Sunday, December 27, 2015

The Dark Side of Leadership

Transcript of my CC#6 at Toastmasters International
Toastmasters is a place where leaders are made. We all aspire to be leaders . Our generation is obsessed with the word leadership . It starts right from our schools and I am not talking about Bschools but primary schools.
   As a young girl in my school I would always be made the monitor of the class  because my teachers thought I had “leadership qualities”.Of course I could bully, shout and ask others to shut up. It was only in class 10th when my school wanted me to be the head girl that I went up to my teacher and said that I don’t want to be one. Why did I do that? No I don’t claim to be a saint to deny the coveted position. You could say that I was not ready to take that responsibility at the cost of my studies. Well, here’s a funny thing. History has had several examples of such people. Albert Einstein rejected the offer of being made the head of state of Israel.Didn’t Sachin Tendulkar , the God of cricket do the same? As Richie Benaud summed it up , “ Captaincy and performance are two different talents, and Sachin didn’t have the former”. Did that make Sachin any less of a person. If you have not been a leader,it doesn’t mean you are a loser .
      All leaders have not been role models. Remember Hitler, Polpot , Bin Laden . These personalities were cult leaders in their own way with thousands of followers behind them, but are they the best examples?
  A lot has been researched on the financial crisis of 2008 and how the leadership in the US  investment  banking sector failed and spurred the recession. And let me tell you while millions became homeless and jobless, the leaders who made it happen never took responsibility of it.
     Which brings me to question the dark side of leadership. The often less talked about subject . So what are the negative traits that one is susceptible as he aspires to be  leader?

Machiavellianism is characterized by manipulative tactics.These principles were first outlined by Niccolo Machiavelli, a rennaissance author in his book The Prince . It talks about ways to get things done, by use of  immoral or deceptive methods . Therefore, individuals who exhibit Machiavellianism will lie, and exploit others to get their way.Machiavelli described dishonesty and killing innocents, as being normal and effective in politics. When Machiavellianism awakens then the leader is not collaborative. He thinks he is smarter than the rest. There's no originality or vision. Often ,he starts marking territories. There were a lot of examples in the Mahabharat. Shakuni,Duryodhana and some even say that even Lord Krishna in the battlefield  was no less of a Machiavelli. ,Aurangzeb who conflicted his brother Dara and imprisoned his father Shah Jahan. Chanakya has been described a predecessor to Machiavelli.

Psychopathy is not just a characteristic of serial killers. Industrial studies by Babiak and Hare in their book Snakes in Suits state that 3.5 per cent of top executives score highly on measures of psychopathy, which is larger than the 1 per cent found in the general population.Individuals high on psychopathy show little remorse and empathy for others. They use threats and hard tactics to get status and get ahead. These “snakes in suits” may thrive in organizations because society often promotes self-interest over other values.So high is their drive to prove themselves right on parameters that many a times might not even be important. Many such leaders don't trust their subordinates /colleagues and keep micro-managing. They don’t communicate openly and prefer that people around fear them. They are angry individuals. I remember this one time a colleague told the boss that he had to rush home as his father was in Emergency. What did the boss say? You better finish your work first.

Narcissists have extremely inflated views of themselves, with grandiose plans for their future. They feel they are more special than others and constantly seek admiration. When narcissism gets a hold , your self aggrandizement is the only thing you think about. You only focus on your promotion, on your image at work and elsewhere. Many a times you hide your subordinates achievements and brush him/her under the carpet because after all YOU made it happen. There is little humility.Narcissicist  would hide their flaws,poor skills and pretend it doesn't exist.

“Act as if you have unmatched confidence and then people will surely have confidence in you,” says Jordan Belfort in his book The Wolf of Wall Street. This is sad but true. Individuals who exemplify overconfidence are better able to influence others and gain their trust.But this show is not long lasting,because one day the glittering gold goes off its sheen.True confidence comes from self-awareness, understanding and managing our emotional state, managing others' emotional state positively . When we're comfortable in our own skin, we're a magnet for success.
At times overconfidence penetrates into organisation culture.these days many organisation have started encouraging excessively positive thinking that can have bad consequences as well.. Admissions of failure and expressions of doubt have been actively discouraged in favour of highly excessively positive thinking . Research on two North Sea oil installations, for example, found that despite senior management’s upbeat demand for transparency about the company’s safety performance, many offshore workers did not disclose accidents and near misses because they thought their managers would not like “ not positive news” .Being positive is indeed transformational,it facilitates innovation and enhances teamwork but real picture should also be appreciated. More effective leadership dynamics are likely to emerge when optimism is combined with critical thinking and  willingness to confront difficult realities .

So, How does knowing about the dark side of leadership help us?

It starts within each of us, the dark side of leadership is not an external issue but an internal one. This may cause leadership to be short-sighted, stressful and full of bloat rather than value. As Shakespeare said “Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown”. So watch out else the crown might just fall off

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