How Vulnerable are You to Self-Deception as a Corporate Leader?
(Navigating the Self-Aggrandizement Bubble in Industry Titans)
The demands on corporate leaders to produce results in the shortest possible time is increasingly fueling the phenomenon of finding shortcuts to healthy profitability in a bullishly competitive business landscape prone to disruption from savvy contenders. Success in the corporate world is routinely measured in terms of avoiding failures, rather than, learning from missteps and consolidating gains on a long-term basis. Such an approach conventionalizes risk aversion as top management gets markedly sensitized to gauging success in quarterly gains to placate impatient and vacillating shareholders who are trying to synchronize with the pulse of the market that is swaying to precarious economic outlooks, This also leads to a penchant for squeezing statutory gains from governments that are eager to boost economic activity in order to minimize the risk of recession, and optimizing the legal loopholes to protect organizations from the prospect of ‘triggered’ litigation.
Consequently, the magnanimous embrace of ‘acceptable risks’ to facilitate quicker business decisions often results in the germination of a systematic corporate maleficence under the ‘watch’ of a ‘gambling’ senior leadership and inevitably cements the foundations of a debilitating corporate scandal. This is borne out by the long list of seemingly ‘Rock Star CEOs/Startup Founders’ leaving their devastated organizations under a cloud of infamy that beckons the days of old when the word ‘integrity’ had elements like ‘honorable, trustworthy and authentic’ attached to it robustly. Such transgressions seem to marginalize the fact that unwavering integrity as a leader is the primary credit card with no expiry date that can buy copious amounts of goodwill and commitment without debilitating interest payments to the dithering key stakeholders in precarious conditions.
Lacking such savviness often imbues corporate leaders with a false sense of impunity due to their inflated sense of self-worth driven by the cherished stature of being in the ‘driver’s seat’ of an industry titan. This is often exploited by sycophants in terms of creating a ‘bubble of goodness’ that attracts all the positive news and deters bad news from entering the ‘right’ ears. Such insulation from the ‘ground realities’ also manifests in exacerbating divergent employee relations by leveraging the ‘buffer’ provided by technology under the ‘cloak’ of efficiency-focused metrics in analyzing the fulfillment and efficacy of desired performance parameters. This leads to executive decisions being increasingly subservient to the dazzling displays of an extensive range of ‘panacea’ software, e.g., HR Dashboards, without empathetically heeding the simmering ‘humanistic’ concerns that result in parched expectations as a consequence of deteriorating psychological contracts.
A rising trend among ‘hands-off’ leaders has been to excessively engage in the ‘curative addictions’ provided by savvy consultants to combat the challenges of staying relevant in the Digital Age, rather than, judiciously benefiting from their services as ‘galvanizing enablers’ for resuscitative purposes and managing the reins of progress themselves. Employees look to their leadership for vision, direction, role modeling and inspiration. However, if their confidence is not redeemed by an invigorating leadership then any attempt made to inculcate a profound sense of purpose to overcome difficult challenges can become an exercise in futility. The following chart depicts a simple method for utilizing a key behavioral trait, e.g., Humility vs. Arrogance, for identifying a particular type of leadership disposition pertaining to a specific outcome, e.g., Success vs. Failure, in the respective context:
This type of leader is ‘savviness personified’ and takes the mantle of leadership in a manner that is the embodiment of what John D. Rockefeller stated as ‘Every right implies a responsibility; Every opportunity, an obligation, Every possession, a duty’. He/she is fully cognizant of the fact that success can be fleeting and failure can be humbling, therefore, staying resolutely focused on achieving strategic goals and objectives that cement the organization’s place in the precariousness of the Digital Age, rather than, being lulled into complacency by the grandeur of past accomplishments. He/she is often understated and moves with ‘quiet confidence’ that is founded on a keen sense of self-awareness in terms of strengths and shortcomings and is driven by a clear sense of purpose with a personality that is punctuated by a humble demeanor.
This type of leader is ‘genuineness personified’ and possesses the kind of magnetism that draws team members to embrace his/her charisma with an exuberance that is unfazed by failures and is often the harbinger for subsequent successes as lessons learnt are studiously examined and incorporated in future initiatives. The respect accorded to him/her is primarily due to his ‘transparent honesty’ that incentivizes openness and discourages feignness. He/she does not fall under the spell of fad-surfing and remains steadfast in his/her approach to charting a course of success through the labyrinth of setbacks. His/her verbal and non-verbal communication is peppered with a consummate sense of truthfulness that endears him/her to the team members who are willing to loosen the ‘stringent’ expectations of the ‘psychological contract’ in view of the firm belief that their trust will not be egregiously violated.
This type of leader is ‘ego personified’ and cultivates abrasiveness as a desired personality trait in terms of self-aggrandizement. He/she takes delight in self-projection to the extent that it threatens to undermine the cultural cohesiveness of an organization that propounds teamwork as one of its shared values. Such a proclivity can often lead to lower levels of engagement from team members who are increasingly incensed by the lack of recognition for their contributions. Another significant victim of such stifling behavior is innovation since inquisitive minds within the organization are frequently silenced/overshadowed in their quest to ask probing questions that can facilitate the development of products/services desired by the highly-sensitized and marginally-loyal customers of the Digital Age.
This type of leader is ‘authoritarianism personified’ and is often consumed by the dark triad of ‘Machiavellianism, Narcissism and Psychopathy’ for clinging to his/her delusions of power. He/she is often unperturbed by the failures of his/her strategies and actively seeks to find a ‘scapegoat’ for personal shortcomings. Consequently, fear rules the workplace and mediocrity is routinely touted as ‘Excellence’ in terms of functional practices due to the influence of the ‘great mind’ who reigns over the ‘collected wisdom’ in terms of customizing ‘best approaches’ to work. Organizational restructuring initiatives frequently fail in entities led by such leaders as they are primarily directed towards tinkering with the ‘organizational hierarchy’ that legitimizes and boosts his/her control of the organization, rather than, ‘thought hierarchy’ that focuses on inculcating fresh ideas/novel approaches for organizational challenges.
The four types of leaders discussed above are just some of the numerous categories of leadership that can be associated with professionals at the helm of industry titans. However, they provide an insightful window into the mindsets of the top management that proliferate the corporate landscape, especially, when the following ‘Arc of Righteousness’ is at stake:
This is critical for self-reflection since the lure of the self-aggrandizement bubble can be strong and hard to resist if care is not taken to step back and carry out a judicious self-evaluation on whether you are an invaluable asset or a debilitating liability to the organization. So the question is: How vulnerable are you to self-deception as a corporate leader? Care to indulge?