Organizations taking a green road would go far if their C-suites are devoid of narcissist toxins

I’ve long subscribed to a basic idea that an organization’s sustainable performance is directly related to the DNA it inherits, grows or acquires. More than anything and anyone else, that DNA is determined by the leadership of the organization. 
Ever pondered why some organizations, after making some fantastic initial strides, tend to stagnate, collapse or even implode? Blame it (mostly) on the reigning leadership.
I’ve seen many businesses not being able to progress up to their potentials because of mediocre personalities sitting in top management roles. But while a mediocre leadership can be detrimental, it’s not necessary cataclysmic.
It is the narcissist and sociopath leadership types that are most dangerous to the existence of an organization, as they characteristically build toxic organizational DNAs that are self-destructing in nature. Moreover, apathy is so inherent a characteristic to them that they would naturally fail to empathize with the environment and society surrounding the organization, something that’s fundamentally essential towards building a sustainable organization.
“A deadly combination of economic rationalism, increasing competition, “downsizing,” and the current fashion for tough, dynamic, “macho” management styles have created a culture in which bullying can thrive, producing “toxic” workplaces.  Such workplaces perpetuate dysfunction, fear, shame, and embarrassment, intimidating those who dare to speak out and nurturing a silent epidemic,” noted an article in the British Medical Journal in 2003 by B.R. McAvoy and J. Murtagh, “Workplace bullying: the silent epidemic.” (See ref
This bullying behavior has been noted by researchers to be of three broad types: accidental bullying, destructive narcissist bullying, and the serial or sociopathic bullying.
Obviously, the third type is the most dangerous one and if allowed to be in key roles, such individuals can cause diseases that could lead to an amputation or terminal illness for an organization because “it sets about systematically and subtly to subvert the health, well-being and career prospects of others. There is no concern about the organization and self-interest is paramount. However, it gradually becomes clear that chaos and conflict follow in their wake.  It can take up to two years for people to realize what is happening as these bullies are expert at manipulation and at mimicking the values and objectives of the company.  When they finally leave or are dismissed, the organization is in a worse state than before,” noted a research paper on workplace bullying while quoting from Keryl Egan, a clinical psychologist of repute.
It’s also not easy to wipe out the cancerous impact of such sick influences on an organization, even if the promoters or the boards want to do that at a later stage.
Expert insights, however, can help identify problems at an early stage. “Working with Monsters: How to identify and protect yourself from the workplace psychopath,” by Dr John Clarke provides a fascinating insight into the mind of the workplace psychopath. Dr Clarke draws from “his studies and research in forensic psychology, and experience in criminal profiling for law enforcement agencies as well as corporations experiencing difficulties with an employee.” (See:
It is critical for boards as well as for executive search firms therefore to be wary of such individuals, no matter how smart and convincing they appear at interview rounds. Mid-term course corrections can be very costly, so those would be better prevented than cured.
As we take steps to build organizations that are green and sustainable, isn’t it of paramount importance that the top leadership is non-toxic and non-polluting?

A sociopath is fundamentally incapable of empathizing with the society and environment around–the very essence of sustainability

(This article was first published in SustiNuance, India’s first magazine on sustainability. The e-zine may be read at
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