Category: Leadership

Photo Courtesy of PBS:                   What Irma Left Behind

Hurricane Management and Leadership that Works

Strong Leadership and Hurricanes are very similar in that they are both transformational, purposeful, and engaging. However, one way they are very different is that leadership cannot be a force that cannot be reasoned with, otherwise, it will have consequences one of which is follower attrition or turn-over.

 

Many automatically associate Turnover with cost cutting, downsizing and poor employee engagement although this is not always the case. There is a type of turnover that is the voluntary kind and is in fact good news for an organization, especially when the organization aspires to be a Learning Organization. Take a technology company like Google, if Google hired three hundred entry-level engineers in 2014 and in 2016 had a voluntary turnover of 50%, is that a bad thing? No, absolutely not. On the other hand there is turnover of the voluntary kind that is due to poor employee engagement, lack of productivity, poor innovation, lack of job mobility, poor communication, etc. This is a real dilemma with real implications. But there is also a turnover of the involuntary kind that occurs during change. It is associated with engagement, poor communication and culture issues, centered around change, but not necessarily discontinued after change.   Take the case with GE.

 

GE Case Study

Consideration of GE has reportedly announced layoffs to balance spending cuts   This information comes merely months after the move of their corporate headquarters to Boston. Beside the fact that GE is among the various organizations the government bet on funding over $150 million in state and city subsidies, we wonder whether there is also a hyperbole parallel to their GE –Workout Method at play here.

As I/O psychologists we are of the understanding that change in large organizations is not a magical wave of a wand Despite evidence-based practices that help organizations save money, work more efficiently and increase employee engagement, the true road block to effective change remains to be institutional inertia. And what is inertia? Is Inertia just lack of movement, or is it lack of agreement?

One of the key aspects of the GE-Workout Method is that Leaders and managers identify areas for key business improvement and challenge those closest to the work to recommend ways for reaching that goal. Then on the other hand, those closest to the work, make specific recommendations in how to meet the goal and implement the approved recommendation within 90 days. Well, call us idealistic, but isn’t there an underlying assumption at play here? A key business improvement is all we heard. We didn’t hear any information in the form of initial feedback or observation even from or about the people who are running those business units. Now in developing this process, GE has presented the case that it fights beaurocracy. But if the identification of the problem is still rising out of the Leadership and Management, isn’t that more of the old beaurocracy? In a survey of clients of the GE Method it was cited that 20% mentioned the “risk of sub optimized analysis and decision-making” that can result from the Work-Out’s requirement for executive, on-the-spot decisions. Another 20% also mentioned “executive anxiety and defensiveness” with regard to the speed and process of decision-making.

 

Why Employee’s Emotions Matter

 

The limbic system, which combines higher mental functions and primitive emotions into one system, tells psychologists that decisions cannot be solely made by the cortex. It’s not only responsible for our emotional lives, but also many higher mental functions such as learning and formation of memories. According to the study presented in Association of Psychological Sciences . “When individuals are making a financial decision, “reflections” often occurs. Under conditions of acute stress, increased risk taking behavior was observed”. In fact, neuro-imaging and bio-feedback data has shown that stress may influence neural responses to feedback in the ventral striatum suggesting that stress may dampen our perceptions of the subjective value of our decisions.  

 

In truth, employees are people and people can only function if they feel valued and understood. In fact one of the key aspects of Emotional Intelligence is that those with higher emotional intelligence are expected to be able to manage stress more effectively and draw boundaries as necessary to protect their emotional wellbeing. According to Equity Theory, if employees’ subjective measures of stress are heightened because an employer’s expectations and respect for the employee are inequitable, or one sided, the employee will not feel supported, capable and keen to cooperate. In other words, the employer’s valuation cannot be effective if it is conditional. If in response to a key business issue, there is havoc and crisis, threats of job cuts, and focus groups designed to make changes fast, morale will be shaken and human capital will not be onboard. Financial results can only be gained through consistent, human capital or people practices. And it is our strong belief that through consistent and supportive processes, problems could be researched and identified within the existing systems and then through behavioral science tested and implemented in large-scale, low-cost approaches rather than job elimination.

Photo credit: Naional Geographic Kids

We all know that negative thoughts directly impact our happiness.  But did you know that negative thoughts are actually literally poisonous to our psychological and emotional health?

Case in Point

 Let’s imagine you are sitting in your family room after having watched the news on TV regarding the much anticipated hurricane Irma. You are by yourself and go to bed immediately after, with thoughts of worry and concern. Am I prepared? Did I buy what we needed? Is our home insulated well? Then all of a sudden, the rain starts outside and you hear drops of rain tapping on the window. Before you realize it, the sound magnifies and all you can hear are the water droplets on the window. You start by thinking “oh my gosh, what if that leaky faucet we’ve had in the kids bathroom doesn’t handle the pressure? “ “What if the pool overflows into the house? “What if Katie accidentally falls in the pool when she is out doing her business?” And on and on and on, your thoughts are racing. You have to wake up early the next day and you have now spent over an hour tossing and turning in bed, flooded with so many negative thoughts about a hurricane that has not even been determined to effect your area.

How Did You Get Here?   

All of this was triggered by the sound of rain. Something simple, was transformed into something very hazardous by your thoughts. Automatic Negative Thoughts are just exactly that. Slow, but consistent at first, and then turn by turn, they have the potential to form in to a category 5 hurricane if we allow them. Its possible to stop them, but very difficult.   Why? Because they have literally gotten your mind sick!

Here’s how thoughts grow into a phenomenon in our brain within the Limbic System. The two very serious illnesses of depression and anxiety are heavily caused by rumination, obsessions and the elaborate need for control of people and our environment. The need for control first begins with a single thought “what is going to happen?” Then it begins to take hold of our psyche and quickly turns in to fear, if it is not reasoned with. Why fear? Because the answer to “what is going to happen?” will always be “I don’t know”. If voluntarily stopped right away with a statement such as “I guess we will have to see” or “god knows” or “no one knows” or my personal favorite “let the chips fall where they may” we will ride through a few seconds of concern and then the gateway to fear will close. Otherwise, if the gate is opened and we answer “gosh, what if ….”, or “this is not good” , or “why did he say that and not …’, or “is it because I said,,,,”, we have now entered the land of chaos, despair, hopelessness, and self-doubt. There is a Liberian proverb that says: “ Do not look where you fell, but where you slipped.”

What Are you Thinking?

Every time you have an angry, scary, sad or happy thought, your body releases chemicals that activate your brain’s limbic system. Dr. Mark George, M.D., from the National Institutes of Mental Health, demonstrated this in a significant study. He studied brain activity in 10 healthy women under three different laboratory conditions. Through Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), their brains were viewed as these women were illicitted to think happy, neutral and sad thoughts. During the happy thoughts, the women’s brains demonstrated a cooling of the deep limbic system. During the sad thoughts, there was a significant increase in deep limbic system activity. This is evidence that our thoughts tell our bodies what to do and hence we can tell our thoughts what to think. Polygraph and Lie detector tests, or what we actually believe to be most accurate here at the Center for Work Life, through Credibility assessment and Facial Action Coding, are based on this Limbic System response algorithm.

The Make Up of the Limbic System

The various parts of the the Limbic System, the Hypothalamus, the Amygdala, the Hippocampus, and the Cingulate Cortex all have different functions and hence different hormones associated. The hormones are impacted by our thoughts and set the tone for our emotional wellbeing. The more unhappy, fearful, anxious thoughts we have the more sick our brain will get and the more those thoughts will form within us.   The same way, our immune system weakens with lack of sleep, alcohol, poor diet etc. Happy, positive experiences and thoughts are like boosters and vitamins for the Limbic System.

Photo Credit: Think Tank Centre

 

 

To Be or Not to Be Following our Thoughts

Just the same way as our thoughts can work for us during a speaking presentation, when we are excited and a surge of adrenaline allows our brain to give the best performance, or when we meet someone, and know we are attracted to them because, butterflies form in our stomach and think we want to have a meaningful relationship with them, it can work against us. Many people believe just because it is a thought, it must be true. Well, that is not correct! Unless you consciously think about your thoughts, they can form pretty automatically. We can think of them as pimples. Yes, your skin can automatically form pimples, but with a good skincare regimen coupled with the proper water intake, and diet and exercise, your skin is constantly resurfaced and cleansed, training everyday to not have pimples.

Socio-cultural Influences

Our culture is one of future planning. College savings, Life Insurance Policies, 401K plans, Saving’s Bonds, Mutual Funds, and even Home Mortgages etc. are all designed tools for the future. Forget about the concept of Capitalism and who profits here, and let’s stay with the “what” part of it. As human beings, were we meant to be future oriented? Or did we become conditioned somewhere along the way to become that way? Well, looking at Research in to other mammalian species, the dog for example, could help us realize that, we could be perfectly content living in the moment. Now, we are not advocating going out and maxing out credit cards, and forgetting about saving for our future, but we are saying, we can plan for tomorrow but live for today. In other words, when we think about happenings around us, we can use our Emotional Intelligence and divide them in to three categories easily: 1. the plannable, 2. The unplannable, 3. Somewhere in between.

 Whether we are working a full-time job out there, or working full-time at home, as a home maker or parent, our work week is in The Somewhere in Between category. We can plan what activities we want to be engaged in, whom those activities will be involving, and even times those activities can be scheduled for. However, the outcomes of those activities, the length in real time it will take to complete the actitivities, the propellers vs. the hinderers will not be plannable. If you try to plan or analyze, or predict outcomes, you will spin yourself in to anxiety. The trick: You have to stop any future oriented, uncontrollable outcome related thoughts right away before they get hold of your brain. In other words, if they have already gotten to the 3rd scenario or “what if,” in this case, they are way too powerful to stop.

8 Everyday Exercises for a Healthy and Happy Brain at Work or in Life

  1. I am not in control; a power greater than me is.
  2. I surrender and accept whatever comes my way
  3. Uncertainty is a part of being alive
  4. When I am faced with an activity that worries me, I will imagine my favorite beach and I will get in, prepared but free to experience every wave.
  5. I will cross bridges as I arrive at them, and enjoy the process no matter what
  6. As soon as a negative thought enters my head, I treat it like a hurricane warning, I prepare, stay alert but calm, and use my support system.
  7. Keep record of my past trials and accomplishments and send empowering messages to my psyche
  8. I push myself to stay present in every task circumstance and tribulation.

 

 A very powerful quote by one of the most celebrated Persian Sufi Poets of the 14th Century Mahmud Shabistari said: “The past has flown away. The coming month and year do not exist. Ours only is the present’s tiny Point.”

 

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Fact:  The more successful you are, the greater your risk of developing blind spots. Why?  Because we all suffer from Hubris to some various degrees.  If you have ever attended one of our workshops on Emotional Intelligence, you have undoubtedly heard Dr. Namin speak on Hubris and how the greatest Achilles for most CEOs is their inability to see that and other possible blind spots as they grow to be more successful.  The road from Good to Great means reinventing oneself and constantly discovering character defects and breaking bad habits that stand in our way.  One such habit, or what we like to call character defect, is perfectionism.  

 

Although it may seem that perfectionism may have served you well at certain points of life because it has pushed you to do your best, be more competitive, etc., in reality, it has not surmounted to you feeling more confident as a result of those wins, but has rather built you up to be more dependant on them. Complicated, we know. But what is not complicated is yet another fact. The fact, although seemingly counterintuitive, is that there is actually a very dangerous cycle; a Triad of psychological disorders that is given life and fed by perfectionism.

There’s a direct link between perfectionism, depression and anxiety; Crippling anxiety for that matter. The lowest level of the anxiety causes procrastination. One may think that perfectionists want everything done neatly, thoroughly and timely, which they do. However, more often than not, they feel such pressure to do things perfectly that they are overwhelmed before they even start. A soothing behavior is then to keep occupied with a million other tasks, so that they always have an excuse for why they’re unwilling to do; what actually needs to be done.

 

If you already know that are a perfectionist, you’ve probably already found it troublesome; possibly have even been majorly hurt by at some point in your life. Quick decision to write things or people off, disappointment in your own abilities and anguish in missed opportunities, not to mention impaired or lost interpersonal relationships.

 

In a recent coaching session, I was asked by a very well accomplished executive and perfectionist; “Based on what we’ve discussed and what you know about me, do you think I will be successful if I venture to doing….?”  I knew better than to say of course, or no you wouldn’t. You see, because I come from a school of thought that believes no one lives by the truth of others; even if they find that other person trustworthy and credible. Everyone lives by his or her own truth.

 

So, let’s get back. What is Perfectionism?

According to the National Library of Medicine and the National Institute of Health, it is “a pathological pursuit of usually unobtainable high standards that is strongly linked to anxiety, depression (2), and eating disorders (3)”.

In other words, perfectionism is the idea that a state of complete flawlessness can is the only acceptable way. Perfectionists believe that any outcome anything less than perfect is not good enough and completely unacceptable.

 

Anyone having ever worked with a perfectionist boss knows the pain and anguish we are talking about here. Nothing is ever good enough. Unrealistic expectations, micromanaging characteristics, attacks on the employee’s character which leads to bullying, belittlement and the demise of the overall morale of the department/organization not to mention legal ramifications. Furthermore, let’s not forget perfectionist project managers. They get so sidetracked by going for perfection, that they end up halting the progress of the project, causing conflict and frustration among others, undermining collaboration and bringing about missed deadlines instead.

Perfectionism not only causes the individual undue levels of stress, hopelessness, frustration and anxiety, but can make other’s lives miserable leading to ostracizing just to keep sanity.

 

So what? What is wrong with striving for perfection?

 

  1. An obsessive and pathological concern with wanting to ‘be perfect’ can lead to worry, regret, and fear of the future.

     2.  Perfectionists tend to procrastinate, because of their unwillingness to begin projects for enjoyment and     

         good outcomes. They know deep in their hearts that starting the project will cause overwhelmingly high  

         levels of stress and pressure for them, because it has to end in absolute perfection.

    3.   The irony of it all is that perfectionism makes for less effectiveness, when the initial goal was more

          effectiveness. Because perfectionists “throw out the baby, with the bathwater”. Translation: quitting,

          complaining, or uprooting the process out of anxiousness, because perfection was not immediately

          forthcoming.

 

Where does perfectionism come from?

Before action, there is thought, and before, thought, there is attitude. And attitudes can be viral and pandemic. The attitude to see the wrong rather than the right is what feeds perfectionism. When a child is raised in an environment of perfectionist attitudes, they begin to model that attitude as their way of life. Some examples include:

Hyper -critical or demanding parents, parents/caregivers who were quick to point out mistakes and slow to give praise.

  • Having to perform under huge expectations and feeling valued purely
  • through achievements.
  • The sad concept is that these parents and caregivers where most likely

victims themselves.

So where does it all stop?

One of the best ways to get a clear understanding of whether you are a Perfectionist is to gather a 360 Feedback.  You can do this with your personal circle (three close people) or at your work environment (boss, coworker, employee) this is best done professionally.  The Feedback can be a tremendous gift; a tool and an immense opportunity to become aware, adjust your unwanted behaviors and create the balance necessary for joy and a sense of accomplishment to enter your life. 

 

Some sure tell signs of perfectionism are:

 

1) You obsessively play and replay a mistake you made

2) You are intensely competitive and can’t stand negative feedback

3) You are overly critical of others

4) You are constantly striving for independence and won’t ask for help

5) You find yourself very angry or sad or both a lot of the time when your expectation are not met

 

Our Five Tips for Keeping your Perfectionist in Check:

 

  1. Find and replace your “natural role models” (parents/caregivers) and find new role models. It doesn’t mean you are abandoning those you love, but rather rewiring your thoughts. Below are some examples of great role models.

 

  1.  Look to the past, but just as a planning tool not a self-Assessment/ identifying tool

Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank did not have success out of the gate. Shortly after college, he was at rock bottom and living in his grandmother’s basement. However, he worked hard and persevered, and now uses the methods of his football playing days to build his business for the future. His managerial style is not unlike that of a captain of a sports team, and his company culture enforces a team-focused mindset that breaks into huddles for meetings, instead of having the typical round table discussion. The idea is to grow from past struggles and use those struggles in a different way to make future goals obtainable. In other words, learn from your mistakes.

 

  1.  Surround yourself by free spirited individuals

If you can’t find anyone like that in your circle of friends, then read about them or watch movies about dreamers and risk-takers. There are many examples of people who have failed or made huge mistakes only to overcome them and create an even better life than they could have imagined.

Stories are a great way to get inspired. This is exactly why religious books, and mythology were used to help people transition from one phase of life to another in many cultures. There is power in story and identifying with a character that has gone through many trials only to re-emerge as the hero.

 

  1.  Defy “Normalcy” and Strive to be Different

Break the binds and the shell that is dictated by society, norms, ideals, religion, or beauracracy. Define who you want to be by defining your boundaries instead.

Google CEO, Larry Page. Clearly, he’s intelligent and creative. He’s also driven, ambitious, and collaborative. All of these traits lead to his appreciation of innovation and his desire for others to bring innovative ideas and new thinking to the table, as evidenced in his work philosophy—“We should be building great things that don’t exist.” That thinking propels the company to take on radical-seeming projects (called “moon shots”) that push the boundaries of whatever is currently the “norm.” And that thinking drives his rigorously pushing employees to do their best, to set their own expectations for the moon.

 

  1.  Start, Fail, Repeat, Repeat Repeat

Working for Jeff Bezos isn’t always a walk in the park. He has high expectations for his employees, and doesn’t apologize for it. In a Wall Street Journal article, there is a story from the early days of Amazon, when the company was only a bookseller.  It is said that in those days, the company was so underequipped that they didn’t even have packing tables to pack the books, and employees had to pack thousands of books, long hours at a time, on their knees.  

But by 1999, Amazon had 500 employees for the sole task of answering emails. They were each expected to answer 12 emails per minute, and could possibly be fired when that number dropped below 7. Without his penchant for continuously raising the standard for his employees, this would have never been achieved.  

You see, what many people don’t know about Jeff Bezos is that he came from a farming background, not an MBA, executive culture. Having been raised on his grandfather’s farm and working there through his adulthood like, he was in the business of running and fixing tractors. Hence he began to be well versed in loving the process not just the end.  He is keen to the art of perseverance.  His fortitude and ability to accept failure, as a byproduct of creation is what sets him apart from perfectionist creators.  

 

His idea for Amazon was not a genius one, but he had a vision, and the vision was to turn Amazon into a machine. Over the years, he was so attuned to his customers, that he was able to continuously improve the process of procurement and shipment.  What was initially a small system, became a massive enterprise.  Amazon’s functioning and customer service, came alive like a machine, not unlike the tractors he had built and took apart years before.  By having patience with the process, not fearing failture but taking in lessons it taught, Bezos has now created an incredibly efficient machine. A machine, which is now famous for being able to make same day deliveries in over a dozen US cities.

 

This thing called Life

Sun Tzu, the Chinese Author and Philosopher in the Art of War said:  “If the mind is willing, the flesh could go on and on without many things”.  We live in a culture of Win-Loose; a culture of immediate gratifications that tries to teach us and our children that what you have objectively is what and who you are.  Who we are is in our minds, and how we live our lives and touch those we come in contact with is what defines us.  Your life is not a snapshot bur rather a reel of film, with segments of many many trials and tribulations and that is why What you are is defined by the means and not by the end.

Screen Shot 2017-04-20 at 1.19.22 PMIn a previous LinkedIn post, we had discussed that as a culture, we are apparently not the only people duped by narcissistic leaders. “While narcissists may look like good leaders, according to a new study by University of Amsterdam, they’re actually really bad at leading”. As published in the journal of Psychological Science, “because narcissistic individuals are particularly skilled at radiating an image of a prototypically effective leader, they tend to emerge as leaders in group settings. But despite people’s positive perceptions of narcissists, when it comes to performance, narcissists actually inhibit information exchange between group members and thereby negatively affect group performance.”

 

In today’s blog considering the state of our nation in both business and political management, weScreen Shot 2017-04-20 at 1.19.37 PM want to add to that yet another of the dark triad traits; Machiavellianism “It is much safer to be feared than loved,” writes Niccolò Machiavelli in The Prince, his classic 16th-century treatise exemplifying manipulation and occasional cruelty as the best means to power. In the same spirit we have had many more recent business leaders, philosophers and believer alike within a 500 year span, such as Jack Welsh, whom in his Four type Model of Managers states: “Type 4 (the manger who delivers results but does not live by values espoused by the organization) is the toughest call of all: the manager who doesn’t share the values, but delivers the numbers. This type is the toughest to part with because organizations always want to deliver and to let someone go who gets the job done is yet another unnatural act. But we have to remove these Type 4s because they have the power, by themselves, to destroy the open, informal, trust-based culture we need to win today and tomorrow”.

 

Robert Greene’s national bestseller, The 48 Laws of Power, make Machiavelli’s’ ideas seem like child’s play. Greene’s book, is pure Machiavelli. Here are a few of his 48 laws:

Law 3, Conceal Your Intentions.

Law 6, Court Attention at All Costs.

Law 12, Use Selective Honesty and Generosity to Disarm Your Victims.

Law 15, Crush Your Enemy Totally.

Law 18, Keep Others in Suspended Terror.

 

Furthermore, a 2004 Harvard Business Review article by George Stalk Jr. and Rob Lachenauer states: “winners in business play rough and don’t apologize for it”. In fact, in their article titled Hardball: Five killer strategies for trouncing the competition, the authors make reference to three Organizations: Dell, Toyota and Walmart, clearly stating that the way they have achieved their success has not been “quite kosher”. However, nevertheless they stay on their course supporting their claim that in order to be the epitome of corporate success, organizations have to play “hardball” like the trio above.

 

Several decades ago, as a leader of our nation, Theodore Roosevelt’s foreign policy was famously to “speak softly and carry a big stick“. Which technically, refers to practicing strategy and diplomacy rather than showing your hand at all times. Today, Trump’s is “carry that big stick and be very loud’. Meaning, no need to beat around the bush, but rather be controversial and unaffected by criticism, get to the point, show them you mean business and win at all costs. Guided by centuries of Machiavellian advice like the above, many have come to believe that attainment of power requires force, deception, manipulation, and coercion. In fact, a larger percentage of our society assumes that positions of power demand this kind of conduct; that to run effectively, we need leaders who are willing and able to use power abusively.

 

 

Well, a new science of power would reveal that this is not further from the truth. In fact, the use of power is most effective, when it’s used responsibly. Individual(s) whom are accustomed to being connected and engaged with the needs and interests of others, are most trusted and hence most influential. The many years of research studying power and leadership suggests that empathy and Emotional Intelligence are vastly more important to the attainment and exercise of power than force, deception, or terror. This research debunks myths that misinform about what constitutes real power, and how it is really obtained and used.

 

So what is it about the position of power that becomes all about winning and not necessarily about achieving the greater good? Studies show that once people assume positions of power, they’re likely to act more selfishly, impulsively, and aggressively, and they have a harder time seeing the world from other people’s points of view. For instance, studies have found that people given power in experiments are more likely to rely on stereotypes when judging others, and they pay less attention to the characteristics that define those other people as individuals. Predisposed to stereotype, they also judge others’ attitudes, interests, and needs less accurately. One survey found that high-power professors made less accurate judgments about the attitudes of low-power professors than those low-power professors made about the attitudes of their more powerful colleagues. Power imbalances may even help explain the finding that older siblings don’t perform as well as their younger siblings on theory-of-mind tasks, which assess one’s ability to construe the intentions and beliefs of others.

Power even prompts less complex legal reasoning in Supreme Court justices. A study led by Stanford psychologist Deborah Gruenfeld compared the decisions of U.S. Supreme Court justices when they wrote opinions endorsing either the position of a majority of justices on the bench—a position of power—or the position of the vanquished, less powerful minority. Sure enough, when Gruenfeld analyzed the complexity of justices’ opinions on a vast array of cases, she found that justices writing from a position of power crafted less complex arguments than those writing from a low-power position.

 

Hence, it seems, the skills most important to obtaining power and leading effectively are the very skills that deteriorate once we have power. In order to answer the question above, we must first clarify the definition of power. I particularly like the way power is defined in the science of psychology because it applies across relationships, contexts, and cultures. In psychological science, power is defined as one’s capacity to alter another person’s condition or state of mind by providing or withholding resources—such as food, money, knowledge, and affection—or administering punishments, such as physical harm, job termination, or social ostracism. This definition de-emphasizes how a person actually acts, and instead stresses the individual’s capacity to affect others.

 

This brings us to the third trait of the Dark Triad, psychopathy. There is a wealth of evidence, which clearly demonstrates that having power makes people more likely to act like sociopaths. High-power individuals are more likely to interrupt others, to speak out of turn, or to avoid looking at others who are speaking. They are also more likely to tease friends and colleagues in a hostile and humiliating fashion. Surveys of organizations find that some typical rude behavior such as shouting, using profanities, or shaming type of criticism are most often acts of individuals in positions of power.

Research by Dacher Keltner has found that many individuals with power tend to behave like patients with damaged orbitofrontal lobes (the region of the brain’s frontal lobes behind the eye sockets); A neurological condition causing overly impulsive and insensitive behavior. Psychopaths display lack of empathy and socially inappropriate behavior in addition to harmful forms of aggression.

 

When separated into traits as we have done here, the use of power as we have demonstrated here, doesn’t look that appealing. However, in society, we have had many examples of “powerful” people with the ENTJ personality type known as “the commander” who have been very “successful” at what they were tasked to do because they had a strong following of believers; Joseph Stalin, Adolph Hitler, Jeffery Dahmer, Winston Churchill, Jack Welsh, Steve Jobs, Martha Stewart. But why are these personality types, which may normally look appalling given power? We believe the answer lies in the fact that as humans we are attracted to controversy or radicalism even if it’s not good for us. The most “influential” leaders as mentioned above, armed with their manipulation, thirst for power, and lack of empathy, are often found reinforcing ideals for mockery and anger during times of mass weakness and despair. Only this type of leader is able to fulfill a tribe’s hunger for power because they bring with them a false sense of security. This serves a symbiotic relationship for the leader as well because the surrender of power by the followers, feeds the narcissism, machiavillianism and psychopathy of the leader that much more. It serves as a cyclical infinite process.

Although as humans we naturally strive for power, those with the above traits thirst for it in an insatiable way and if the environment calls for it, they are in the most desirable habitat to become more and more powerful. In the famed Stanford Prison Experiment, psychologist Philip Zimbardo randomly assigned Stanford undergraduates to act as prison guards or prisoners—an extreme kind of power relation. The prison guards quickly descended into the purest forms of power abuse, psychologically torturing their peers, the prisoners. Similarly, anthropologists have found that cultures where rape is prevalent and accepted tend to be cultures with deeply entrenched beliefs in the supremacy of men over women.

So when Jack Welsh was typifying his managers, he wasn’t necessarily referring to their work ethics but rather to their personality types. In a recent study on representative German businesses, narcissism was positively linked to salary, while Machiavellianism was positively linked to leadership level and career satisfaction. These associations were still significant even after controlling for the effects of demographics, job tenure, organization size, and hours worked.

Previously, an impressive 15-year longitudinal study found that individuals with psychopathic and narcissistic characteristics gravitated towards the top of the organizational hierarchy and had higher levels of financial attainment. In line with those findings, according to some estimates, the base rate for clinical levels of psychopathy is three times higher among corporate boards than in the overall population. This is also consistent with earlier conceptualizations of psychopathy among businessmen.

 

 

Instead of succumbing to the Machiavellian worldview—which unfortunately leads us to select Machiavellian leaders—we must promote a different model of power, one rooted in social intelligence, responsibility, and cooperation.

 

“Power tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely,” said the British historian Lord Acton. Based on what we know now, this is not entirely a myth. Power encourages individuals to act on their own whims, desires, and impulses. But thankfully new scholarship is bringing fresh subtlety to psychologists’ understanding, clarifying that power doesn’t have to corrupt everyone because it doesn’t affect everyone the same way. In fact, for some people, power seems to bring out their best. In a study recently published in the Journal of Applied Psychology, DeCelles and her co-authors found people’s sense of “moral identity”, the degree to which they thought it was important to their sense of self to be “caring,” “compassionate,” “fair,” “generous” shaped their exercise and response to power. Among the 195 subjects, while primed to think of themselves as powerful, the people with low moral-identity scores grabbed 7.5 points—and those with high moral-identity scores took only about 5.5. In other words, with the high moral identity group, power led them to take a broader, more communally centered perspective.

 

Another experiment involving adults found a similar relationship between moral identity, ethical behavior and innate aggressiveness. Assertive people who scored low on the moral-identity scale were more likely to say they’d cheated their employer in the past week than more passive types with similar moral-identity scores. But among those with high moral-identity scores, the assertive people were less likely to have cheated. In sum, the study found, power doesn’t corrupt; it heightens pre-existing ethical values.

 

So, in practicing power and surrendering it, it is imperative that we are ever vigilant against the corruptive influences of power and it’s ability to distort our views of humility and treatment of others. The goals is also remain critical in challenge myths about power, which persuade us to choose the wrong kinds of leaders and to tolerate gross abuses of power.

Abraham Lincoln once said, “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” Would you say that Trump’s proclamation Patriotic Day of Devotion, which was made official on Monday, and previously uttered by Kim Jong-un in speeches to his 1.2 million-strong military and members of the ruling Korean Workers’ party echoes those of Dark Triad Leaders prior?

 

Evolution. What does it really mean? The first creature we would recognize as human called homo ergester first appeared in Africa two million years ago. Not long when compared to the Oldest species that inhabited earth over 600 million years ago. These species include sharks, ants, Jelly Fish and Sponges among others. The phrase survival of the fittest is what has been described as the outcome of how species with certain talents and capabilities are able to manage environmental threats and reproduce and therefore continue to prosper as living creatures rather than die out or become extinct.

 

Environmental threats exist no matter what. Any time there are multiple interests or forces at work, there is conflict. It is believed that Conflict is a result of various reasons. Malthus, the eminent economist says that reduced supply of the means of subsistence is the root cause of conflict. According to him, conflict is caused by the increase of population in geometrical progression and the food supply in arithmetical progression. According to Charles Darwin, the biological principles of “Struggle for existence” and “the survival of the fittest” are the main cause of conflict. Sigmund Freud and other psychologist hold the view that the innate instinct for aggression in man is the main cause of conflict. So we know conflict is an inevitable fact of life. However, in spite of the various causes the dynamic of conflict is founded on one main phenomenon; Power.

 

Even, in job related or interpersonal relationships where there is no tangible resources to be controlled per say such as money, food, autonomy, process, etc. the exercise of power could involve control of intangible resources such as decision-making, attention, freedom, time, love, etc. even though it doesn’t have to be that way. In fact, in an abusive relationship whether a bully-type dynamic at work, an abusive personal relationship or an abusive marriage, one party establishes a pattern of unhealthy control. Even though there might seem to be times of peace and affection, these good times linger in the shadows of the subtle or not so subtle controlling tactics the abuser uses for the purpose of getting his or her own way.

For example, an abusive spouse may prevent his (or her) partner from seeing family members, going out with friends, or going back to college. He may try to regulate the people his spouse talks to, where his spouse goes, or how and when his spouse spends money. He may demand all of his mate’s attention. He may put his spouse on an irrational guilt trip for talking to or doing things with other people. He may consider his spouse’s needs as an infringement on or a betrayal of his own needs. He may act insanely jealous and falsely accuse his partner of cheating on him. He may constantly monitor and check up on the whereabouts of his spouse. Many are known to lash out and belittle their spouse when they don’t get their own way or when they feel betrayed or abandoned. Others threaten to divorce or to physically hurt their spouse or destroy a cherished possession, all in an effort to intimidate and punish their mate.

 

So let’s take some evolutionary theories regarding conflict resolution; Darwin’s theory regarding conflict for example. What does the term “fittest” really mean? Is it referring to our physical embodiment, like our body mass index, speed, skeletal build, or height? Is it referring to our cognitive intelligence like the size of our brains, how good we are at problem solving or finding food during difficult times? Or is it referring to our ability is to prevail through the process of conflict against the opposition or worst yet predators? The answer cannot be our physical embodiment because if that were the case, the dinosaurs would not have gone extinct. In fact one of the most successful species that has ever lived, the ant is one of the smallest and most fragile species. The answer also cannot be our cognitive intelligence because our mammalian brains evolved to the cerebral capacity they are today only since 200,000 years ago, while the successful species described above were around way before our time and have continued to prosper.

 

So how does this relate to survival of the fittest you ask? According to the various personality inventories, with the DISC being one of them and the Myers Briggs Type Indicator being another one, it has been studied that certain personality types are more likely to be entrepreneurial. According to Timmons New Venture Creation: entrepreneurship for the 21st century, entrepreneurship is “the ability to create and build something from practically nothing. It is initiating, doing, achieving and building an

enterprise or organization, rather than just watching, analyzing or describing one. It is the knack for sensing an opportunity where others see chaos, contradiction and confusion. It is the ability to build a ‘founding team’ to complement your own skills and talents. It is the know-how to find, marshal and utilize resources (often owned by others) and to make sure you don’t run out of money when you need it most. Finally, it is the willingness to take calculated risk, – both personal and financial – and then do everything possible to get the odds in your favor.”

Entrepreneurs take a stance on their vision, even if it means they might fail. Dozens of studies over the last three decades link risk-taking propensity with entrepreneurial achievement. Tony Tjan calls this trait guts: the ability to take action. An entrepreneur, he sums, must have “the guts to initiate, the guts to endure, and the guts to evolve as a new company changes”; we call it being emotionally intelligent. The ability to take risk in spite of fear, the ability to curb anxiety in spite of uncertainty, the ability to cope in spite of failure and the ability to persevere in spite of failure.   Two out of the four Emotional intelligence characteristics involve recognizing emotions in oneself and being able to work through them in spite of how difficult they may be in communicating with others.

 

One particular article has actually emphasized that these four personality types are more likely to be financially successful. But let’s put money aside and concentrate on just the entrepreneurial personality type for now, because as we know money can come from doing good and doing evil and it can do good as well as do evil. We believe that the “entrepreneurial spirit” or personality in this case, is not just relevant to the world of business, but rather to any venture that requires similar skills such as starting a new relationship, or a marriage and working though and nourishing it to flourish year after year. The four MBTI personality types ENTPs, ESTJs, ENTJs, INTJs, and ISTJs which are entrepreneurial are all curious, creative, take responsibility, and are decisive. According to Gallup, knowledge seekers increase their company’s chance of survival. Likewise, a 2015 Slovenian study revealed that entrepreneurial curiosity is positively correlated with company growth. According to the Journal of Small Business Economics as a result of these four sub personalities, they are Persuaders (enterprising) as measured by the Holland Occupational Themes. However, persuasion can either be tied in with psychopathy, machiavelian and/or narcissism or it could be tied in with conscientiousness, social helpfulness, and absorption; a disposition or personality trait in which a person becomes absorbed in their mental imagery, particularly fantasy. In reviewing the Big Five personality components, Contrary to expectations, a study in the Journal of Business Venturing found a negative relationship between the entrepreneur’s openness and long-term venture survival. On the other hand, according to the Journal of Management Decision, creativity was the single most critical and prevalent trait associated with entrepreneurship. However, in a recent study in the issue of Harvard Business Review, Target Training International Ltd., a research firm, a multi-variable analysis of a group of serial entrepreneurs identified five personal skills that clearly made them unique. The above personality traits applied but according to the study, the glue that held them together was “Personal skills” — often classified as “soft skills”. These include effectively communicating, building rapport, and relating well to all people, from all backgrounds and communication styles. Our research at Center for Work Life in working with hundreds of executives over a period of 18 years has found similar results.

 

It is believed that personality traits are usually pretty stable. However, interpersonal skills as practiced through emotional intelligence training are learned and open to change.

 

So how does this all tie in with our original question of what is evolution? Whether in the work place or in interpersonal relationships with friends, spouses or loved ones, we are constantly striving to either survive or evolve. Of course, similar to many other aspects of life, this is not an all or none dichotomy, but rather a spectrum. In Darwin’s terms, these two concepts were one and the same, but we say they are very different when it comes to social and psychological development. There is a difference between the individuals who tolerate, hide, ignore, avoid and stay on their own path when the evidence clearly calls on them, versus those that turn the system up side down because they strive for a different vision and are unwilling to take it as is. They resist control and instead choose cooperation.

Of course in symbiotic relationships where there is equity or a balance between give and take the power is distributed equitably.  We believe that Emotionally intelligent individuals are the highly evolved members of our society and of our species. Remember the sponge we talked about earlier? The one who has lived on earth for over 600 million years ago? What is the secret to its long and prosperous existence? It has been studied that as sponges feed, they filter out tiny particles of organic matter from the water. Researches believe, millions of years ago these particles would have included dead microbial matter, which rots and consumes oxygen. Sponges helped to clean water of this material. Without all of the rotting going on, the water would have experienced a significant decrease in oxygen levels.

More oxygen in the water then set the stage for more complex life forms to emerge, such as the first predatory animals with guts that started to eat one another, marking the beginning of a modern marine ecosystem, with the type of food webs we are familiar with today. So rather than merely surviving, the most successful species on the planet, thrived by “thinking” outside of itself and enterprising on the vision of coexistence, support and a symbiotic relationship with other species that it yearned to neighbor some day. So in spite of having no IQ at all, no cerebral cortex, no significant size or particular muscular strength, the sponge could just have been the most emotionally intelligent species that lived.

As humans, we have achieved so much through the art, science and technology. However, the illusion of control, or the misrepresentation of the power to guard resources has led us to kill, repress, exclude and severely harm our own kind. Rather than control, what if we shared our resources, capabilities, and strengths with others. Rather than possess, what if we freed rights and took responsibility not just for ourselves but also for other human beings and species. What if we learned to be better communicators? Being intelligently aware of our own challenges and communicating them while seeking others challenges and empowering them. Interestingly, it turns out that fortunately we have the wiring to do just that. As opposed to homo ergaster and homo erectus, as homo sapiens we surpassed the test of time and were the only species that continued to live on the planet as descendants of apes some 6 million years ago. But why? Homo erectus was slightly bigger and more powerful than Homo sapiens, so why did we survive when they did not? The most simple answer could be that this happened because we had bigger brains. But it turns out that what mattered was not overall brain size but the areas where the brain was larger. “The Homo erectus brain did not devote a lot of space to the part of the brain that controls language and speech,” has said John Shea, professor of paleo-anthropology at Stony Brook University in New York.

“One of the crucial elements of Homo sapiens’ adaptations is that it combines complex planning, developed in the front of the brain, with language and the ability to spread new ideas from one individual to another. Planning, communication and even trade led, among other things, to the development of better tools and weapons which spread rapidly across the population”.  

 

One could argue that not all people have the luxury or even want to be emotionally intelligent, because they have to be strategic. Our response: strategy or strategic action is associated with a competitive advantage-seeking behavior to create value.   If that value were one sided, meaning just valuable to us, or worst, gained at the expense of disvaluing others, that value would surely be short-term. And value, which is short-term, is not value at all. Hence true gain in competitive advantage utilizes Emotional Intelligence within all strategic decisions to create influence rather than control and hence a win-win for all.   Sponges could have ruled the planet. They could have reserved all of the earth resources for themselves. But they were the active agents that oxygenated the ocean around 600 million years ago and created a world in which more complex animals could evolve, including our very ancestors.

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