Monday, January 10, 2011

How the Mighty Fail: Lessons in Leadership (Part 3)

1. Dysfunctional Leader Behaviors
    The first component of the "Toxic Triangle"

 “Leadership is a potent combination of strategy and character. But if you must be without one, be without the strategy.”
         - General H. Norman Schwarzkopf

This is Part 3 of "How the Mighty Fail", based on "Driving Straight on Crooked Lines"

Studying the “dark side of charisma” is a relatively new phenomenon, pioneered in part by Robert Hogan who began researching in the 1980s. He since identified the key traits of destructive leaders.

Charismatic Leaders:

1.    They have really good social skills
2.    They tend to be bullies who use intimidation to get what they want
3.    They use seduction and betrayal to charm people in to giving them what they want
4.    They are over-controlling and micromanage
5.    They are self-absorbed
6.    They can deny people their basic humanity
7.    They are typically charismatic
a.    They self-promote, concerned with building support for themselves rather than pro-social causes.
b.    Most work long hours. Gaining support for a large agenda requires superior energy, stamina and   persistence
c.    Some show remarkable achievement at an early age.

Until a decade before his death in 2008, aged 87, my CEO was a highly respected, internationally acclaimed, charismatic leader. I admired his vision, his commitment, and his drive. I didn’t pay too much heed to the “flaws” in his personality thinking that none of us is perfect. Little did I suspect the power of his “dark side.” Indeed I don’t think very many people did until he was in his late eighties. By then I had left the organization.

In hindsight, it seems to me my CEO possessed many of the traits enumerated above. For instance, he founded his organization when he was barely twenty one years old.

Thanks to his powers of persuasion, charm and resolute drive he successfully recruited followers controlling them to a point that many would say denied their basic humanity. 

He made it quite clear, explicitly and implicitly, that those who were not for him were against him.

By the time he was thirty, his organization was solidly established in three countries on two continents. By then, in large part due to brilliant self-promotion, he counted on the enthusiastic support of financial backers, regulatory bodies, and some of the most important dignitaries of the Catholic Church.

He left an organization of some 700 priests and 2,500 seminarians operating universities and schools in more than 20 countries from Brazil to Chile and Spain. In the U.S., it operates 21 prep schools, a start-up university in Sacramento and the U.S.'s only three seminaries for teenage boys. An ancillary organization has more than 50,000 followers around the world

Maciel was dogged for years by allegations that he sexually molested young men studying to be priests, had affairs with women and was a drug addict. He evaded sanction thanks in large part to the privileged status granted him by the late Pope John Paul II. Only in 2006 did John Paul's successor, Benedict XVI, discipline Maciel by ordering him to stop functioning as a priest; by then, Maciel was 85.

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