I recently read an interesting article in the Telegraph on the subject of psychopathic traits among leaders in top corporations.
When we think of psychopaths it’s likely to be high profile criminals or Hollywood portrayals like Hannibal Lecter, that come to mind. But psychopath doesn’t mean killer.
According to the article, typical psychopathic traits are:
- Lack of remorse or guilt
- Grandiose sense of self-worth
- Lack of empathy
You can see why people with these traits have the potential to rise to the top – unshakable confidence, no fear or shame holding them back in getting what they want.
And so what? How is this relevant to my workplace?
These people may list exceptional achievements but they will leave destruction in their wake too.
Teams are affected. Teamwork becomes dysfunctional because scared individuals don’t make good decisions. Even more importantly they are less creative.
Fight, flight, freeze and appease
In my blogs on Conversational Intelligence (C-IQ) I explain that through Neuroscience we know the way we communicate has an effect on our brains and our hormones. When we feel judged or criticized, the stress hormone cortisol is released, causing us to engage the fight-flight response.
It’s fairly obvious then that a leader with some of the above traits will struggle to create and keep a motivated, productive happy team.
The reaction to fight or flee is not the only one. Alternative behaviour resulting from fear can be to freeze – be unable to act – or appease. Unappreciated or fearful individuals can easily become Yes-people, clock-watchers. A scared team won’t or can’t oppose a poor decision and this makes any psychopathic tendencies in the boss doubly destructive.
Whereas a leader who appreciates, listens to and develops their team will see positive results. The team feel trusted and safe to be creative.
Leaders making mistakes
Now, I am not suggesting all leaders are psychopaths. But we can all be guilty of communicating badly on occasion. For instance, because we are rushed and overworked, we act impulsively and never get round to apologising or admitting a mistake.
Surely your leadership communication has occasional lapses, as mine has, and elements from the list above too?
So, what to do?
Why not do a private end-of-day check against the list to see if you have let your own values and behaviours slide? Rate yourself against each item and work to achieve a better score.
Both you and your team will benefit.