The Shift in Acceptance of Abuse of Power
The recent antics in Australian parliament as well as the round of elections in overseas countries such as France have highlighted some of the positive and negative uses and abuses of power by leaders. The political arena is typically a honey pot for any person who craves power, image, position and influence. The excesses of our politicians is but a microcosm for how power based issues are more or less generally played out across other institutions and contexts in life.
The fact that the incumbent federal government in Australia hangs on by a few critical votes is a key reason why desperate politics is being played out. The possibility of a transfer in power is tantalisingly close for those like Tony Abbot who are competitive, already hold a degree of power and have some of the trappings (image, influence, status, acclaim etc). He simply wants the main prize.
The political horse trading and gymnastics occurring now is a manifestation of the power games and manipulations that always take place around the pursuit of power. Power is a drug and an addiction in its own right and this is never more clearly seen than when one watches the Narcissistic personality climbing the ladder of success, or when clinging to power at all costs.
In France as the general elections played out we witnessed the comparative styles of two would be leaders fighting for power. In one corner we have the essentially seductive Narcissistic style of the Leader/Challenger archetype in Nicolas Sarkozy. He was fighting against the more restrained and Rigid/Perfectionistic archetypal character in Francois Hollande. Each brought a different style to the race for power.
As the incumbent President the natural style of a challenger/leader like Sarkozy is to seek and obtain power and then fight to keep it. Respected French psychoanalyst Pascal De Sutter has described Sarkozy as “a furiously dominant but also an emotionally unstable narcissistic personality”.
This description highlights the narcissistic excess in his personality. This would imply that Sarkozy would feel entitled to be the president as his natural right and will fight aggressively to protect his power and image which excessively is invested in being the president.
The rigid perfectionist personality in Francois Hollande conducted a more restrained and campaign on a basis of rules and processes which tend to dominate the black and white thinking of such personalities. Pascal De Sutter describes Hollande as “a consensual, exceptionally undominant personality for a would-be-leader”, and “he gets no joy from killing the adversary”.
Hollande had a less aggressive nature than Sarkozy and was less seduced by personal trappings of power. In general the rigid perfectionistic personality has a more restrained look and feel and would be concerned with laws, rules, processes and the “right way” in doing the presidency.
Hollande was less personally attacking of Sarkozy than the other way around and this has been borne out in their respective campaigns. Hollande proposed much reform, policies, and laws if elected, whilst Sarkozy tried personally attacking his opponent and trying to create negative character assassination by stoking fears of him being a socialist.
Sarkozy tried to manipulate the feelings of the voters and this is a typical narcissistic personality ploy. Narcissists are adept at emotional and mental manipulation of their victims as they instinctively know that one can control another through their feeling and thinking parts of self. Sarkozy tried instead to run a personality campaign centred on his own grandiose image based reality as the saviour and “champion” of free enterprise.
Sarkozy tried to evoke powerful images such as portraying himself as part of France’s “Christian roots”, in an attempt to identify with the growing backlash against immigration in that country. Sarkozy creates concepts rather than have any meaningful detail, substance or policy behind his speeches. This is typical of the image making narcissist who covers up their insecurities and deficiencies with a social mask and stories of how great they are. Unfortunately for Sarkozy his time was up and he was voted out of office. He then became the victim and accused “forces” of unseating him unfairly. The Narcissist can never take defeat with grace.
Unfortunately the public have grown tired of this narcissistic excess as seen in his past exploits as leader. Like the neighbouring Italian Narcissistic leader, Silvio Bersculoni, the public has seen through their facade and image rendering and have become disgusted with the extravagance, manipulations and excesses of both these leaders.
The wave of revolution through the Middle East has also shown that despotic regimes overseen by narcissistic leaders have had its collective day. There is a shift in the collective unconscious of society as we evolve in the face of tectonic shifts in the way societies organise themselves. These shifts will also affect the way business leaders will need to conduct themselves with their customers and stakeholders.
The internet is helping to expose shortcomings in a scale never imaginable in our history. Hard line states such as China and Syria now are more exposed to public scrutiny that then forces them to check excessive behaviours. The empowerment of the “little people” through social media and the internet is forcing change in a way never possible in our past. Bad business practice is now also being exposed like never before.
As an example the same sentiment is now eroding the powerful business empire of Rupert Murdoch and his family. The evolving and growing scandal in Britain of the invasion of privacy of its citizens for corporate profit is damming for Murdoch. The illegally gathered information increased paper sales as juicy private details of public figures lives negatively impacted their personal reputations and careers.
More so than ever the dominance of social media and the internet is exposing leaders to account and noting if ethics, laws, and moral construct are being observed. The experience of the recent findings of a select committee of British MP’s that Rupert Murdoch had turned a blind eye to illicit practices at his newspapers damages his personal and business brands. The finding that he is not “a fit person” to run a major company is probably one that will continue to define him moving forward in the eyes of the public.
His son James Murdoch was also found to have been of “wilful ignorance” of the problems in these newspapers. In the current era we find that such corporate conduct is more likely to be uncovered, reported and debated through both mainstream media and social media channels. The image management practices of spin doctors and PR firms are useless in containing the viral explosion of such highly charged subject matter into the public domain.
We are moving away from an era when major scandal was suppressed, managed, or people just looked the other way. The empowerment of the middle and lower classes by technology and the sharing of information quickly and from bottom up grassroots sources means that accountability and transparency is now more possible than ever before.
The path of Conscious Business involves instilling core values in its leaders such that these values energise the business practices in a positive way. The core values of leaders are more than ever today on public display and cannot be image managed in the way we see that Narcissists tend to conduct themselves in public and private life.
In the future the human capital of business will be the critical factor that drives success. The selection of leaders and staff with a clear set of values aligned to the core business values will be a necessary part of recruitment. Staff will need to have right brain emotional intelligence as much as left brain rational intelligence.
The era of destructive leaders who abuse power and focus on self gain is ending and they increasingly will not be tolerated by a society which is more willing to speak out and expose those who would ignore their own customers and stakeholders.
If you need to examine your own leadership style, or work on your personal or business values then contact Richard Boyd on 040 7577793.
Walk a conscious path!
Director, Conscious Business Australia