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When power has leaders: some indicators of power-addiction among organizational leaders.


Power is the currency of leadership. Academics and non-academics alike have long acknowledged that leaders need and use power in order to help an organization accomplish its goals (Kets de Vries, 1999; Tanoff & Barlow, 2002). Correspondingly, the organizational literature on power--specifically, leaders' accumulation and use of it--is of significant breadth and depth (Hogan & Kaiser, 2005). Scholars have paid far less attention to the effects of power on leaders, i.e., the ways in which different/various properties of power influence leaders' patterns of thinking and behavior (Kets de Vries' influential body of work on dysfunctional leadership is an exception). In this article, we argue that not all of the effects of power on leaders are positive, and that some of those effects may be highly counterproductive. We believe such a line of inquiry is important since leaders have a disproportionate effect on organizations and, by extension, on society.

The purpose of this paper is to explore leaders' behaviors when, instead of the leader having control over power, power has control over the leader. To accomplish this, we first discuss some properties of power that make it potentially addictive. Next, building upon work in the helping professions and other fields, we demonstrate the interrelatedness of addiction and denial. While many leaders wield power without either its obsessive accumulation or abuse, we describe how some leaders are vulnerable to the addictive properties of power and predisposed to deny this power-addiction. We present two organizational illustrations demonstrating how CEO's behaviors and quotes can be a reflection of their being in denial. We conclude with a discussion of the implications of our research for both academics and practitioners who are involved in leadership and the study of organizations.


Leaders, and their pivotal roles in the sustained health and functioning of organizations, have been the impetus for decades of research on leadership traits and behaviors (Avolio & Yammarino, 2002; Coutu, 2004; Kets de Vries, 1999). Some authors have emphasized leaders' influence on organizations' success (Kotter, 1990; House & Aditya, 1997) while others have explored leaders' roles in organizational crises or failures (Heifetz, 2004; Kets de Vries, 1991, 2001). In this article, we build on the belief that leaders may be especially vulnerable to the addictive properties of power derived from their formal positions in organizations (Kets de Vries, 2001, 2004). Next, we briefly discuss the nature of power in the context of organizational leadership, and the relationship between addiction and denial.

Power and Leaders

Power has been defined as, "....influence by one person over others, stemming from a position in an organization, from an interpersonal relationship, or from an individual characteristic." (Ragins & Sundstorm, 1989: 51). Power has many faces and has been classified as perceived or objective power (Kaplowitz, 1978), or as positional, interpersonal or individual power depending on its source (Peiro & Melia, 2003; Ragins & Sundstorm, 1989). Power, and its multiple facets, have been discussed in popular media and have been the focus of much academic research (Hollander & Offermann, 1990).

Kets de Vries (1991) believes that authors as early as Plato were cognizant of power's addictive properties and of its potential to corrupt leaders. Today there is growing awareness that addictive behaviors are not restricted to drugs such as alcohol, nicotine, or narcotics (Breton & Largent, 1996; Kets de Vries, 1991, 2004; Trivedi, 2004). Addictive behaviors may also occur in response to processes like perfectionism, getting and holding on to power, gambling, sex, and even thrill-seeking (Breton & Largent, 1996; Keohane, 2005; Kets de Vries, 1991).

Not all powerful leaders become addicted to power, however, Fidel Castro (The Economist, 1999), George W. Bush (van Wormer, 2002), and David Duke (Heifetz, 2004) are but a few examples of leaders who have been described in popular and academic writing as being individuals addicted to power. Power-addiction and denial may also afflict entire organizations (examples described by Keohane (2005) include the Roman Catholic Church and Al Qaeda; and Roy (2002) discusses the political governance of countries like India and the US as examples). If power has addictive properties, it seems logical that applying knowledge about addiction and addictive behaviors can be of help to organizations.

Addiction and Denial

Dependence is a defining characteristic of addiction, which may be best explained as an individual's loss of rationality (Trimpey, 1996) with regard to specific substances (APA, 1987) or processes (Breton & Largent, 1996; Kets de Vries, 1991; Trivedi, 2004). Literature from a number of helping professions--including, but not limited to social workers, addiction therapists, grief counselors, and family therapists--amply demonstrates that addiction is not a solitary process, but that denial always goes hand-in-hand with addiction (Kearney, 1996; Lobsinger, 1997). Writing from extensive experience as an addiction counselor, Kearney (1996) defined denial as a psychological process people use to protect themselves from psychological threats. For people with addictions, denial suppresses admission of their addiction, its costs, and its consequences, any of which represent a serious psychological threat. He emphasized that denial and addiction are mutually enabling processes: denial defends the addiction, while addiction fuels the denial.

Denial is a prevalent clinical concept (Robak, 1991; van Wormer, 1986) that is consistently defined across fields of study and practice (Whiteacre, 2004) and is widely understood in American popular culture. Alcoholics Anonymous has played a significant role in American society's increasing acceptance of "twelve-step" programs, defining alcoholism as an illness, and the recognition of the importance of confronting denial as a first step in the addiction recovery process (Kurtz, 1979). The best evidence of the extensive dissemination of denial as a lay concept is Kiechel and Sampson's (1993: 163) observation that, "You know an idea has arrived when it provides the punch line to a country-western hit.... "Just call me Cleopatra," Pam Tillis sings, "cause I'm the queen of denial."

In contrast to the helping professions and popular culture, addiction and denial has received only peripheral interest in academic literature on organizations. The result is a popular construct that remains conceptually underdeveloped and empirically under-explored among organizational researchers (Weidner & Purohit, 2003). Studying power-addiction and denial in organizations will address this research gap. In the next section we discuss how, instead of the leader possessing power, power may posses the leader.


Many leaders use legitimate or formal power effectively and ethically in fulfilling their organizational and social responsibilities (Hogan & Kaiser, 2005). Such leaders are "independent" of their position power and often have little difficulty relinquishing that power at the end of their tenure (Senge, 2002). On the other hand, leaders who succumb to power's addictive properties are likely to excessively engage in: (a) the accumulation of more power, and/or (b) the abuse of power. Leaders who resort to political behaviors that involve the use of their organizational position and/or resources for unsanctioned means or ends may be demonstrating symptoms of power-addiction (Murray & Gandz, 1980).

Several researchers have proposed ideas about why and when, instead of leaders having power, power has the leaders. Mulder's (1977) power distance theory proposed that since power is such a scarce commodity in organizations (or societies), possessing power is very attractive to individuals. Consequently, those people with more power will work to protect their privileged positions and those with less power will strive to acquire more (Mulder, 1977). Further, Mulder (1977) proposed that a person's efforts to protect their power are directly proportional to the power distance existing between themselves and others. Specifically, if the power distance between a manager and his/her employee is nominal, the manager will not exert much effort to maintain that power distance.

Bepko (1991) and Kets de Vries (1991) both added the element of addiction to Mulder's power distance theory. Bepko (1991) hypothesized that unequal power relationships contributed to promoting and supporting addictive behaviors. Therefore, leaders with significantly greater power would be predisposed to becoming addicted to their power. Kets de Vries (1991) added a rich theoretical rationale to the addictive nature of power by explaining that psychological processes such as transference, mirroring, aging, and fear of retaliation were all involved in perpetuating power addiction.

Given that power can be addictive and that denial is an integrant part of addiction, the denial associated with a leader's power-addiction--combined with hierarchical differences in power found in organizations--increases the likelihood that a leader's power-addiction can become a hidden or "silent" organizational illness or threat. The organizational risks associated with a power-addicted leader make it imperative that we better understand denial. As Kearney (1996) observed, working with denial is essential to overcoming addictive behaviors. In the following sections we describe Kearney's (1996) clinical model of denial to demonstrate that it can be used to understand power-addicted leaders, and present two examples of power-addicted leaders and identify their denial responses.


To place denial in the context of organizations and organizational leadership, at the minimum we need a working definition as a jumping-off point for our discussion. We have adapted Kearney's (1996) description of denial as follows:
 Denial in organizational leaders can be used as a general term for
 cognitive and behavioral protective processes leaders use to
 shelter themselves from the impact of powerful, frightening, or
 life changing truths related to the organization and/or their role
 in it. (p. 8)

Kearney (1996: 1-2 emphasis in the original) described denial as "...a form of self-protection. It is a psychological process people use to protect themselves from psychological threat. It is a wall, a barrier, a shelter from fright." Kearney (1996) argues that people combating addiction use four concentric layers of self-protection that serve as walls of denial surrounding the individual. From the outermost to innermost, these layers are: denial of facts, denial of implications, denial of change, and denial of feelings. Figure 1 illustrates our adaptation of Kearny's original figure of concentric, protective denial layers.


Denial of Facts

Kearney believes that this outermost layer of denial is the most frequently used, and helps individuals in denial from consciously diverting attention away from anything that is unpleasant. According to Kearney, denial of facts involves selective perception and admission of data to block out objective information. This layer of denial is often the first response elicited in confrontations of any kind and may involve the simple--often instinctual--negation of any facts. The addicted individual may simply deny facts with the conscious purpose of stopping any criticism and/or protecting their way as the "right way." Individuals in this layer of denial may express themselves vehemently, consciously engage in bullying, and be disarming or even charming as they deny facts.

Denial of Implications

According to Kearney, when a fact becomes irrefutable or well established, the individual in denial moves deeper into the second layer of defense and self-protection. Individuals at this layer minimize the implications of their behaviors. Their minimization may concern the kind ("I only smoke pot"), amount ("I only had 3 highballs"), frequency ("I only drink on weekends"), or seriousness ("I can still drive, I have never had a DUI") of their behavior. These individuals have a hard time accepting the diagnosis of their condition as addiction. Once a diagnosis of addiction has been made, it becomes part of the body of facts that the denial system is designed to hide from self and others.

Denial of Change

Sometimes individuals in denial cannot refute facts or implications because these objective pieces of data may have successfully penetrated the first two concentric rings of self-protective denial. At the third layer of defense, individuals deny the need for change in their lives, and shirk any personal responsibility for making those changes. The person operating at this layer of denial resists the idea that he or she is responsible for his/her actions or inactions. If the consequences are unavoidable, the person in denial will claim that the situation is not their fault, that he or she didn't do it on purpose. The consequences of both inaction and action are distorted in denial of change. "Why should I apologize? What's the big deal? I was just a little high, nobody got hurt. Forget it." (Kearney, 1996: 19). Counselors working with individuals in addiction often find that these clients' recovery is delayed or sabotaged when they defend themselves with an elaborate system of excuses found at this level. Addicted individuals may try to make others responsible for their recovery steps. They may expect their spouses to drive them to their meetings or appointments--they have excuses for everything when they are at this level of denial.

Denial of Feelings

The final layer of denial is the exclusion of feelings from awareness. This level differs from those preceding as it is wholly outside the addicted individual's awareness or consciousness. Denial of change will shutoff ideas, memories, or even consciousness itself. This layer protects years of self-doubts, shame, remorse for years of abuse, and the secrets of the soul (Barfield, 1979; Kearney, 1996). At this layer addicts are protecting themselves from feelings that are too strong. It can take individuals a long time to get in touch with their feelings, become articulate about them, and engage the internal conflicts that surround them.


In this section, we examine selected public statements of two corporate chief executives that seem to illustrate all four layers of denial described earlier. The first leader is Bernard Ebbers, former CEO of WorldCom, who was convicted of accounting fraud and sentenced to 25 years in prison for his role in the largest corporate bankruptcy in history. Ebbers' denial concerned the financial viability of WorldCom, and his own ethical conduct (Larson, 2002). The second leader is Carly Fiorina, former CEO of Hewlett-Packard, who executed a merger with Compaq. In contrast to Ebbers, we make no suggestion that Fiorina engaged in any unethical conduct; instead, she has been criticized more for her execution ability and for her lack of attention to HP's vaunted organizational culture (Kanellos, 2005). We provide a brief background of each leader and their organization. Next, we present in tabular form, each CEO's specific quotes reflecting Kearney's (1996) four layers of denial.

Bernard "Bernie" Ebbers and WorldCom

WorldCom, a business empire built by a self-made billionaire Bernard J. Ebbers, entered the halls of infamy in 2002 when it filed for the world's largest corporate bankruptcy. Ebbers started Long Distance Discount Service (LDDS), a Mississippi reseller of long-distance service, with a group of co-founders in 1983. In 1995 LDDS changed its name to WorldCom Inc. with Ebbers as CEO. Between 1995 and 2000, WorldCom bought more than sixty additional companies, often funded by its own soaring share price, including a merger worth $37 billion with MCI in 1997 (Wolk, 2005).

Throughout this period, Ebbers accumulated a sizeable collection of personal assets and other businesses including stakes in timber property, a trucking firm, a lumber company, a golf course, a marina, a hotel, and other real estate. He personally owned Canada's largest cattle ranch, a huge yacht, and a minor-league hockey team, (Wolk, 2005); his personal assets are estimated to have peaked in value at $1.4 billion. Ebbers was also very public about his religious faith. He was active in his church where he regularly taught Sunday school and often started corporate meetings with prayer.

By 2000, WorldCom was having great difficulty generating enough profit to cover its growing debts and meet shareholders' expectations. Amid difficulties experienced by many firms in the telecommunications section, WorldCom's stock price began a decline from which it would never recover. In Fall 2000, WorldCom informed analysts that its revenue would miss previous projections by some forty percent, and that 2001 earnings would be even lower. Ebbers fell into enormous personal debt and he pledged his WorldCom shares as collateral for loans. WorldCom's Board loaned Ebbers $375 million to pay off his debts while not requiring him to sell any of his stock; this transaction later drew scrutiny from the SEC. All the while, WorldCom's financial problems continued to mount and in 2001 the company laid off 6,000 workers.

On April 29, 2002, Ebbers was ousted as CEO of WorldCom (announced as a resignation) and WorldCom announced another layoff of17,000 workers; the company's stock price dropped below $1. In late June 2002, WorldCom admitted to inflating earnings by $3.8 billion; the SEC filed fraud charges against WorldCom the next day (Associated Press, 2005). The reported size of inflated earnings would be revised upward by another $3.8 billion in August and eventually was estimated at over $11 billion. Then-CFO Scott Sullivan and Controller David Myers were arrested on securities fraud and conspiracy charges. Less that a month later, with $30 billion in debt, the company filed for bankruptcy.

In March 2004, Ebbers was indicted on federal accounting fraud charges. In May, a new indictment accused Ebbers of submitting six false filings to the SEC in 2001 and 2002; Ebbers pled not guilty to all charges. In a trial that ran from January through March 2005, Ebbers testified that he did not understand financial matters and that Sullivan created the accounting deceptions without his knowledge. Ebbers was found guilty and sentenced to 25 years in jail (Associated Press, 2005).

Ebbers' Indicators of Denial

Our observation is that Ebbers provided indications of denial during and after his tenure as CEO of WorldCom (see Table 1). In terms of denial of facts, as late as February 2002, Ebbers categorically denied that any problems existed within WorldCom's business, or that bankruptcy was a possibility for the firm. Ebbers demonstrated a shift to denial of implications after being ousted as CEO, and WorldCom's indictment on accounting fraud--two irrefutable facts--when he reassured fellow church members attending worship services that he was not guilty and that the charges against him were baseless (Waller, 2002). Ebbers also exhibited denial of change, which is characterized by avoiding responsibility and blaming others. He alternately blamed the WorldCom board and the federal government for WorldCom's problems (Burger, 2002). Finally, it appears that Ebbers engaged in denial of feelings, such as shame or remorse over others' losses as a result of his conduct when he said, "I believe I'll be vindicated" (Barfield, 1979).

Carly Fiorina and Hewlett-Packard

Carly Fiorina's leadership of Hewlett-Packard (1999-2005) can be best described as a turbulent time for HP (, n.d.). The turbulence stemmed from HP's failed efforts in 2000 to bid for PriceWaterhouseCoopers and the company's efforts to acquire Compaq Computer in 2001. According to Michael Kanellos (2005), editor at large at CNET, "When history looks back on the tenure of Carly Fiorina as the CEO of Hewlett-Packard, the conclusion will likely be that she was a charismatic personality who tried to compensate for the lack of a consistent vision through a lot of acquisitions and management changes."

Before joining HP as the CEO in July 1999, Carly Fiorina worked at AT&T and Lucent Technologies. In 2002, Fiorina pushed through a controversial merger with HP's rival Compaq, despite objections from Walter Hewlett, son of HP's founder Bill Hewlett. In 2001 Walter Hewlett clearly stated his reservations about the merger in the following words, "After careful deliberation, consultation with my financial adviser and consideration of developments since the announcement of the merger, I have decided to vote against the transaction. I believe that Hewlett-Packard can create greater value for stockholders as a stand-alone company than as a company combined with Compaq" (cnet, 2005). Fiorina chose to disregard Hewlett's opinion and won approval for the merger anyway after a bitter proxy battle. The merger with Compaq that Fiorina championed failed to deliver the benefits she had anticipated: many analysts claimed that the merger had in fact diluted profitability of HP's imaging and printer division. Following the merger with Compaq, HP's quarterly performance was inconsistent, leading to declining share price: the company's stock price in 2005 was off about sixty-five percent from its high in 2000.

On February 9, 2005, HP's Board of Directors decided to relieve Fiorina as chairman and Chief Executive Officer of HP. "While I regret the board and I have differences about how to execute HP's strategy, I respect their decision," Fiorina said in a statement. Under Hewlett-Packard's severance agreement, Carly Fiorina's total severance package was estimated to total over $21 million (Strauss, 2005).

Fiorina's Indicators of Denial

In terms of denial of facts, Fiorina did not acknowledge that the HP-Compaq merger, that she had so strongly espoused, was not doing as well as expected. In December 2003, she asserted that HP was not stuck but was leading, and as late as June 2005, she reported that HP was where they intended to be (see Table 1). Her unsubstantiated support for the HP-Compaq merger, despite the opposition, indicated that she was in denial of the implications of her actions and believed that the implications of the merger had to be positive. By late 2003, HP's performance was plummeting, under severe scrutiny, and in light of these irrefutable facts, Fiorina had no choice but to acknowledged that HP was undergoing some confusion. Fiorina's responses may have indicated an acceptance of the facts and implications of her actions, but she denied of the need to change (Table 1). When Fiorina resigned in February 2005, she said she respected the HP board's decision, denying any feelings associated with the termination of her relationship with HP that began in 1999.


In this article, we have identified that power-addiction and denial are under-investigated constructs in the literature on leadership and organizations. Additionally, we have recognized that adapting an accessible model of denial (Kearney's 1996 model) from the helping professions can serve as an example of how future research in organizational settings can adapt and apply existing knowledge. With the knowledge that addiction is a critical variable in the research and practice in most clinical specialties, and given that leaders and organizations are a rich source of data for organizational research, we expect that organizational scholars interested in this studying power-addiction and denial are likely to have relatively easy access to both, theory and data.

Another consequence of our research is that it sets precedence for the treatment of denial to other organizational experiences. For example, denial may be applied to better understand the equivocality of research on change management, organizational learning, top management team functioning and executive behavior, and emotional intelligence (Weidner & Purohit, 2003). The current research examined denial in individual leaders; however, it is possible that denial may exist as a commonly shared experience among organizational members (Janis, 1982; Keohane, 2005, Roy, 2002; Starbuck, & Farjoun, 2005). Therefore, in the future, examinations of power-addiction and denial in organizations may include more macro (group or organizational) level analyses.

Additionally, an important implication of our study is that can provide the momentum for research in the future to translate our conceptualizations of power-addiction and denial into empirically geared measures appropriate for organizational research. Such empirical advances in developing measures for power-addiction and denial potentially could open up further theoretical and empirical research avenues.


The noted historian Lord Acton observed, "Absolute power corrupts absolutely." (, n.d.). We hope that our preceding discussion of power-addiction and denial has reinforced the fact that power-addicted leaders can cost organizations and its stakeholders a lot in terms of money, reputation and trust (Surowiecki, 2005). A leader's power-addiction and denial may be clear to organizational members with less power but they may not be comfortable sharing their insights given the hierarchical differentials existing between them and their leaders. Consequently, it is essential for an organization's survival and success to seriously investigate the feasibility of initiating and preserving effective measures to monitor executive power. We are aware that "hero CEOs" (Senge, 2002) or organizational founders may repel any efforts to counterbalance to their relatively unrestricted power (Adizes, 1988), however, we are sure that top leaders with more self-awareness (e.g., Michael Dell at Dell Computer, Andy Grove at Intel (Surowiecki, 2005) and self-monitoring are likely to appreciate the need for steps to counter-balance their power.

Power is potentially addictive and hazardous. Organizational members who work in potentially hazardous situations (e.g., undercover law enforcement, emergency room personnel, firefighters) are trained rigorously on the potential hazards associated with their work and preventative measures they can take to protect themselves and others from potential harms. We hope that our paper encourages organizations to implement formal and proactive executive education and development strategies to help leaders understand the potential hazards associated with their power. Such attention could help organizations protect their significant investment in leaders' selection and development and avert possible organizational crises and their accompanying devastating consequences.


Our discussion of power-addiction and denial in organizational settings would be incomplete without a discussion of some of the instructive implications of this research. Our first cautionary note is that, the successful treatment of denial by practitioners and researchers is critically dependent upon the sensitivity with which this topic is addressed as it entails some aspects of judgment and social stigma.

The second note of caution when studying or applying denial stems from the fact that denial is a clearly defined construct in the clinical setting of the helping professions, however, its analysis in the organizational context is more complex. The successful understanding and diagnosis of denial in organizations hinges upon a key variable--time (Ancona, Goodman, Lawrence, & Tushman, 2001). The effectiveness and success of decisions are so much easier to judge in hindsight: successful decisions indicate vision and skills but failed decisions may be indicative of denial. An example of how 'time' is a critical variable in assessing denial is an examination of Johnson & Johnson's management of the Tylenol crisis. It exemplifies a classic case of managing a product recall crisis (Delaney, 1991). Ford and Firestone, on the other hand, represent organizations on the defensive--and in denial--about the hazards of rollovers in Ford sport-utility vehicles equipped with Firestone tires (Williams, 2004).

In addition to the impact of time, assessments and attributions of vision or direction in examining denial also make this a somewhat harder construct to fully explain. Organizations are 'born' sometimes from strong-willed founder(s) who are often thought of as not being grounded in "reality" (Adizes, 1988), but who have the drive and conviction in their ideas. An illustration of how time and personal drive add complexity to the construct of denial is Steve Jobs' role in Apple Computers. Jobs was often referred to as an individual in a "reality distortion field" (Levy, 2000), however, Apple's revival and current dominance in the portable music player business is attributed largely to his ingenuity. Without Jobs' creativity and drive, Apple may not have been able to establish a market for legally purchasing downloadable music.

We listed the challenges in examining denial in organizations as an illustration of some key variables that add complexity to research in this area. We hope that a discussion of these challenges stimulates further research in this area rather than discouraging scholars from examining power-addiction and denial in organizations.


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C. Ken Weidner, II, Saint Joseph's University

Yasmin S. Purohit, Robert Morris University
Kearney's clinical model of denial and organizations illustrations of
power-addicted leaders in denial

Kearney's (1996) Clinical model of addiction and denial

Layer Description Examples of clinical
of denial addiction and denial

Denial Is the most frequently "I have not been
of Facts used, outermost layer of drinking." "You have
 protection. This outer no right to accuse
 layer is made up of me." "That's not
 selective perceiving and true."
 selective admitting--it
 seeks to block out
 objective data--and is
 elicited first in

Denial of This protective layer of "OK, I had a few, but
Implications denial is used when some I wasn't drunk."
 threatening fact does get "Sure, I like to
 established in awareness. drink, but that
 When irrefutable facts doesn't mean I'm an
 cannot be covered up or alcoholic." "Your
 denied, the individual brother drinks more
 denies the implications of than I do."
 his/her acts. Addicts in
 this layer attempt to
 minimize the kind (I only
 smoke pot), amount (I
 only had 3 highballs), how
 often (I only drink on
 weekends), or extent of
 damage (I can still drive, I
 have never had a DUI).

Denial of The person in denial of "So, I'm an alcoholic-
Change change resists the idea -so what?" "I'll try
 that his/her action (or to stop."
 inaction) has "It's not my fault."
 Counselors working with
 addicts often find that
 recovery is delayed or
 sabotaged when they
 encounter an elaborate
 system of excuses found
 at this level. Addicts may
 do so by making others
 responsible for their
 recovery steps. They have
 excuses for everything.

Denial of The final layer of denial is "It doesn't bother me."
Feelings the exclusion of feelings "I'm not angry--
 from awareness; [it] fighting makes me
 differs from the preceding tense--I have a
 level as it is wholly headache." "That's an
 outside awareness or interesting idea." "I
 unconscious. This layer don't remember
 will shut off ideas, anything about that
 memories, or even time in my life.
 consciousness Everything was fine."
 itself. .[and] protects
 years of self-doubts,
 shame, remorse for years
 of abuse, and the secrets
 of the soul. At this layer
 addicts are protecting
 themselves from feelings
 that are too strong.

Illustrations of Power-Addicted Leaders in Denial

Ebbers on fraud at Fiorina on HP's purchase of
WorldCom Compaq
"To question WorldCom's "This is not a company stuck.
viability is utter nonsense. This is a company that leads in
We continue to lead the virtually every category in
industry with revenue which we compete." Fiorina,
growth... None of the in reaction to criticism of HP's
rumors that have hatched strategy on 10 December 2003.
in the last two weeks will "We cannot say every step has
change any of that." been perfect, but we can say
"WorldCom has a solid with confidence today we are
base of bill-paying where we intended to be."
customers, strong Fiorina, regarding HP's
fundamentals, a solid progress since the buyout on 8
balance sheet, manageable June 2004.
leverage and nearly $10
billion in available
liquidity. Bankruptcy or a
credit default is not a
concern." Ebbers in a
conference call with
analysts and reporters, as
quoted by Reuters, 7
February 2002.

"I just want you to know "This is a decisive move that
you aren't going to church accelerates our strategy and
with a crook. No one will positions us to win by offering
find me to have knowingly even greater value to our
committed fraud." Ebbers, customers and partners. In
speaking after worship addition to the clear strategic
services to members of his benefits of combining two
church congregation, 30 highly complementary
June 2002. organizations and product
 families, we can create
 substantial shareowner value
 through significant cost-
 structure improvements and
 access to new growth
 opportunities." Fiorina,
 following the launch of the
 merger effort, 3 September

"Here's the thing: If I'd "There is some confusion
have been allowed to sell because we only recently
my stock when I wanted began our marketing. We're in
to, I'd have been $600 an era were people need to
million up, not $200 think about business processes
million in the hole," he and applications
said, blaming the horizontally...We need to
WorldCom Board for think of the enterprise not as
blocking sales, a common an island of stand-alone
practice in the corporate technology." Fiorina, on
world. Later, Ebbers was confusion surrounding HP's
overheard saying he strategy on 21 October 2003.
wishes he could joust with "I think the dot-com boom and
the lawmakers hammering bust represented the end of the
him. "My lawyer won't let beginning. The industry is
me testify, but if I could I more mature today." Fiorina,
would like to tell people a 23 September 2004.
few things." Ebbers, as
overheard in a bar 16
July 2002 and reported in
the New York Daily News
on 18 July 2002.

"I believe I'll be "While I regret the board and I
vindicated," blaming have differences about how to
WorldCom's record-setting execute HP's strategy, I respect
bankruptcy on a "board their decision." Fiorina, when
coup." Ebbers, as she resigned on 9 February
reported in the New York 2005
Daily News on 18 July

Notes: (1.) All Bernard Ebbers' quotes regarding the Denial of Facts
are from Larson (2002). All Carly Fiorina quotes regarding the
Denial of Facts are from CNET (2005, February 9) Fiorina's
tenure in quotes. Retrieved on July 15 2005,

(2.) Bernard Ebbers' quote regarding Denial of Implications from
Waller (2002).
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Article Details
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Author:Weidner, C. Ken, II; Purohit, Yasmin S.
Publication:Journal of Organizational Culture, Communications and Conflict
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 1, 2009
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