When a Psychopath Inhabits the C-Suite

This post is a continuance of my prior post on evil in organizational cultures.

The “dark triad” — psychopaths, narcissists and machiavellians — represents a small part of the population. What unties this group of destructive personalities is that they lack empathy for other human beings and care only about themselves. Some end up in correctional institutions while others end up in leadership positions where they create dog-eat-dog cultures or cultures that are indifferent to human beings (this is opposed to Servant Leaders who create “Connection Cultures”).

For some interesting thoughts on psychopaths in the C-suite, see this post by Larry Kahaner of the McGowan Fund and the link in his post to an article entitled “The Corporate Psychopaths Theory of the Global Financial Crisis” that appeared in the Journal of Business Ethics.  The book and movie entitled The Corporation make the argument that organizations that care only about profit have effectively become psychopathic.

The way to keep members of the dark triad out of positions of leadership and out of organizations is to educate everyone so that they understand what a healthy culture is, how it’s based on character strengths and virtues, and how organizations develop people with both character and competence.  One project we are working on with Scotiabank is creating a monthly piece for leaders entitled Leading with Character. Each month’s piece highlights a particular character strength, explains how it’s relevant to the organization and how to strengthen one’s leadership in ways that reflect the character strength.  If you are interested in learning more, please email me at mstallard@epluribuspartners.com or call me at 203-422-6511.

Develop the Heart of a Champion

Gold Cup TrophyResearch by psychologist K. Anders Ericsson has shown it requires approximately 10,000 hours of intentional practice, with coaching, to become an expert.  Ten thousand hours is roughly equivalent to ten years of putting in 20 hours of practice a week.  The importance of perseverance and practice is obvious.

Every bit as essential to becoming great, yet less obvious, is the importance of developing the character strengths of humility and love.  Humility guides and encourages you to seek and truly accept coaching, and love is what allows you to give and receive the relational support of others needed to persevere through the inevitable ups and downs of life.

Years ago I met and spoke with Andre Agassi when he was playing a tennis tournament in Burbank, California.  This was during a period when Agassi had fallen from being one of the top players in the world to being so lowly ranked that it was difficult for him to get into major tournaments.  Andre had the skills but just wasn’t playing anywhere near the top of his game.  The Burbank tournament was the turning point.  Agassi won the tournament and went on to return to the ranks of the top tennis players in the world.  What happened?

A Healing Connection

We’ve been doing more work of late in the health care field, helping organizations such as the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center develop Connection Cultures that boost employee engagement and improve patient outcomes.   If you have a story to tell or are aware of practices that boost connection at hospitals, would you please post it on the comments below or email me at mstallard@epluribuspartners.com. Thank you.

On that score, while speaking recently at Texas Christian University, a student, Romel Schearer, told me about the remarkable story of Bill Cabeen, a cardiologist who had the courage to connect with one of his patients, Nikki Luederitz, rather than remain disconnected in the name of “professionalism.”  Dr. Cabeen’s courage and support not only saved Ms. Luederitz’s life, it changed her in a profound way. To learn how, listen to “The Tale of Two Hearts.”

The Secret of Apple and U2’s Success

Bono iTunes

Apple is now the most valuable company in the world in terms of market capitalization and U2’s recent tour just became the highest grossing of all time, crushing the previous record held by the Rolling Stones.

Learn about Apple’s remarkable rise in market cap in this New York Times article and learn about U2’s claim as the greatest band of all time in this article from the Atlantic magazine’s website.

The Heart of Starbucks’ CEO

A leader I know and much admire is Howard Behar, the former president of Starbucks North America and Starbucks International. Howard tells about the time 14 years ago this month when he received a call in the middle of the night at his home in Seattle alerting him that three Starbucks employees at the Georgetown store in Washington, D.C. had been shot and killed, including an 18-year who had just recently begun at Starbucks, his first job.   Behar immediately called Howard Schultz, Starbucks’ CEO, who was in New York on vacation at the time.

What Schultz didn’t do, says a lot about his character.  He didn’t call Starbucks’ public relations people or lawyers.  Instead, Schultz chartered a plane and headed straight to Washington, D.C.  When he arrived, he spoke with the police then proceeded to the store to get the addresses of the three murdered Starbucks employees. He went to each of their homes, told their families he was sorry and shared in their tears.

Cure for a “Low Grade Boiling Rage”

My mind must have been on something else as I began to edge out a bit from a side street to make a left-hand turn onto a main thoroughfare.  At the same time, another driver was turning left onto the street I was on. I slammed on my brakes in time. Admittedly, the near miss was my fault and the driver I almost pulled in front of had every right to be upset.  What surprised me, however, was the intensity of his reaction.  He came unglued, turned blood red, repeatedly flipped me off and began spewing expletives and spittle.  The rage on his face is burned in my memory.  I kept an eye on him in my rear view mirror to make sure he wasn’t turning around to come after me.  Fortunately he didn’t.

Why are so many people angry these days?

Emotional Connections Essential to Employee Engagement

Here is a video from YouTube of a conversation I had earlier this year about leadership, employee engagement, productivity and innovation with Dr. Homer Erekson, Dean of TCU’s Neeley School of Business.  Our conversation occurred as part of the Tandy Executive Speakers Series that featured CEOs of outstanding companies such as Nieman Marcus, Southwest Airlines and The Container Store.

During our conversation we discussed how most leaders don’t understand the importance of emotional connections to the success of the their organization.  Learn more about the “Connection Cultures” that great leaders create by reading Fired Up or Burned Out.

At Google, Starbucks (and Life Outside of Work), Success = Connection


The New York Times has had a number of great articles related to connection and how it leads to success at work and in life.  In an article about what Google discovered from Project Oxygen, a rigorous study of its successful managers, Laszlo Bock, the leader of the study stated:

“In the Google context, we’d always believed that to be a manager, particularly on the engineering side, you need to be as deep or deeper a technical expert than the people who work for you…It turns out that that’s absolutely the least important thing. It’s important, but pales in comparison. Much more important is just making that connection and being accessible.” (italics mine)

Video Interview: Employee Engagement = Connections

Here is a video from YouTube of a conversation I had about leadership, employee engagement, productivity and innovation with Dr. Homer Erekson, Dean of TCU’s Neeley School of Business.  Our conversation occurred as part of the Tandy Executive Speakers Series.

George Washington, Worthy of Praise?


Today is Presidents’ Day in the U.S., a day in which we primarily celebrate our first president, George Washington. After reading the article “George Washington’s Tear Jerker” in The New York Times, one might ask, was Washington really the great leader he has been made out to be?  I asked myself that question during the summer of 2002 and began a journey to unpack truth from myth.  I went as far as contacting and speaking with Edward Lengel, the foremost historian on Washington’s generalship.  After doing my own research I wrote the following which became one of the chapters on 20 leaders in Fired Up or Burned Out.

First in Their Hearts

Richard Neustadt, Presidential Scholar at Harvard University, observed the following about George Washington: “It wasn’t his generalship that made him stand out . . . It was the way he attended to and stuck by his men. His soldiers knew that he respected and cared for them, and that he would share their severe hardships.”