Springtime for Hitler: lessons in leadership.
In searching for statements about leadership, one of the most troubling is the one by Peter Drucker: "Leadership is all hype. We've had three great leaders in this century--Hitler, Stalin, and Mao." Is it possible that the most effective leaders of the 20th century were autocrats? Unfortunately (for Peter Drucker) there is an elision in the statement as it is usually quoted (above). The full quotation by Drucker is: "Leadership is all hype. We've had three great leaders in this century--Hitler, Stalin, and Mao--and you see the devastation they left behind" (Huey, 1994). Startlingly, the phrase "and you see the devastation they left behind" is usually left out by most people quoting Drucker. This belief that the most effective leaders are vicious autocrats could very well have destroyed numerous countries and organizations. Anyone interested in leadership must first understand what is wrong with the first (incomplete) statement quoted above.
In a somewhat similar vein, Adolf Hitler stated:
In the last analysis, there are only three great statesmen in the world, Stalin, I, and Mussolini. Mussolini is the weakest, for he has been unable to break the power of either the crown or the church. Stalin and I are the only ones who envisage the future and nothing but the future. Accordingly, I shall in a few weeks stretch out my hand to Stalin at the common German-Russian frontier and undertake the redistribution of the world with him.
Was Hitler actually a great leader? If that is true, we should be able to apply his leadership paradigm to success in various arenas of interest, including the corporate and academic worlds, in addition to national politics. What lessons can we learn from his approach to leadership? The current paper is an attempt to answer these questions, using Hitler's own words. Most of the quotations included herein are from the website All Great Quotes (http://www.allgreat quotes.com/adolf_hitler_quotes7.shtml).
Burns (1978, pp. 457-462) makes a distinction between leaders and manipulators. Manipulators appeal to the vilest and most reprehensible instincts in their followers; leaders, on the other hand, elevate subordinates "into their better selves." For all his rhetoric, Hitler did not really care about Germany; he almost destroyed it. Germany was a tool for his own personal aggrandizement. It was not about making Germany a prosperous nation; it was about making Hitler renowned as a world conqueror. General H. Norman Schwartzkopf understood this and averred that leadership combines strategy and character, but character is more important. CEOs who have no integrity and use their companies for self-glorification are not leaders. One of the most profound statements about leadership is from Lao Tzu, (6th century B.C.E.), Chinese philosopher and founder of Taoism: "As for the best leaders, the people do not notice their existence. The next best, the people honor and praise. The next, the people fear; the next, the people hate." Lao Tzu stressed that leadership is not about self-glorification, but about accomplishing things for the greater good.
The superior leader gets things done with little motion. He imparts instructions not through many words but through a few deeds. He keeps informed about everything but interferes hardly at all. He is a catalyst, and though things would not get done as well if he weren't there, when they succeed he takes no credit. And because he takes no credit, credit never leaves him. As for the leader at the very top, it is best if people barely know he exists. Because he says very little his words, have more value. And when the work is done, the people are pleased, because they think they did it themselves.
Quotations from wise people are useful tools for learning. Ben Sirach said (Ecclesiasticus 8:8): "Despise not the discourse of the wise, but acquaint thyself with their proverbs, for of them thou shalt learn instruction." On the other hand, General Norman Schwarzkopf has said, "You learn far more from negative leadership than from positive leadership. Because you learn how not to do it. And therefore you learn how to do it."
In the sections that follow, we will examine statements made by Adolf Hitler, and by some of his subordinates, to see what lessons in leadership may be gleaned from them.
2. How to Speak to Subordinates
Some leaders treat peers and subordinates alike with respect. Many of these subscribe to the leadership paradigm of servant-leadership. At the other end of the spectrum is Machiavelli, who felt that great leaders manipulate subordinates using deception and other dishonest means. In fact, Machiavelli said: "Effective leaders are power-wielders, individuals who employ cunning and subterfuge to achieve their own ends."
In examining some interesting Hitler quotations to see how he felt about dealing with subordinates, two principles emerge. First he considered everyone to be his subordinate and, secondly, we note the importance of lying in the Hitler approach to leadership. This lack of respect for people is one of the problems--and a serious one--of this approach to leadership. It certainly makes it difficult for anyone to thrive in such an environment.
For Adolf Hitler, propaganda was a vital part of the leadership process since it is all about self-glorification, not about what is best for the country or organization. Propaganda was the main tool used by the state to inform the people. In the words of Joseph Goebbels, Hitler's propaganda minister, "It would not be impossible to prove with sufficient repetition and a psychological understanding of the people concerned that a square is in fact a circle. They are mere words, and words can be molded until they clothe ideas and disguise." Goebbels also said: "Think of the press as a great keyboard on which the government can play." There is no way Hitler would have allowed a free press or freedom of speech. Also, there is a high probability that no one actually asked for a free press.
Figure 1 Adolf Hitler on Truth and Lies * The great masses of the people ... will more easily fall victim to a big lie than to a small one. * The victor will never be asked if he told the truth. * By means of shrewd lies, unremittingly repeated, it is possible to make people believe that heaven is hell--and hell heaven. The greater the lie, the more readily it will be believed. * The broad masses of a population are more amenable to the appeal of rhetoric than to any other force. * What luck for rulers that men do not think. * It is not truth that matters, but victory. * Success is the sole earthly judge of right and wrong. * I use emotion for the many and reserve reason for the few. * But the most brilliant propagandist technique will yield no success unless one fundamental principle is borne in mind constantly and with unflagging attention. It must confine itself to a few points and repeat them over and over. Here, as so often in this world, persistence is the first and most important requirement for success.
Many CEOs are following in the steps of Hitler and see nothing wrong with lies and coverups. Shockingly, "in any given year a fraud was being committed by 11 to 13 percent of the large companies in the country" (Porter, 2012). In 2011, Transparency International ranked the United States number 24 in its Corruption Perceptions Index; in 2001 the United States was in 16th place. Someone had the audacity to declare that "company executives are paid to maximize profits, not to behave ethically" (Porter, 2012). What is happening now at G.M.--where the true story of a defective ignition switch was covered up for many years resulting in the deaths of at least 13 people--should make us all aware of how cynical many CEOs have become (Morgenson, 2014). William C. Dudley, President of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, had the following to say about the ethics of the financial industry: "There is evidence of deep-seated cultural and ethical failures at many large financial institutions." This is a sample of what they have done: "Money laundering, market rigging, tax dodging, selling faulty financial products, trampling homeowner rights and rampant risk taking" (Eavis, 2014). Things are not getting better: The FDIC is suing 16 major banks for their role in rigging the benchmark LIBOR rate (Team, 2014). The LIBOR rate is a key rate that is used to fix all kinds of interest rates including mortgages and loans. It appears that Goebbels would feel right at home working for one of the major banks.
One of the most outrageous lies spread by the Nazis dealt with the "economic miracle" produced by Nazism for Germany. During the last days of the Weimar Republic, in 1932, the number of unemployed stood at 5.6 million Germans; it plunged to 400,000 by 1938. In five years the unemployment rate had dropped sharply by an unheard of 96% (Trueman, 2012). Actually, the economic "miracle" was not miraculous. Unemployed plunged for several reasons including the fact that Jews and others were sent to concentration camps and were not permitted to work in Germany and young people were conscripted into military service. In fact, 32% of Germany's Gross Domestic Product was spent on the military in 1939. In addition the unemployment rate dropped because women were pushed out of the labor force and were forced to be homemakers. Many people were forced to work at menial jobs or were classified as "work shy" and severely punished. In real terms, wages were lower than they were in 1928 (Trueman, 2012). In the United States, we hide the truth by stressing the unemployment rate which does not include those who have given up looking for work or those forced to work part-time because they cannot find full-time jobs. The unemployment rate for May 2014 was 6.3% (lowest it has been since September 2008) but the percentage of the population that is in the labor force appears to be stuck at 62.8% (Schwartz, 2014).
3. How to Empower Others
Great leaders surround themselves with smart advisors and empower them. These counselors are encouraged to speak up and disagree if they feel a poor decision is about to be made. Conversely, leaders who are surrounded by sycophants and flatterers will often make wrong decisions since no person has expertise in all areas. President Woodrow Wilson once said: "I not only use all the brains that I have, but all that I can borrow." Great leaders do not blame subordinates when mistakes are made. After all, if slip-ups are not tolerated by leaders, subordinates will be afraid to take a chance. Leaders who are not afraid of taking the blame when things go wrong instead of looking for a scapegoat, will cultivate loyal subordinates. Catherine the Great asserted: "I praise loudly, I blame softly." Great leaders also understand the importance of delegation and empowerment. Andrew Carnegie declared: "No man will make a great leader who wants to do it all himself, or to get all the credit for doing it." Leaders who do not have the ability to delegate are very likely to fail.
Megalomaniacs, on the other hand, are obsessed with themselves and therefore will often not surround themselves with smart counselors. On the contrary, they often view smart people as a threat to themselves. An atmosphere of terror makes it almost impossible for subordinates to inform an autocratic leader that a mistake is being made. Hitler's generals knew the war could not be won after the devastating defeats at Stalingrad and Kursk in 1943
Rudolf Hess said:
Adolf Hitler's strength as a leader is that he almost always works through the power of his persuasion; rarely does he command. He must know, however, that when he commands, or allows a command to be given that it will be followed absolutely, down to the last block warden.
Notwithstanding this assessment on the part of Hitler's deputy fuhrer, shared decision-making was not exactly a major part of the Hitlerian leadership paradigm. To Hitler, like all megalomaniacs, only he could be trusted to make correct decisions.
Figure 2 Adolf Hitler on Respecting Others * For there is one thing we must never forget ... the majority can never replace the man. And no more than a hundred empty heads make one wise man will an heroic decision arise from a hundred cowards. * The spark of a genius exists in the brain of the truly creative man from the hour of his birth. True genius is always inborn and never cultivated, let alone learned. * My generals should be like bull terriers on chains, and they should want war, war, war ... But what happens now? I want to go ahead with my aggressive politics and the generals try to stop me. That's a false situation. * Sooner will a camel pass through a needle's eye than a great man be "discovered" by an election. * I believe today that my conduct is in accordance with the will of the Almighty. * Think Thousand times before taking a decision, but--After taking decision never turn back even if you get Thousand difficulties!! * From millions of men ... one man must step forward who with apodictic force will form granite principles from the wavering idea-world of the broad masses and take up the struggle for their sole correctness, until from the shifting waves of a free thought-world there will arise a brazen cliff of solid unity in faith and will.
Hitler's most brilliant general was arguably Field Marshal Erich von Manstein, who could have saved the day at Stalingrad. Manstein argued that General Paulus's Sixth Army which was trapped in Stalingrad, should retreat westward and meet the relieving forces. Hitler refused to listen to Manstein and did not allow retreat. What this accomplished was a huge defeat in Stalingrad for the German forces. Manstein's plan for an offensive at Kursk could have worked but Hitler did not listen. What happened instead, was another huge defeat for the German army. After these defeats, Manstein was able to slow down the Western advance of the Russian army but found that Hitler's refusal to allow any withdrawal made it impossible for him to stabilize the front. He had many disputes with Hitler--one of the few generals who could get away with this --but in March 1944 was relieved of his duties (Manstein, 2004).
Hitler relieved a number of key commanders of their jobs including von Brauchitsch, Guderian, Bock, Hoepner, von Rundsted, and Leeb. He took over all military operations and refused to listen to anyone. In fact, he ignored unpleasant realities, anything that did not fit into his distorted way of thinking. There was little chance he could win the war given the obvious lack of a "sound overall strategy." Hitler was convinced that his own General Staff was incompetent and could not make sound decisions; he had more and more frightening episodes of "blind, hysterical fury towards his generals" (Wistrich, 2013). Of course, Hitler did not have the expertise of his generals and made a large number of military blunders that resulted in defeats (Kershaw, 2000: 417).
The atmosphere around Hitler, especially after the defeat at Kursk, could not have been pleasant; the generals knew the war was lost and could not speak up. Fritz Darges was an army adjutant to Adolf Hitler who got himself sent to the Eastern front for telling a joke. During a 1944 strategy meeting, Hitler was bothered by a fly that kept buzzing around him and landing on a map he was studying. Hitler told Darges to kill the fly. Darges replied to Hitler that the fly was an "airborne pest" and was therefore the responsibility of the Luftwaffe (air force) adjutant, Nicolaus von Below (Hudgins, 2013).
Stalin and Hitler were both megalomaniacs but Stalin had the sense to heed the advice of his best general. At first, Stalin did not want to listen to Marshal Georgi Zhukov's plan for strategic defense at Kursk. Stalin wanted to attack the German army but Zhukov advised a more conservative strategy of preparing for the German attack--to destroy their tanks with extensive fortifications consisting of a million land mines and trenches, and then counterattack. Zhukov saw his plan as a tank trap for the Germans: they were drawn into an offense that destroyed a huge part of their armor and then left them vulnerable to a Russian counter-offensive. Zhukov's plan was a huge success. Kursk is known as the largest tank battle in history. Stalin did not trust Zhukov. In January 1941, Zhukov was appointed chief of the Soviet army general staff but was dismissed a few months later after a dispute with Stalin. However, Stalin was smart enough to bring him back after the Germans invaded the Soviet Union. Zhukov was made deputy commander-in-chief of the Red Army and was placed in charge of defending Stalingrad.
The corporate world may not be exactly like Nazi Germany but there are some similarities. The wrong kind of culture can lead to the deaths of many innocent customers and/or the loss of millions of jobs. Indeed, the Great Recession of 2008 would not have happened had executives spoken out against the corrupt business practices of numerous financial institutions. Instead of being concerned with the needs of customers, society, and the future of their own organizations, CEOs were motivated solely by greed. They were interested only in enriching themselves (Friedman and Friedman, 2009).
Mary T. Barra, CEO of General Motors, is attempting to change the culture at G.M. The company was infused with a culture where no one took responsibility. At least 13 people died from a defective ignition switch on the Chevrolet Cobalt and other G.M. cars. Avoiding accountability was the mantra at G.M. and it had a name, "The G.M. Salute" which involved "a crossing of the arms and pointing outwards toward others, indicating that the responsibility belongs to someone else, not me" (Morgenson, 2014). Employees were taught to write "smart" and not use terms such as "defect" and "problem," and learned to use soft words such as "condition" or "issue." Morgenson (2014) believes that the entire corporate America is permeated with a culture where there is "an indifference to misconduct," a "drive to avoid personal responsibility" and "scorched-earth retaliation against critics or adversaries."
Warren Buffet avowed that "the ability of corporations to rein in skyrocketing CEO pay is the "acid test" of corporate governance reform" (Heritage Institute, 2007). Buffett declared:
Too often, executive compensation in the U.S. is ridiculously out of line with performance. Getting fired can produce a particularly bountiful payday for a CEO. Indeed, he can "earn" more in that single day, while cleaning out his desk, than an American worker earns in a lifetime of cleaning toilets. Forget the old maxim about nothing succeeding like success: Today, in the executive suite, the all-too-prevalent rule is that nothing succeeds like failure (Heritage Institute, 2007).
Indeed, according to a Watson Wyatt survey, approximately 90% of institutional investors feel that top executives are dramatically overpaid (Watson Wyatt, 2006:3). CEO pay continues to skyrocket. According to Equilar Inc., 2013 average compensation for the 200 CEOs of public companies with market capitalization of $1 billion or more was $20,722, 490 (median compensation was $17,253,241); up 6% from last year (De Aenlle, 2014). Excessive compensation for executives should come as no surprise. As long as CEOs care only about themselves and have little regard for others, compensation will continue to increase.
The same trend is affecting compensation of college presidents. Government money is being used to hire more and more administrators and compensation rises. Meanwhile, college tuition continues to increase (up by 1200% in 30 years) together with student debt and the quality of education suffers (Frank, 2014; Friedman, Hampton-Sosa, and Friedman, 2014a, 2014b). Higher education which was supposed to reduce income inequality is now perpetuating it. For-profit colleges, in particular, take advantage of the poor by promising them good jobs after graduation. Even those few who successfully graduate from the for-profit colleges (a $32 billion industry) end up with a great deal of debt (average = $32,700) and a low-paying job (Mettler, 2014).
4. How to Deal with Compassion
Our strength consists in our speed and in our brutality. Genghis Khan led millions of women and children to slaughter--with premeditation and a happy heart. History sees in him solely the founder of a state. It's a matter of indifference to me what a weak western European civilization will say about me.--Adolf Hitler
Compassion has no place in the Hitler school of leadership, where it would be considered a sign of weakness. All that matters is success. Success, of course, is defined by the Hitlerian leader as self-glorification. What happens to the country or organization later on is not important. The following statement was made by Hitler in 1939 (Bardakjian, 1985). One small part of the quotation is quite well known: "Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?"
I have issued the command--and I'll have anybody who utters but one word of criticism executed by a firing squad--that our war aim does not consist in reaching certain lines, but in the physical destruction of the enemy. Accordingly, I have placed my death-head formations in readiness--for the present only in the East--with orders to them to send to death mercilessly and without compassion, men, women, and children of Polish derivation and language. Only thus shall we gain the living space (Lebensraum) which we need. Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?
Hitler enjoyed reading books by German writer, Karl May, about the American Wild West. Hitler praised American ingenuity and efficiency in solving the "problem" of the red savage. In fact, the idea of concentration camps, forced marches, and genocide owed quite a bit to Hitler's study of American history and how Native Americans were brutalized. The forced march in 1864 at gunpoint of thousands of Native Americans to a detention camp hundreds of miles from their homeland is quite similar to how Jews were treated at the hands of the Nazis. Many Native Americans died from disease and starvation during the forced march as well as in the concentration camp set up for them in Bosque Redondo in eastern New Mexico. Hitler sometimes referred to the Russians as "Redskins" (Mandelbaum, 2013). Hitler also admired the camps set up by the English for the Boer prisoners in South Africa. Hitler used history to learn about ways to maltreat the weak and helpless.
Figure 3 contains some well-known statements by Hitler relating to compassion.
Figure 3 Adolf Hitler on Compassion * Conscience is a Jewish invention. * Humanitarianism is the expression of stupidity and cowardice. * Whatever goal man has reached is due to his originality plus his brutality. * Sparta must be regarded as the first volkisch state. The exposure of the sick, weak, deformed children, in short, their destruction, was more decent and in truth a thousand times more human than the wretched insanity of our day which preserves the most pathological subject. * If I can send the flower of the German nation into the hell of war without the smallest pity for the shedding of precious German blood, then surely I have the right to remove millions of an inferior race that breeds like vermin. * I do not see why man should not be just as cruel as nature. * Struggle is the father of all things. It is not by the principles of humanity that man lives or is able to preserve himself above the animal world, but solely by means of the most brutal struggle. If you do not fight, life will never be won.
Goebbels said, "Man is and remains an animal. Here a beast of prey, there a house pet, but always an animal." When our notion of leadership is modeled in this vein, we are asked to leave our compassion and, indeed, our very humanity, at the door. Heinrich Himmler, head of the Gestapo, was quite willing to steal children from parents in the name of racial purity (United Nations War Crimes Commission, 1949):
Obviously in such a mixture of peoples there will always be some racially good types. Therefore I think that it is our duty to take their children with us, to remove them from their environment, if necessary by robbing or stealing them.... Either we win over any good blood that we can for ourselves and give it a place in our people or ... we destroy this blood.
At first blush, one may think that there is nothing to learn from Hitler, Goebbels, Himmler, or, indeed, anyone associated with the Third Reich, on the subject of compassion. However, in examining these statements in Figure 3, one message comes through loud and clear--that we should never, whether in the pursuit of success or any other goal of the organization, give up on our essential humanity, one characteristic of which is compassion for others.
5. About the Art of Leadership
Newer theories of leadership examine servant leaders, ethical leaders, spiritual leaders, etc. Great leaders show concern for others and their organization and are not totally focused on themselves.
Figure 4 Adolf Hitler on Leadership * The art of leadership ... consists in consolidating the attention of the people against a single adversary and taking care that nothing will split up that attention. * The leader of genius must have the ability to make different opponents appear as if they belonged to one category. * To be a leader means to be able to move masses. * The very first essential for success is a perpetually constant and regular employment of violence. * We will not capitulate--no, never! We may be destroyed, but if we are, we shall drag a world with us--a world in flames. * If the war is lost, the nation will also perish. This fate is inevitable. There is no necessity to take into consideration the basis which the people will need to continue a most primitive existence. On the contrary, it will be better to destroy things ourselves because this nation will have proved to be the weaker one and the future will belong solely to the stronger eastern nation [Russia]. Besides, those who remain after the battle are only the inferior ones, for the good ones have been killed. * Germany will either be a world power or will not be at all.
The last three quotations in Figure 4 show clearly why Hitler was not a leader to emulate. He was not concerned about the people of Germany if they could not win the war. Hitler was quite willing to turn Germany into one vast wasteland in the final months of the war. Some generals defied him and did not allow all their soldiers to die in the final weeks of the war. Hitler never visited any hospitals or bombed cities to give hope to the people. He took the coward's way out and committed suicide. The war was only about his needs. He could not care less about Germany and had a good rationale to explain why Germany deserved to be totally demolished if the war was lost. When the Russians and Anglo-American armies were approaching Berlin, Hitler ordered the destruction of the little that was left of German industry. In his mind, Germany deserved to be destroyed and he had no problem turning on his own people (Wistrich, 2013). Many countries are quite happy not being world powers; to Hitler, Germany did not deserve to exist if it could not be a world power.
Compare Hitler's views that "In starting and waging a war it is not right that matters, but victory" and "It is not truth that matters, but victory" with Abraham Lincoln's opinion that "I am not bound to win, but I am bound to be true. I am not bound to succeed, but I am bound to live by the light that I have." It is not surprising that Lincoln saved his country and is arguably the greatest American president. Hitler, on the other hand, is unquestionably among the worst leaders of all time.
6. Springtime for Hitler?
While there are many leaders in all arenas--industry, national politics, and academe--who claim that they are simply following the corporate model of successful leadership, perhaps we should now know better. If a leadership model includes a narcissistic preoccupation with self-aggrandizement, a need to be surrounded by flatterers who are afraid to speak their minds, a lack of compassion for others, and a belief that subordinates must be lied to and manipulated, then we are looking at the Hitlerian model of leadership. If an executive prefers that his company go belly up if it does not succeed in making him or her famous and successful, we have an executive from the Hitlerian school of leadership.
Figure 5 highlights several examples of leadership statements that are reminiscent of Hitler's leadership style.
Figure 5 Springtime for Hitler * You must cut costs ruthlessly by 50 to 60 percent. Depopulate. Get rid of people. They gum up the works. --Jeffrey Skilling, President of Enron * I have no regrets about ... how Countrywide was run. It was a world-class company.--Angelo Mozilo, CEO of Countrywide * I'm doing God's work.--Lloyd Blankfein, CEO of Goldman Sachs * In all my years of reporting, I had never come across an executive as manipulative, ruthless, and destructive as Al Dunlap. Until the Securities and Exchange Commission barred him from ever serving as an officer of a public corporation, Dunlap sucked the very life and soul out of companies and people. He stole dignity, purpose, and sense out of organizations and replaced those ideals with fear and intimidation.--John A. Byrne, Editor of Fast Company, about Al Dunlap * The inmates are running the asylum.--a member of the Board of Trustees of a large public university, referring to faculty governance
Jeffrey Skilling is in prison for insider trading and fraud. Thanks to him, 5,000 people lost their jobs and Enron went bankrupt. Mozilo was ranked by Portfolio Magazine as second on the list of "Worst American CEOs of All Time." He pioneered all kinds of deceptive subprime mortgages that resulted in millions of people losing their homes. The worst CEO of all time according to Portfolio Magazine was Dick Fuld, CEO of Lehman Brothers (largest bankruptcy in American History). Blankfein had the gall to say that investment bankers were doing God's work knowing that investors were defrauded by his company which hid an ugly conflict of interest by selling toxic securities it created to its own customers (Parramore, 2013). Al Dunlap was known as a downsizer and for various accounting frauds, particularly at Sunbeam-Oster.
Contrary to the persistent and widespread elision of the quotation about heroic leadership with which we began this paper, Peter Drucker, who left Germany for England in the 1933, knew that Hitlerian leaders leave devastation in their wakes.
Integrity and credibility are the foundations of effective leadership (Kouzes & Posner, 2010: 15). Leaders who are not trusted by subordinates will not be effective in "selling" their vision to followers (Kouzes & Posner, 2010: 1520). Few people are willing to follow leaders they do not trust. Of course, the vision has to make sense and leaders also have to be seen as capable (Kouzes & Posner, 2010). An effective leader is perceived as trustworthy and competent. Moreover, an effective leader must have compassion and humaneness (Fox, 2010). According to a recent study, only 24% of people globally believe that leaders--in business and politics--are in fact providing effective leadership. The researchers found that the major cause for the lack of credibility is that leaders are not providing transparent, open communication (Ketchum, 2013). This must change.
It is gratifying to see that many executives are moving away from the old style of authoritarian, supercilious management towards one which is more democratic, visionary, and people-oriented. According to one survey, "compassionate" was considered one of the key attributes of a good manager. This is not surprising given the importance of teamwork in the Internet age (Korn and Feintzeig, 2014). One survey demonstrated The Great Recession of 2008 has made many CEOs aware of what is wrong with a narcissistic approach to leadership. In this day and age, the only kind of leadership that makes sense is one in which executives understand that a narcissistic leadership style taken to an extreme is a threat to a company. A limited amount may not be a problem (Stein, 2013).
The good news is that some companies are working at getting rid of "jerks" with autocratic management styles. CEO of Netflix, Reed Hastings, asserts that his company does not need "brilliant jerks" since the "cost to effective teamwork is too high." Carly Fiorina, former CEO of HP also stated: "abrasive never works, demanding is sometimes required" (Korn and Feintzeig, 2014). Many companies are trying to find ways to keep their employees engaged. One study found that only 13% of employees around the world feel engaged at their jobs; 30% of American employees feel engaged (Schwartz and Porath, 2014). Employee engagement is important since there is a strong correlation between employee engagement and customer satisfaction, productivity, and profits (Gross and Holland, 2011; Thottam, 2005). It takes the right kind of leader to ensure that employees are engaged. Schwartz and Porath (2014) posit that "A truly human-centered organization puts its people first--even above customers--because it recognizes that they are the key to creating long-term value."
The Abrahamic religions stress that the ultimate accomplishment is to be referred to as the "servant of God" (Deuteronomy 34: 5), i.e., be concerned about truth, justice and helping the unfortunates of society. The Bible describes Moses in the following terms (Numbers 12: 3): "Now the man Moses was exceedingly humble, more than any human on the face of the earth." Moses did not use his position to seek fame, power, or wealth. He had two sons but his successor was Joshua son of Nun, another leader that is described as "the servant of God" (Joshua 24:29). Individuals engaged in true leadership are interested in building an ethical, compassionate organization that lives on beyond the lifetime of any one particular leader, rather than in their own aggrandizement. They do not leave a demoralized, devastated organization behind them, but a thriving one filled with engaged people who "derive meaning and significance from their work." It comes as no surprise that people who feel that they are working at a meaningful job have 1.7 times more job satisfaction than those who do not (Schwartz and Porath, 2014). Certainly, leaders who are obsessed with making themselves the center of attention and who have an exaggerated sense of their capabilities are a threat to their organizations or countries (Stein, 2013; Hoffman, et. al., 2013; Glad, 2002).
Millions of people died because of Hitler and millions of people have lost jobs and pensions because of extremely self-centered, narcissistic CEOs. Leaders who are interested in becoming more effective should study these Hitler quotes and bear in mind that Adolf Hitler will not be remembered as a great leader who built up Germany. He will be remembered as the monster responsible for the death of 66 million people; Mao for the death of 40 million; and Stalin for the killing of 20 million (White, 2012: 529). They were not builders, but butchers.
An earlier version of this paper was published as "Lessons in Negative Leadership: What Would Hitler Do?" in Management and Change 17(1/2): 23-38 (2013).
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HERSHEY H. FRIEDMAN
City University of New York
LINDA WEISER FRIEDMAN
City University of New York
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|Author:||Friedman, Hershey H.; Friedman, Linda Weiser|
|Publication:||Psychosociological Issues in Human Resource Management|
|Date:||Apr 1, 2014|
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