Meet Mr. Good and Mr. Evil. This was the strangest leadership style I had ever encountered. It was typical to leave the CEO’s office feeling great about the company, pumped up, energized and feeling good about work and life. Meetings with the CEO’s powerful second in command, on the other hand, left you feeling drained, deflated, confused and worried if you would even have a job the next week.
Psychopathic Polarized Leadership Sinks the Ship
The CEO was cordial, respectful and seemed to have a positive outlook on life. His second in command was an abrasive bully who was arrogant, foul mouthed and narcissistic. This psychopathic polarized leadership style would later prove devastating to this company. Communication within the organization was dysfunctional at best. Executives did not know where the company was going and were hesitant to pursue cold, hard facts in a fear-based buffer that surrounded the CEO thanks to leader number two.
Good Cop-Bad Cop?
The senior management’s leadership style was confusing and left many company leaders and professionals bewildered at times. The top two management duo’s modus operandi was similar to good cop-bad cop. Except this was good leader-evil leader. The players were not cops but irresponsible business leaders. The victims were not crime suspects but well-respected business leaders and professionals.
Public Speeches about Great Workplaces
As the head of human resources, I would occasionally be asked to speak to groups. I was very proud of our company and the progress we had made in creating a great place to work. This was an absolute miracle considering the psychopathic leadership model at the top. Not only had we grown from obscurity to number five on the Forbes list of largest privately held companies, we also were well known throughout the city and the region as an employer of choice.
When job openings were advertised on our website, within minutes hundreds of people would be applying. In fact, we were aware of job applicants working at other respected companies waiting for positions to come open so they could apply for a chance to work in a great workplace. This was a talent recruiting position many leaders only dream about. We had become a magnet for the best and brightest people.
Unhealthy at the Top
When speaking to groups, it was only natural to tell audiences my philosophy of creating an employee-friendly corporate culture where people should be treated with trust and respect. The importance of a company’s internal personality cannot be overstated. However, I knew our company’s personality at the top was sick and twisted. Overall, ninety-nine percent of the company was comprised of very good, respectful people who cared about the organization and its people. The company was unhealthy at the top.
Two Ten Thousand Pound Gorillas
It has been said, “You are only as strong as your weakest link.” Unfortunately for us, our weakest link was two ruthless, clever, greedy scheming executives at the top. In other words, underneath our great workplace story was two ten thousand pound gorillas. Mr. Good and Mr. Evil. I dared not talk publicly about their confusing and exasperating leadership styles.
As time went on this became an enormous problem. It created fear, dread, aggravation and knots inside many peoples’ stomachs. At first I simply thought we had an out of control, certified asshole executive along with a beloved CEO who avoided conflict and would not rise to the occasion and stop the internal psychological terrorism on employees and fellow leaders. Later I realized they were working together to create a polarized management system.
Moral of this Story
Learn from this sad but true story. This is an extreme example. However, it is important because you need to know who is running or ruining your company. Is Mr. Good really working for the best interests of the company? Is Mr. Evil really worth keeping around? People practice professionals need to speak freely about what ills the company. Many executives do not want to hear about problems. That is why it has been said most human resource executives need a “go to hell fund.”
Live your life with utmost integrity and be willing to tell the truth, even if the truth will likely cost you your job. In the long run an integrity-based journey will make sense and bring worthwhile rewards.