Of psychopathic leaders and failing organisations – Part 5

Chief executives and their capabilities matter in growing or killing companies the same way they matter in growing economies. For those who have been following this series of psychopathic leaders you will realise that we are picking on certain personal attributes at leadership level that curtail one’s leadership performance and capabilities. The series, like I alluded at the beginning, is informed by the research that was done by Morgan Quinn where she reviewed psychopathic behaviours or certain characteristics in individuals which repeatedly manifest in their conduct at work.

People Management Issues Robert Mandeya

Morgan Quinn’s views are further amplified by Paul Babiak and Robert Hare, who observed in their article Snakes In Suits that “Psychopaths often share the same goals as the rich people: money, power, material goods and influence. However, the difference is that a psychopath views any means, even harmful, cruel or illegal actions, as justified if it achieves the desired end.” In the first installment of this series we observed that psyschopsths lack empathy and as such they cannot understand the feelings and experiences of others.

Some questions arising out of this series are some behaviours more destructive to organisations and staff than others? Over and above the current macro-economic fundamental challenges the human factor has much an effect on business success or failure especially in times of economic crisis such as we face in Zimbabwe currently. It is a fact that people respond differently to challenges and or pressures.

Another interesting observation is by Paul Piff and A Berkeley in their research which suggest that it is the poor, not the wealthy, who are more inclined to charitable giving (The Economist). In their study of the generosity of participants they found out that their generosity increased as their economic status fell. Those who ranked themselves at the bottom of the ladder gave away 44% more than the participants who ranked themselves at the top.

In their final test of the study, it shows that the upper-class participants had to be prompted to display compassion.

This assessment brings us to this week’s characteristic which best describes the observations by the various researchers — selfishness. Selfishness is being concerned, sometimes excessively or exclusively, for oneself or one’s own advantage, pleasure, or welfare, regardless of others. Selfishness is the opposite of altruism or selflessness. Here is a scenario.

The leader never praised individuals although he would praise a large group when in front of the full board of directors because that was the “leadership” thing to do and, in his mind, showed humility. When actions were successful, he took credit and his picture was prominent in publicity pieces and newspaper articles. Under his leadership, however, there was no “we” in failure, only blame and finger pointing.

He spent much time complaining about his salary (as a new president) with the salary of the previous president (what he earned after seven successful years.) For this he blamed the HR compensation system.

Work from home privileges for all staff was discontinued because the president did not believe people worked hard if they were not in the office. All his direct reports were required to relocate to the president’s location so they could be observed and monitored. If staff were not at their desks by 8:00 in the morning he became livid and would call HR to vent about the violator(s) and to instruct HR to write policies so this problem would not happen again. This also happened if the president called a person and they were not at their desk. This was despite the fact that there were plenty of exceptions to the 8:00 rule for him. The president began to schedule, in person, early morning and late afternoon meetings to ensure people worked the entire day.

Some leaders may be troubled that some of the actions described in the above scenario describe actions they have taken in the past. Make your own assessment of this fictitious leader: legitimate leadership behaviours during trying times or psychopathic actions?

Mandeya is a senior executive training consultant and communication in management advisor, a personal coach in leadership and professional development with the Institute of Leadership Research and Development. — mandeyarobert@yahoo.com, mandeyarobert@gmail.com. The views contained herein are personal.