Narcissistic Leaders

I just read this great post by Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic (Chief Talent Scientist at ManpowerGroup and a Professor of Business Psychology at University College London (UCL) and Columbia University, co-founder of Metaprofiling and Deeper Signals, author of ‘Confidence: How much you really need it and how to get it’, and ‘The Talent Delusion: Why data – not intuition – is key to unlocking human potential’) on Forbes “Are Narcissistic Leaders As Confident As They Appear?“.

He talks about how narcissism often masks a deep feeling of insecurity and how “their confidence is unlikely to reflect actual competence”. So what happens when you get insecure, incompetent narcissists who manage to talk themselves into positions of leadership? As Tomas points out, when you get leaders who “display a type of narcissism that shows no traces of insecurity, let alone self-awareness” and which “coexists with psychopathic tendencies”, this can become “a particularly brutal and toxic cocktail”.

I’ve reached out to Tomas via Twitter to see if he’d be willing to come on my podcast for The Psychopath Epidemic to discuss further.

Destroying Lives For Profit

Check out this amazing and terrifying story in The Intercept about a lawyer whose life is being systematically destroyed by a large corporation.

“Chevron has hired private investigators to track Donziger, created a publication to smear him, and put together a legal team of hundreds of lawyers from 60 firms, who have successfully pursued an extraordinary campaign against him. As a result, Donziger has been disbarred and his bank accounts have been frozen. He now has a lien on his apartment, faces exorbitant fines, and has been prohibited from earning money. As of August, a court has seized his passport and put him on house arrest. Chevron, which has a market capitalization of $228 billion, has the funds to continue targeting Donziger for as long as it chooses.”

What did he do to piss them off? He helped tens of thousand of Ecuadorian farmers to successfully sue Chevron over contamination of their lands. They were fined $18 billion – and then refused to pay up.

It’s a stark warning about what can happen if you try to take down a corporation by yourself.

Disclaimer: I’m not saying these people are psychopaths. But this is the kind of behaviour we should expect from psychopaths and psychopathic organisational cultures.

Protecting whistleblowers from psychopaths

I mention in the book that the way a company treats whistleblowers is a good indication of how psychopathic its culture has become. Investment fund Blue Sky allegedly fired one of their managers when he spoke out internally about shady practices.

People who speak up about their ethical concerns should be highly valued by organisations, not punished. They are the canary in the coal mine. But to a psychopathic culture, they are perceived as a threat, not a tuning fork.

We need legislation that makes it extremely difficult for organisations to punish whistleblowers. One way to limit the power of psychopaths is to make it less dangerous for the rest of us to call them out on their bullshit.