Courtesy Corporate Skills

Beware of the Dark Side

2016 (138-262)Welcome to the Dark Side – a train of thought far less pondered… As a coach, trainer, analyst and lifetime student of humanism, I have – in the realm of people development – on numerous occasions, been confronted with the question: ‘What maketh a real leader?’

My knee-jerk reaction has always been to question the question, rather than ponder the answer. And here I am, sharing my adventure; for what I unravelled was, indeed, the dark side…

All too often, we ‘identify’ leaders – or ‘develop’ leaders and leadership traits – according to a mould. This is a prerequisite design that continues to change with new research and on-the-ground findings. But how often do we look at the person (the individual), and understand his or her thinking patterns, values, principles, ethics and, above all, attitudes?

The challenge I put forward is this: how secure are we, as decision-makers or decision-influencers, to leave aside the rule book and venture down a revolutionary road that few dare travel? This new world will bring forward the ‘human leader.’

So are we ready?

The term ‘leadership’ is now hackneyed and commercialised, to the extent that the spirit of leadership has been shelved because it isn’t ‘sexy.’ We find ourselves teetering on the dark side, with a misguided and misconceived sense (for the most part) of what – or rather, who – a leader should be… in terms of character, traits, attitude and what they need to do.

However, we must first step back, and ask ourselves again and again: ‘Does a leader need followers? And does a leader need a corporate kingdom, or place of authority or position from which to lead? Does a leader need to lead from the front, or be a follower first?’

This is where the Dark Triad comes into play.

The Dark Triad comprises manipulation, lack of feeling and a somewhat narcissistic form of behaviour. These are traits, more often than not, hidden in most leaders today. When one takes a closer, keener look at them, it is possible to identify the presence of these traits – sometimes, just one or a pair, or in the worst case, the deadly threesome that is hidden with an almost Machiavellian skill.

The dark side almost always creates a seemingly ironclad synonym between leadership and position or title. Upon ignoring the rule of thumb that a position or title which provides one with the potential to lead (but does not make one a leader), the seduction of ‘power to lead’ takes over.

INSECURITIES When hiding one’s flaws and lesser skills, stress, depression and anxiety come into the fold. They disrupt all other aspects of one’s life. All human beings have some form of insecurity; so why not own it, rather than try to hide it?

The question here is whether these insecurities are an intricate part of what builds our true confidence. However, will the dark side allow it?

PERFECTIONISM Disguising the fear of criticism, desire for approval and validation can lead to manipulation and back-breaking people-pleasing. All this creates a needlepoint manager who will stifle the growth potential of his team. Striving for perfection becomes a stranglehold and position of control.

DISEMPOWERMENT It is no surprise that the dark side will always disempower. The master kingdom-builder weaves a tangled web of co-dependency. Loyalty is hard-won, while back-stabbing becomes the norm.

MANIPULATION Most strategies that are formulated with apparent good intentions are, in reality, masterful ways to make others do our bidding. Compliance is a far cry from teamwork. Manipulative compliance is a chokehold; there is no originality of expression – and thus, no sustainable growth. The ingredients needed to create the flavours of the dark side include arrogance and inauthenticity.

Lest we forget: “Leadership is not a position or a place. Leadership is an attitude. Leadership is a sense of responsibility for making a difference.” (Author unknown to the writer.)