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Does your leadership style suffer from a BLIND spot?

May 4, 2023

Part 1

Dr. Chris Heunis

“…most bosses are not mentally ill, but a surprising number of senior executives do have a personality disorder of some kind.” De Vries (2014:102).

Three decades of teaching, coaching, and facilitating learning to business leaders locally and abroad allows one to identify patterns of behaviour. It is sad to witness how unintentionally destructive some business leaders become when the cloak of power and control rests on their shoulders.

This is an attempt to understand negative psychological dynamics displayed unconsciously by some business leaders. Although they do not mean to be disruptive, they certainly behave in that way. This behaviour is stress related and situational. You will notice that I refer to “some” business leaders.

We all have experienced a boss that is, sarcastic, quick tempered, a micro-manager, selfish, moody, obsessed with profits and disconnected at times.

Behavioral pathology is sometimes regarded as being far worse than some physical illnesses. We find it difficult to relate to some condition we cannot see, especially when one is “diagnosed” or labeled. It is far worse to be labeled with some metaphysical condition like schizophrenia or obsessive-compulsive disorder, than with appendicitis or scoliosis. Once you have been diagnosed with some behavioral pathology, it kind of follows you where ever you go. Human beings are in a constant quest to control their environment as well as their mental faculties. We strive to achieve stability in our world although optimal stability and control avoid us. Take “Road Rage” for example as a situational trigger. Road Rage has been accepted as part of our complex social environment, we all experience it whether being a boss or an employee. Triggers associated with Road Rage, could be a lack of respect for the rules of the road or a lack of respect for the other road user.

Do you sometimes feel out of synch with your colleagues? Seeing and interpreting things differently from them? These experiences bring about alienation.

Behavioural dysfunction is a blind spot or pathology and manifests in a person being:

  • obsessive, irrational or compulsive, selfish and inconsiderate, motivated by ambition, demanding attention (delicate sense of self), in pursuit of power and attention, not listening to advice or having a lack of emotional balance and consistency.

The following statement demands attention:

“Executives sometimes suffer from serious personality disorders, such as pathological narcissism, manic-depression, passive-aggressiveness, and emotional disconnection. When these leaders reach positions of power, they create dysfunctional organisations in which everyone is miserable.” De Vries (2014: 103)

The four personality disorders identified above display remarkable similarities to excessive dominance of specific styles of thinking. These “styles” or quadrants have been, identified and named by Herrmann (1996).  The sequence and depth in which a person accesses these quadrants presents a certain style of thinking.

“Research has shown that thinking styles directly affect behavior, performance and results. Whole Brain® Thinking acknowledges that while different tasks require different mental processes, and different people prefer different styles

of thinking, organizations will get better results when they can strategically harness the diversity of thinking styles of thinking relevant to the situation — analytical, organizational, strategic, and interpersonal (the four quadrants of thinking preferences as depicted in the Herrmann Whole Brain® Model). By applying Whole Brain® Thinking, we can learn to leverage our thinking preferences more effectively and think and act outside our preferences when necessary.

This means, that if I know what my thinking preferences are, I can act against my “nature” or natural response and focus on which thinking style the situation requires. This certainly will prevent the thoughtful leader (meta cognition) of being labelled as dysfunctional at times.

Figure 1: The Whole Brain® Model Herrmann Global (2012)

Herewith more information about thinking style assessment, to put the above into context:

“The Herrmann Brain Dominance Instrument® (HBDI®), which is the 120-question thinking styles assessment at the core of the Whole Brain® approach, reveals a person’s thinking preferences in the form of an HBDI® Profile. Because its premise is that we all have brains, we just use them differently, the HBDI® assessment doesn’t pigeonhole people or put them into “types.” Instead, it shows people that while there are some areas they may be less comfortable with, they aren’t limited in what they can do. It also reveals how teams and groups can work together in the most productive way by drawing on their cognitive diversity to tackle specific tasks and problems.”  Herrmann Global (2012)

PART 2 of this discussion will identify behavioural patterns associated with certain thinking preferences that are socially unacceptable.

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