Abe Lincoln said it best “No one is smart enough to be a successful liar.”
Elizabeth Holmes, the founder and CEO of Theranos, the blood testing start-up, for years misled some of the smartest experts in medicine, government and business is now another example of greed and narcissism on steroids. If you’ve not picked up John Carreyrou’s book Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup do it today. Carreyou, a Wall Street Journal investigative reporter did an amazing job detailing the betrayal and bullying Holmes and her henchman inflicted on employees, trade partners and even patients.
The level of deception and deceit Mr. Carreyou outlined is hard to comprehend. Holmes and her then COO / lover, Sunny Balwani took incredible steps to cover up their scheme only to be undone by the one universal power that always finds a way of righting wrongs. Truth.
In my over 30 years in business I’ve experienced first-hand some huge egos and most assuredly business leaders that possess narcissist behaviors. What always amazes me are the number of people these “false prophets” are able to ensnare in their web of self-adulation, personal agendas and willingness to take others down in their attempt to achieve their goals.
Unfortunately, there is no known way to “rehabilitate” these types of sociopaths. The best decision one can make is to step back, assess and step away.
When dealing with these difficult personalities, it can be easy to find their charisma, charm and “intelligence” captivating. They are so convinced of their ability to produce extraordinary outcomes, others around them often find their magnetism very compelling. They communicate with such conviction, people line up ready and willing to “drink the Kool-Aid” before being converted. Like a cult, some eventually lose themselves in the greed and the propaganda being provided.
How then can executives quickly discern whether a superior, peer or report may be a problem in the making? Carefully watch that person’s actions. Correlate their behaviors with the values espoused. It is one thing to talk about beliefs and ideals. However, people quickly demonstrate behaviors that align with their true-self. When winning at all costs, regardless of implications and impact on others, is a person’s modus operandi, best to distance one’s self from the pending discord and make plans to move on – or if possible, move the perpetrator out.
The world needs more strong values-based leaders. Executives that possess commitment to the work at hand yet are equally able to collaborate with colleagues and customers.
Genuine care is a characteristic most sentient beings can sense at the gut level. Trust your inner guide. If something simply does not feel right, pause. Gain clarity regarding the sixth sense whispering in your ear. Then follow your true north.
As Gandhi said, “a true leader is determined not by the number of followers one has, a true leader is determined by the number of leaders one creates.”
Become a leader creator.
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