeed their recollection of events can differ from that of almost everyone else present at a situation, which confuses others until they recognise the trait.

Those who know them well know the most astute policy is to FIRST DISBELIEVE WHAT THEY SAY and indeed FIRST BELIEVE THE OPPOSITE until what they say can be verified. Only with such an understanding can progress be made.

In essence the most covertly irresponsible, untrustworthy, cold and controlling people in society should never be trusted with positions of responsibility, especially when this involves responsibility for the lives and emotions of other people, when they cannot even properly manage and control their own.

No matter how well they succeed in concealing their personality defects, notably in the short-term, including by way of mimicking how genuinely warm-hearted people appear to behave, fortunately these emotionally un-intelligent and interpersonally callous people CAN be identified, preferably in advance of they achieving seniority of position, by way of what they struggle most to change – their own (self-centred) behaviour.

Indeed those who do not yet know them well may even be quite captivated (initially) by their apparent Intelligence, Charisma and Eloquence, which can conceal their true ICE-cold and ruth-less (meaning compassion-free) nature.

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

One of the most critical matters to appreciate is that as such people see things differently and behave quite differently from most others in society, they must be recognised by others as being different and hence dealt with substantially differently.

Until this is understood, they will continue to be misunderstood, and trusted with positions of responsibility their extraordinary degree of irresponsibility should deny them even consideration for.


It is probably beyond the comprehension of many decent, kind and considerate people that a minority of society may actually lack a conscience and anything which would inhibit them saying and doing things which others just couldn’t and wouldn’t, no matter the circumstances.

Those without a sense of wrong or regret must indeed have something wrong with them.

But who will notice if they manage to behave well and give a good impression most of the time?

Consequently these people can be quite invisible, expert at hiding their true traits and pretending to be interested in other people, while manoeuvring themselves into positions for which they appear to be well suited given their talent at both acting and deceiving (including craftily denigrating the performance and character of those they perceive to be rivals, even if they are not).

However when they ultimately transpire to be incapable of performing in the consistently responsible and trustworthy manner expected of the role, especially when they prioritise what they perceive to be their self-interest over the interests and needs of the entity and its variety of stakeholders, they can prove to be extremely difficult to replace especially when they do “anything it takes” to hold on to the positions of power they should never been trusted with, which a better understanding of the nature of Personality Disorders might have ruled them out of consideration for.

While some may argue their fearless and ruthless nature can bring advantages, these are often at the expense of others and are usually outweighed by very many disadvantages, many of which may not be readily apparent but prove to be damaging.

These and many other traits led EBENI Secretary Julian Clarke to propose the following initial definition of a “Disordered Leader” at the US IVBEC business ethics conference held in Dublin in October 2019:

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

Those with little or no real interest in anyone or anything but themselves cannot be trusted to “do the right thing” for the entity or its people in either the short or long term, for many reasons we will explore, especially when they may transpire to be more “destructive” than “constructive”.

Prevention is preferable to the improbability of cure.

Those who see life as a game to be won (and thrive on playing games with other people’s emotions) can actually “give the game away” themselves when they do so, but only when more responsible people learn what traits to look for.

Indeed the mask they habitually wear can be rapidly dropped with no apparent warning, especially when they believe or perceive that their self-interest may be under threat, given that “getting their own way” and “winning at all costs, irrespective of the consequences” can appear to be their mental prerogative, no matter the situation, major or trivial, due to their inability to hold back when there is even a remote possibility of other people winning and denying them the opportunity to personally prevail.

As soon as others recognise that “what’s in it for me?” can appear to be how they approach consideration of many (if not all) matters, they may be able to minimise harm by tailoring their own approach accordingly so the goals of the group at large and those of the Disordered Leader can appear to be one and the same, especially when others contrive to make them believe that the idea for what may be the “right” course of action was uniquely their own.

Otherwise they are likely to pursue quite the opposite of what others want them to do, no matter how “wrong” this may be for the entity and its variety of stakeholders, which in due course the most observant will realise is simply not their concern.

When other people, especially those with an abundance of emotional intelligence, learn what to look for and how to identify “Disordered Leaders” by way of their behaviour, actions, reactions, impulsivity, words disconnected from actions and intentions frequently changing (saying one thing one minute and doing the opposite the next), they will appreciate that there actually is a consistency in their apparent inconsistency.

Because “Disordered Leaders” are “maladaptive” by nature, meaning inflexible, and can behave in a similar manner in many similar situations, irrespective of time or place, seemingly lacking the ability to adapt or learn from their prior experiences (especially mistakes which they are well capable of regularly repeating), their very predictability can, with greeter familiarity, be predicted by astute coworkers or companions.

When others learn how to adapt their own way of thinking and consequently behave differently themselves in the presence of their “Disordered Leader” (such as believing the opposite of what they say and advising them to do the opposite of what others actually want them to do), the degree of harm they can cause can be minimised.

Better still, when others become familiar with the behavioural traits this minority of society typically display, they can be denied the positions of power they will inevitably abuse.

Even better still, when others become familiar with the traits associated with “Disordered Leadership” they may better appreciate the many finer aspects and traits associated with “Constructive Leaders” and instead choose these far more appropriate people for managerial and leadership roles, with far better, safer, more responsible and considerate outcomes, even if they may initially seem less dynamic or exciting, their greater humility or modesty may increasingly be seen as a strength and most certainly not a weakness.

Indeed one of the primary aims of this decade long research, which followed a decade of organising and attending business ethics conferences and events, has been to alert normal, responsible, considerate and empathic people how to identify abnormal, irresponsible, inconsiderate, un-empathic and ultimately self-centred people, to be better equipped to deny those with a more destructive than constructive dispositional attribution the opportunity to cause both overt and covert disruption, harm and havoc, while ensuring that those selected or elected to responsible roles throughout global society are actually fundamentally constructive, responsible, trustworthy and conscientious, being able to differentiate between right and wrong and act accordingly, whether aware or not of the Blanchard and Peale maxim:

“There is no right way, to do a wrong thing.”

Ken Blanchard and Norman Vincent Peale, “The Power of Ethical Management”, William Morrow (1988)

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