04/09/2013 - 15:20

Developing effective leaders

04/09/2013 - 15:20


Upgrade your subscription to use this feature.

Corporate psychopaths bring an unhealthy culture to the workplace and are a hindrance to profitability.

Developing effective leaders

Corporate psychopaths bring an unhealthy culture to the workplace and are a hindrance to profitability.

It is always obvious when an organisation has poor leadership. You can easily sense and even see the ‘dis-ease’ in the culture, whether through self-promotion, micromanagement, arrogance, power struggles, psychopathic management approaches or destructive conflict.

Essentially, ineffective leadership results in organisational fragmentation and imbalance. The leader commands from a perspective of ‘I want’ rather than asking what the situation requires. Their intention is to gain power by creating confusion.

Much has been written about the ‘corporate psychopath’, who has been defined as a person working in a corporation who is self-serving, opportunistic, egocentric, ruthless and shameless but who can be charming, highly manipulative and ambitious. They are big personalities whose main aim in life is self-gratification.

This is very common in leadership in our organisations and is a direct threat to sustainability in business. However research shows that this type of leadership is the exact opposite of what the bulk of people in Australia want and expect in their leaders, which is: effective two-way communication; consistency; vision; unbiased decision-making; real enthusiasm; and the wisdom to know what kind of leadership is called for in any given circumstances.

The true test of leadership has very little to do with personality. Rather we can test the credibility and truth of our leaders by positive results and achievement of organisational objectives within the ethical framework of shared values.

But this is not as easy as it might seem. The difficulty we face in dealing with the psychopathic leader lies in their astute appreciation of the fact that a key strength of leadership is the capacity to interpret uncertainty. The effective leader, like Rudy Giuliani during the September 11 catastrophe, will seek to interpret current circumstances in intelligent ways that foster collective wellbeing for the long haul. The psychopathic leader has other motivations. Having created confusion and chaos in order to maintain power, they then set about deflecting blame onto other people, situations and events, presenting them as beyond their control.

The dynamic nature of living in the 21st century requires leaders who are skilled in strategic decision-making, who can help people to maintain emotional resilience through times of legitimate change and growth, and are integrated and whole within themselves rather than driven by their ego and personality tendencies.

This quality of leadership applies to both leader and follower. Responsibility for leadership does not only lie with the leader at the top. Followers need to become conscious of the fact that they co-create reality. The leader only leads the way they do because followers allow them to.

Leadership is very much a two-way communication, a sharing of perspectives that leads to the choice of new ways and means and the creation of optimal situations here and now. If we have ineffective leadership in our organisations, we must all take responsibility for the fact and take action.

So what do conscious leaders and followers do to create flourishing circumstances through effective leadership?

• Become aware that an organisation is not merely an objective structure of units and departments but a living field of the collective intelligence of the people who make up the organisation.

• Realise that the goals and objectives of the organisation give direction to this flow of intelligence

• Recognise that the leader’s job is to ask the right questions while the follower’s job is to bring new ideas to the table.

•  Surface each other’s mental models through dialogue – speak your mind and refuse to fall into the trap of treating the leader/follower relationship as a fear-driven or idolatry parent/child relationship.

• Learn about your own hard-wired decision making biases, which can only be mitigated through self-awareness.

• Develop the communication skill of testing each other’s biases by listening carefully and boldly and empathetically challenging prevailing views, if needed.

•  Seek not, as Einstein suggested, to be a person of success, but a person of value giving consideration to what and how your abilities can contribute to co-creating a new and better future.

Sarah Newton-Palmer is director of Perth leadership firm Intus Consultancy


Subscription Options