What is a Personality Disorder?

The concept of Personality Disorders in general and some of the traits evident in those of a Narcissistic Disposition in particular are introduced in this two page linked document, with 60 of the typical traits they display suggesting why they make such poor managers and leaders of other people, apparent to almost everyone else, bar themselves, if not being outright dangerous and destructive for both other people and the organisation (or nation) they mislead.

Leadership has been described in a myriad of different ways, but a common denominator is typically:

“Motivating a group of people to achieve common goals”.

While in many entities it is taken for granted that the leader(s) usually behave in a motivational manner, this is not always the case, especially when (mis) led by those with a Personality Disorder.

The harmony of local, national and international society requires that leaders and managers behave in a predominantly responsible and positive manner – cajoling, encouraging, motivating and even inspiring those they have responsibility for, even when they have tried hard but not quite performed to their potential.

Leaders and managers with ample “emotional intelligence” are well equipped to appreciate the importance of encouragement rather than discouragement as they personally practice the cooperation they preach. 

Yet extraordinarily those who consistently put-down, humiliate, disrespect, bully and intimidate others, who can seem to actively seek conflict rather than collaboration,  can somehow be associated with “strength” rather than “weakness” of leadership and be associated with a “strong personality”.

While most people in life are happy making others happy, surely there is something wrong with those lacking a sense of right and wrong, who prefer disharmony to harmony and conflict to cooperation, who are happy making others unhappy, unhappy seeing others happy, which they seek to disturb and disrupt, and who feel big by way of making others feel small, quite the opposite of what the most respected leaders do not just in the workplace but in all areas of their lives?

But how many other people, especially those in their inner circle, quite conscious that “there is something not quite right here but I/we are not quite sure what”, may be aware that the reason for the myriad of problems their often charismatic, eloquent and apparently intelligent coworker poses may actually be due to what psychiatrists, psychologists and other mental health professionals refer to as a “Personality Disorder”?

The answer appears to be “too few”, which is why EBENI’s Julian Clarke embarked on researching Personality Disorders almost a decade ago, with the ambition that this intriguing aspect of human behaviour may no longer be what he describes it as – “one of the world’s best kept secrets” – so those who hire, promote, select and elect people for responsible roles in society may better appreciate how to avoid those who psychologists refer to as being “consistently irresponsible”.

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 we continue to make such dangerous people leaders, most visibly due to what this researcher refers to as their “ICE characteristics” of Intelligence, Charisma and Eloquence, which can successfully mask their true ICE-cold nature, much of the time.

This can be despite:

1 their intelligence lacking any semblance of a genuinely emotional element or interest in anything or anyone but themselves,

2 their charm transpiring to be skin-deep, grandiose, insincere and perhaps even insecure, especially when their extraordinary DISLOYALTY to anyone but themselves surfaces, while

3 their eloquence may actually mask the fact that their (possibly delusional yet clever) words lack any connection with real intent, action or even reality, with promises well capable of being broken shortly after being made and their pronouncements, which may appear to be factual, actually being extraordinarily fictitious if not deeply cunning, devious and manipulative.

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 (often quite recognisable) traits need to be:

  1. “inflexible”, meaning can be repeatedly observed without regards to time, place or circumstance,
  2. while also interfering with a person’s ability to function well in society,
  3. including causing problems with interpersonal relationships, termed “functional impairment”.

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

However, too many in society appear unaware what day-to day behavioural traits self-centred leaders display, particularly those who may be capable of being diagnosed with any of a range of “Personality Disorders”, including narcissistic, which will be discussed, all of which involve:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

describe traits which should be possessed by leaders of organisations or society, especially as the term “maladaptive” refers to

“not being conducive to adaptation”


“not having the ability to change to suit different conditions”.

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

When an individual’s personality appears to:

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

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

Yet time after time again society chooses such people for senior roles, before they subsequently are given ample reason to regret their decision, even if they had little option as their “leader” availed of a variety of intimidatory techniques to assume leadership if not actually fairly elected.

Then, given their “sense of entitlement” and “fondness for power”, which they can only abuse and fail to use in the constructive manner intended, they can prove to be extremely difficult to remove from positions for which they should never have even been considered… … if only the decision-makers with responsibility for selecting, electing, hiring and promoting people to senior (indeed any) responsible roles across all branches of global society were better frequented with what actually constitutes a “Personality Disorder” and  how psychologists refer to many such people as being “consistently irresponsible”.

A group intimidated into only doing what the dominant and perhaps narcissistic leader wants is unlikely to evolve, especially when “getting their own way” is very important to their leader.

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

At the end of the day disordered leaders demotivate and discourage people from producing their best.

They may even want to bring out the worst in others as they try to turn people against each other rather than engender co-operation and teamwork.

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

These talents and other abilities, important when possessed by fundamentally responsible “Constructive Leaders, can help “Disordered Leaders” mask their fundamentally “ICE-cold” nature, their lack of warm, caring, sharing emotions and anything passing as EMPATHY, which permits them to act in a quite “RUTH-LESS” manner.

Ruth-less actually means being “devoid of compassion” and “sympathy-free”, characteristics which when present in the majority of the global population help them understand and show an interest in other people, indeed are characteristics which most people (without a Personality Disorder) best respond to, but make for potentially cruel and dangerous leaders of both organisations and nations when absent, such as those with one or more of the “Dark Triad” of personality – Narcissism, Machiavellianism and Psychopathy.

The “Dark Triad” personalities share many common features (Jonason, Kavanagh, Webster, & Fitzgerald, 2011; Paulhus & Williams, 2002). Their similarities have been considered to arise from a common interpersonal callousness with research (Douglas, Bore, & Munro, 2012; Jones & Figueredo, 2013; Jones & Paulhus, 2011) suggesting that manipulation and callousness account for the associations among the facet scores of the Psychopathy, Narcissism and Machiavellianism scales and impulsivity also with Psychopathy and Narcissism.

This common feature involving a joint underlying deficit in empathy helps explain why they share a reputation as being socially aversive (Rauthmann, 2012; Wai & Tiliopoulos, 2012).

Indeed all “Dark Triad” personalities have been associated with deficits in “affective/emotional empathy“, but showed little evidence of impairment in “cognitive empathy”, with primary (factor one) psychopathy the main predictor of empathic deficits within the “Dark Triad”.

Callousness (lack of empathy) leads inevitably to the tendency to manipulate others.

Lacking “emotional empathy” they seem unable to properly understand other people in all of their humanity, to “get into the skin” or to “walk in the shoes” of others, except in a purely intellectual sense – described as “cognitive empathy” or “perspective taking” – which is what assists them be so successful at manipulation of others.

Yet somehow global society can seem to mindlessly mistake their cocky confidence, arrogant attributes and reckless ruthlessness for “leadership ability”, when their tough traits are more likely to prevent people from trusting or respecting such perniciously prickly and perhaps paranoid people and may even contribute to their deeply disliking these deficient delinquents and tricky troublemakers, thriving on disagreement and disharmony and preferring conflict to collaboration, while failing to follow the erroneous example they seditiously set.

With empathy beautifully described by the late Heinz Kohut as:

“The capacity to think and feel oneself into the inner life of another person”,

its key role and presence should be appreciated, especially in managers and leaders, and its apparent absence serve as a warning sign of impending trouble ahead.

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

“For if we do not understand evil we will be ill-equipped to root out its sources, and thus, we will be unable to prevent evils from occurring in the future.”

Calder, The Concept of Evil, 2020

Should those “lacking the ability to express or experience genuine kindness”, well capable of being adjudged to be “ruth-less”, or compassion and sympathy free, not be denied the opportunity to mis-lead societal institutions?

Yet time after time fundamentally cruel people can be hired, promoted, selected and elected to roles they are psychologically incapable of carrying out in the responsible manner people expect of them, 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 whatsoever about damaging other people, their reputation and that of the organisation (or nation) 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, out of necessity forced to “walk on eggshells” in their presence, quite the opposite of what society expects from leaders – setting an admirable example for others to willingly follow.

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

The danger they present is all the more serious when they do not experience fear and anxiety, hence cannot maintain the right balance between risk and reward, seeking to “win” and maximise rewards irrespective of the risks, making (wrong) decisions quite inconsiderate of and apparently oblivious to the consequences, even when warned about the risks by other far more responsible people, resulting in outcomes which when adverse they seek to blame on everyone and everything but themselves. 

Such warnings will tend to be ignored unless others can persuade their Disordered Leader that the “right thing to do” in the circumstances is (a) their own idea, (b) perhaps the opposite of what others want to do, (c) is very much in their self-interest, (d) particularly if it permits them to personally prevail over others, as (e) in their disordered mind win-lose is far preferable to win-win and (f) given the opportunity will choose some form of conflict over cooperation and collaboration, making for what this researcher refers to as “5C Cultures”, meaning “Counterproductively Competitive and Combative Corporate Cultures.”

Not only are they (g) incapable of learning from their prior experiences, so keep repeating the same mistakes time and time again, (h) showing a genuine interest in the interests and needs of other people, (i) indeed in anyone other than themselves, nor (j) engaging in moral reasoning or (k) experiencing guilt or remorse, being deeply lacking in both (l)(emotional) empathy and (m) emotional intelligence, which collectively (n) permits them to behave in a “ruthless” manner (meaning compassion/sympathy free), (o) quite without scruples or conscience, but when they (p) feel big making others feel small and (q) thrive on victories in which others demonstrably lose, they appear not unlike (r) the youngest of primary school children with whom psychiatrists, psychologists and sociologists have compared them, especially emotionally.

Those who (s) seek praise but struggle to praise and encourage others, (t) who thrive on criticism but cannot cope when this is directed at them, (u) for whom making others feel bad can make them feel good, (v) who struggle to adapt their own behaviour to changing situations and circumstances (termed “maladaptive”) or learn from their many mistakes, which they repeat, especially when (w) they are also deeply impatient and (x) extraordinarily impulsive, (y) having to “get their own way” and (z) “win at all costs inconsiderate of the consequences” little different to an infant, are simply not equipped to manage a corner shop let alone a multinational corporation or financial institution.

Yet those described in the schoolyard as “bullies” can extraordinarily be described as “strong leaders” later in life when they assume positions they are incapable of performing in the manner society expects of them. There must be something wrong with those lacking a sense of right and wrong and the self-control required to behave normally rather than consistently self-centredly and impulsively in society.

Alarmingly, Kohlberg’s stages of moral reasoning most associated the quite primitive “self-interest orientation” they typify with primary school children.

If some such unconventional people leading organisations may be incapable of reasoning morally beyond the stage typically associated with primary school children, the implications for society and the lives of people they encounter including in the workplace could be extremely serious, and throughout history, modern and past, have proven to be.

When “what’s in it for me?” is combined with “getting my own way” and “winning at all costs” especially when impulsively inconsiderate of and indifferent to the consequences for others as primary motivators, is this really that different from what also motivates many primary school children?

Indeed those who set out to deliberately harm others as a primary ambition need to be kept away not only from positions of responsibility as possible but most certainly from managerial and leadership roles across the many fields of human endeavour. 

It is critically important that others involved with whatever the situation may be recognise that some such adults may actually be emotional three to five year olds, primarily concerned with “getting their own way”, like some children not wanting to share their toys.

Such a recognition may help other more responsible colleagues decide how best to respond to their sometimes apparently immature, childlike or infantile nature.

While this may be a surprise for many, it will not be for psychiatrists, psychologists and sociologists with expertise in the fascinating field of Personality Disorders, but their lack of inhibition and self-control allied to their necessity to win and personally prevail in many situations, trivial and significant, means there doesn’t appear to be anything which prohibits them from impulsively doing what they want to do when the opportunity arises, irrespective of the consequences for anyone or anything else, including extraordinarily, themselves, who can sometimes be the most damaged by their impulsive actions and reactions.

For instance, William and Joan McCord observed in 1964 that some challenging people can be 

“Like an infant, absorbed in his own needs, vehemently demanding satiation.”

(McCord & McCord, 1964)

Emeritus professor of psychology Robert D Hare confirmed this observation in 1993:

“At an early age most children have already begun to postpone pleasure, compromising with restrictions in the environment. A parent can generally use a promise to put off satisfying a two-year-old’s desires, at least temporarily, but [some] never seem to learn this lesson – they do not modify their desires; they ignore the needs of others.”

(Hare, Without Conscience, 1993) 

This was also observed by the modern pioneer of such research, practicing psychiatrist Prof Hervey Cleckley, as alluded to in his masterpiece The Mask of Sanity:

“Although weak and even infantile drives displaying themselves theatrically in the absence of ordinary inhibitions may impress the layman as mighty forces, it is hardly to be concluded that wise and deeply experienced psychiatrists would be similarly deceived.”

(Cleckley, The Mask of Sanity, first edition 1941, final 1988)

One major challenge facing not only business but also society is to IDENTIFY the truer traits of such extraordinarily self-centred and perhaps childlike and infantile people and DENY them positions involving influence or power or, better still, do not employ them in the first place, no matter how considerable their other talents, including apparent Charisma and Eloquence, and how suitable they may otherwise appear.

The Irish or gaelic expression

“mé féin” or “me myself”

is not that which should be associated with leaders.

Indeed so many of the world’s problems, little and large, local and international, could so readily be prevented, or constructively solved, if collectively we better appreciated how to choose the right people with the right intentions and the most appropriate personality for the responsible roles we trust them with.

Are modest, Constructive Leaders likely to ask “Do you not know know who I am?”

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

Indeed these and many other traits associated with Disordered Leaders  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.

Yet throughout human history this is precisely the personality type that has grabbed power or mistakenly been trusted with it – by those unfamiliar with the extraordinary world of “Personality Disorders”.

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, Impulsive, 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.”

Just like one of the greatest cognitive or mental disabilities of “Disordered Leaders”, an inability to learn from their prior experiences, do we never seem to learn?

Just because “Disordered Leaders”, keep repeating the same mistakes, doesn’t mean everyone else in global society needs to when it trusts amongst the least trustworthy and most irresponsible people possible for the most responsible roles in society, with entirely inevitable and highly predictable (and hence avoidable) consequences

Those lacking the core essence of humanity should not be given the opportunity to allow their inhumanity to negatively impact on the lives of others, no matter the arena.

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 its most basic, Society Needs leaders:

  1. who are well capable of love & incapable of hatred, rather than those well capable of hatred & incapable of being loved or loving (anyone except themselves)

  2. who find it easy to be kind and compassionate (when so required) and impossible to be cruel, rather than those who find it easy to be uncaring and even brutal or vicious, impossible to be considerate or sympathetic (even when most required), yet one of their “stand-out” characteristics can be when they can seek pity for themselves, including when none is warranted

  3. who thrive on praise and encouragement and only criticise constructively when required, rather than those who struggle to praise (anyone but themselves) and constantly criticise, even when praise would be warranted, yet cannot seem to cope with criticism of themselves (real or imagined)

  4. who make friends out of former enemies, rather than enemies out of friends

  5. who are far more adept at peacemaking than troublemaking and at building rather than damaging relationships

  6. and for whom challenges and crises bring out the best in the best, not the worst in the worst.

Society Needs Constructive Leaders” who prefer co-operation and collaboration to conflict, dissent and turmoil, harmony to disharmony and win-win to win-lose, ultimately preferring to peacefully resolve differences without resorting to conflict between people, within and between organisations and even war between nations when their leaders have the cold, combative, “must-win” personality and “superiority disorder” which results in them innately diminishing and disparaging other people and which prioritises themselves and their needs over those of the more peace-loving people they mis-lead.

Society Needs to learn how to identify “Destructive” troublemakers and never, ever give up in their attempts to diminish the real damage they can do to the fabric of group life, whatever the grouping in society may be.

Global society needs to better appreciate how to ignore shallow charm, self-centred intelligence, smooth eloquence and smart talk disconnected with deeds and actions, past, present or future.

As those lacking a sense of wrong, must have something wrong with them, Society Needs those capable of recognising wrong, before it is done, including their own faults which they seek to learn from and rectify, who accept responsibility for the errors of those they lead, rather than those who see no wrong in words and actions which many others would, do not learn from their mistakes and blame everyone else for their own failings, like the emperor’s new clothes apparent to everyone but themselves.

The “win-win” preferred by “Constructive Leaders” ultimately achieves more than the “win-lose” sought by “Destructive Leaders”, especially when their incessant need to achieve “personal victories” can damage morale and the very fabric or culture of the organisation, causing the best employees, customers and suppliers to take their talents and business elsewhere, even to their most ardent rivals.

When performing the not so pleasant task of considering amongst the worst people we have met during our careers and indeed lives, 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 far 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 be less arrogant and flashy and more modest and humble, not flaunting their own worthy achievements and praising others rather than themselves, who may have 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.

Whether the purpose of business is as Peter Drucker proposed “creating and retaining a customer” or as Ron Duska believed “making and selling goods and services which people want or need”, doing so successfully requires Trust, Reputation, Integrity and Reputation to be actively prioritised if the TRIP is to be anything other than a brief journey, proving that taking short cuts especially where integrity is concerned can lead to a far more arduous journey which not all such entities survive. 

Organisational progress, customer and/or public service and many measures including profitability (which arises when many customers continue to be satisfied with not only the goods and services provided but also the trustworthiness and reputation of the vendor) 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 hire, promote, select and elect “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 most required,
  4. moral compass to guide everyone in the right direction and avoid expedient short-term gain which could result in longer-term pain, especially if trust and reputation are unnecessarily risked,
  5. honesty to speak truthfully, not deceptively, and only make promises likely to be able to be met, calling things as they are and how they need to be to inspire people to also act and speak honestly and contribute their best in both good and bad times, 
  6. remorse to be able to know when wrong has or could be done, and avoid doing something which could be regretted later,
  7. courage to avoid wrongdoing and own up and say “sorry” when things do go wrong (as they will) or promises can’t or couldn’t be met, rather than make the mistake of covering up and “denying the undeniable”, hoping no-one will notice or ever find out (although they do, when reputation is even more deeply impaired), with the
  8. creativity to explore new opportunities and try initiatives, blaming nobody if they fail (nothing ventured, nothing gained) and learn from both good and bad experiences how to do better in the future,
  9. (emotional) empathy to understand people in all their humanity, in their individual differences, what “makes them tick”, how they prefer to be treated, what motivated them and how to act towards them accordingly, notably encouragingly in the manner they would like to be treated themselves and with courtesy and respect when they fail to meet expectations, so they know how to do better next time and genuinely want to do so and follow the worthy direction their leader sets for them, with the
  10. genuine interest in others as individuals with their unique interests and needs and collectively as groups and teams, all of whom appreciate it when their leader(s) show a genuine and heartfelt interest in them and display their appreciation of their individual and collective contributions, providing them the support and encouragement when they need this most so they can reciprocate when their leader most needs their best endeavours,
  11. perception to offer astute guidance and appreciate the importance of trust and reputation, recognising the necessity to take the most appropriate action in whatever the circumstances may be,
  12. wisdom to know who can be trusted, to do what, and when, including what new opportunities to explore, what to change and when, and what risks are just not worth taking,
  13. patience not to impulsively over-react to situations as soon as they arise, refrain from unfair blame, to wait for improved results or outcomes rather than prematurely curtail what could transpire to be worthwhile endeavours, or know when the timing may finally be right to initiate change or introduce new policies and practices, rather than rush them through when the timing may not be the most opportune,
  14. humility to seek no personal acclaim and pass praise on to others well worthy of it, modest in word and deed and with humility being the opposite of pride, with the ability to admit to error, accept personal responsibility when things go wrong, rather than persist with doing the wrong thing and blame others more typical of lesser leaders,
  15. strength to tackle the issues others might ignore and particularly to own up to rather than cover up mistakes or wrongdoing, benefitting rather than risking damaging trust and reputation,
  16. persistence to surmount obstacles and “never give up” on worthwhile matters which may be in the longer term best interest of all involved, even if they pose shorter term problems, the opposite of leaders who choose shorter term expediency over longer term benefit,
  17. resilience to tough out difficulties, remain positive and constructive in seeking to find optimal solutions,
  18. tact to deal with matters diplomatically rather than rudely and crudely, knowing when saying nothing may be preferable, especially avoiding words now which could cause damage later or when there may be nothing positive or constructive to say,
  19. 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 quite as good as it might have been,
  20. modesty to deflect praise to others. yet accept responsibility for their mistakes,
  21. 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
  22. charisma which when genuine rather than insincere endears people to their leader and makes people feel important, warmly welcomed and appreciated,
  23. enthusiastic personality which creates the positive, constructive culture and sets the
  24. 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 as an opportunity, with of course the
  25. integrity to always set the right tone at the top and do the right thing, not only when many are but also when no-one else is looking.

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.

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?

Do we insufficiently appreciate Honesty-Humility?

Do we take honesty as a “given” when considering people for seniority of position? Or accept devious, deceitful and manipulative behaviour as “part and parcel” of senior management?

Do we somehow associate humility with weakness and proud, arrogant and intimidatory traits with “strength” of both personality and character, when the reality may be quite the opposite?

Do we mistakenly 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?

What a mistake we make when we choose the most dominant and domineering, more typified by blame, discouragement, demotivation and humiliation of others than humility encouragement, motivation and wise actions, fooled by their often very evident Intelligence, Charisma and Eloquence, which masks their more covert ICE-cold emotions, so ruth-less and heart-less they derive pleasure and feel big from making others feel small and worthless, with others scared to speak up or “do the right thing”, forced to satisfy the destructive whims of their self-centred, Disordered Leader, innately motivated by self-interest and deeply inconsiderate of and disinterested in the interests and needs of the entity (or nation) being mis-led and its under-appreciated people.

Pride comes before a fall and what a fall those who lacked humility but like humiliating and specialised in ridicule, retaliation and retribution can have when people finally see them for what they are and their incredibly intense efforts to maintain power fail, no matter how many people they threaten during their eventual downfall.

As our fellow Dubliner Oscar Wilde observed: 

“Some cause happiness wherever they go;

others whenever they go”.

Oscar Wilde, The Duchess Of Padua, 1883

It is both far safer for society and indeed better for the emotional welfare of other people, that such people be removed from positions of influence before the damage they inflict becomes irreparable.

Even after the organisations they mis-led start failing and collapse, with many people’s lives (within and beyond) adversely affected, their gargantuan self-belief and inability to see both beyond their own perspective and their own failings can convince them that they have actually done nothing wrong, blaming everything and everyone else for the havoc they created.

Sometimes they even move on to leadership roles in other organisations, before those who hired them begin to realise what a grave error this was. Reference Checking with honest responses has probably never been more important.

While many leaders appreciate their role includes responsibly serving the entity and its people, Disordered Leaders with an extra-ordinary sense of entitlement see matters in the reverse, failing to appreciate why psychologists refer to them as being “consistently irresponsible” and others find them quite impossible to deal with.

Fortunately with experience of their “maladaptive” nature, astute coworkers learn how to diminish the harm they can do, only necessary because somehow the most inappropriate people possible were trusted with responsible roles for which they are perhaps the most psychologically and emotionally ill-equipped.

These far too frequent scenarios make it imperative that such fundamentally and incredibly irresponsible  people as a matter of priority be prevented from attaining positions of responsibility, as in such instances prevention is far preferable to the improbability of cure.

Just because “Disordered Leaders”, keep repeating the same mistakes, doesn’t mean everyone else in global society needs to when it trusts amongst the least trustworthy and most irresponsible people possible for the most responsible roles in society, with entirely inevitable and highly predictable (and hence avoidable) consequences

Those lacking the core essence of humanity should not be given the opportunity to allow their inhumanity to negatively impact on the lives of others, no matter the arena.

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

Charisma can be a two-edged sword, especially when it is availed of to hide a deep emotional vacuum and covert disinterest in anyone other than themselves.

When others become familiar with the traits associated with “Disordered Leadership”, especially the dangers posed by those of a narcissistic disposition, 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.

Indeed their greater humility or modesty and preference for speaking positively of other people rather than themselves, praising others for their achievements while accepting responsibility for their failings,  increasingly needs to be seen as a strength and most certainly not a weakness.

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 wisely, astutely and constructively for the purposes intended, ignoring short-term “win-lose” expediency by prioritising building strong, trustworthy foundations and mutually respectful  long-term relationships from “win-win” outcomes, while consistently motivating a group of people to achieve common goals?



(C) Julian M Clarke 2010-2023


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