We’ve all been there–organizations that are run by the king or queen and their proverbial gang of 6 or 7 or 8 or 9.
These are the organizations that are dominated by powerful, but narcissistic leadership (notice I do not call them leaders–because they are not).
According to Forbes, (11 January 2012) in an article entitled Why Narcissistic CEOs Kill Their Companies, in these organizations, the c-suite is dominated by those showing four narcissistic personality traits:
– Exploitative–They are in charge and everyone else had better respect–or better yet worship–them. Typically they are surrounded by “yes men” and eager beavers, ready to please at just about all costs.
– Authoritarian–They insist on “being the center of attention,” they always know better, are always right even in the face of evidence to the contrary, and with their people, it’s their way or the highway.
– Arrogant–They are full of themselves and usually something else 🙂 and believe they are superior and therefore entitled to their positions of power and stature.
– Self-Absorbed–They admire and and are preoccupied with themselves, and not focused on what’s ultimately good for the organization, the mission, and its people.
In such organizations, and with such pitiful leadership, generally we find cultures of fear and what Harvard Business Review (January-February 2012) says are organizations where people “are afraid to speak honestly.”
In these dysfunctional organizations with inept leadership, the workforce is stunted–they cannot genuinely contribute or grow and where organizational candor, trust, and collaboration is low, organizational performance is predictably poor.
HBR suggests that greater candor and sharing is possible by “breaking meetings into smaller groups,” assigning people to “notice and speak up when something is being left unsaid,” and to “teach ‘caring-criticism'”–where input is provided constructively and not personally attacking and where honest feedback is viewed as “generous, rather than critical.”
I think these suggestions may help organizations that are fundamentally well-run by caring and professional leaders, but when narcissists and power mongers rule the day, then the culture is not speak up, but rather shut up.
One of the things that I have been fortunate to experience and learn is that diplomacy from the top-down goes a long way in creating a professional and productive work culture.
When people are given respect and the freedom to speak up constructively, when they can work in true-teaming environments, and when relationships matter more than winning the day, then the workforce and all the individuals therein have the opportunity to grow to their potential. In speak uporganizations, people can voice their opinions, provide valuable input, and contribute to the mission–both the people and the organization thrive.
In contrast, when the workplace is shut up, because of narcissistic and poor leadership, the workforce is essentially shut down–they are in essence muzzled in speech and ultimately in deed. These organizations choke off their own talent and lifeblood, while their head swells from the arrogance and power at the top.
Diplomacy is a skill not only in international relations, but in life and in the workplace, and diplomatic leaders are notnarcissists trying to wield and hold power, but rather polished and professional leaders who foster a culture of speak up and team up–they are ready to take their organizations and people to new levels of productivity, growth, and meaning.