Mourinho reveals his superhuman powers of diagnosing medical injuries from the touch line

August 12, 2015

200px-Jose_Mourinho-07In the first match of the new season, league champions Chelsea draw at home to Swansea City. The Chelsea goalkeeper is sent off for a rash challenge.In the press conference after the game, Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho criticizes Eva Carneiro, the club doctor, for attending to an injured player late in the game, an action which had forced the team briefly to continue with nine players on the pitch. 

He subsequently banned Dr Carneiro from the touchline in future games. Her future at Chelsea is in doubt.

The Special One

For a long time, many people have suspected that the Chelsea manager has superhuman powers. He is known as The Special One, a description that he never denied. His special gifts extend to never making a poor decision requiring him to admit fallibility.

Infrequently his explanations suggest that a match strategy has not been successful, but his true followers explain this as part of his genius at taking the blame for his players’ errors. Now we know the truth.

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Is Narcissism always a bad thing?

August 12, 2014

NarcissusNarcissism is often associated with ‘the dark side of leadership’. Recent studies offer a revised perspective

A review in The Economist [March 22nd, 2014] was entitled Narcissism: Know thy selfie. It reviewed two recent books on Narcissism: Mirror, Mirror: the uses and abuses of self-love, by Simon Blackburn, and The Americanization of Narcissism, by Elizabeth Lunbeck.

Lasch and the Culture of Narcissism

In examining these books it is worth going back to the psychodynamic treatment of Narcissism by Christopher Lasch. It is worth revisiting this classic study as the critic As Siegel summarized the work:

in “The Culture of Narcissism,” Lasch took what was still mainly a narrowly clinical term and used it to diagnose a pathology that seemed to have spread to all corners of American life. In Lasch’s definition (drawn from Freud), the narcissist, driven by repressed rage and self-hatred, escapes into a grandiose self-conception, using other people as instruments of gratification even while craving their love and approval. Lasch saw the echo of such qualities in “the fascination with fame and celebrity, the fear of competition, the inability to suspend disbelief, and the shallowness and transitory quality of personal relations.

The full-on connection between narcissism and many of the evils of modern society was always likely to attract a revisionary accounts such as those of Blackburn and Lubeck.

Narcissism and balance

Blackburn argues that a ‘healthy’ self-image is bounded at one pole by excessive self-regard, and at the other pole by lack of adequate self-image. This adds needed nuance to the Lasch position, as well as to the popular connection between narcissism and the dark side of charismatic leadership. His plea is for positioning the individual more carefully in their context. The prevailing view of egotistical leaders may have slipped too much into polarisation. Where he is closest to Lasch is in his cutting observations of advertising which seeks to bolster the self-image of the consumer (Blackburn takes the ‘because you are worth it’ message of L’Oreal as an example]

‘Good narcissism’

Lunbeck adds the point that the neo-Freudians have tended to focus on narcissism as bad, and that Lasch contributed this cultural belief. Freud, she argues, saw the development of self-regard as a form of ‘good narcissism’.

Narcissism as a dilemma

Both Blackburn and Lunbeck show us that narcissism may be more of a dilemma to be understood than a universal curse.

Suggestion to leadership tutors

Essay question: Is Narcissism a bad leadership characteristic? Discuss, drawing on the work of Simon Blackburn and Elizabeth Lunbeck


Juan Martin Del Potro has the Fierce Resolve of a Winner

November 27, 2009

Del Potro came back after a nose bleed and losing the first five games of his opening match in the Masters cup in London. He was demonstrating the fierce resolve associated with success, found among top athletes and also among outstanding winners in other walks of life

Del Potro has been tipped as a future World No 1 Tennis player since beating Roger Federer to win the US Open a few months ago.

Juan Martín del Potro has been tabbed as a candidate to be the next superstar in men’s tennis, and his performance in the 2009 United States Open is a good example of why. Del Potro stunned the No. 1-seeded Roger Federer in a gritty five-set match, and claimed the men’s singles title, which Federer had won the past five years. Del Potro moves with surprising grace for a man his size. Very tall tennis players sometimes struggle with their movement, relying instead on booming serves. Del Potro moves with nimble, graceful steps that defy his height. He takes the ball early, and uses the leverage created by his long arms to produce power, especially from the baseline.

The Masters Cup November 2009

This week I watched Del Potro come back from losing his first five games in the opening round of The Masters cup at the O2 arena. He took a medical break to deal with a nose bleed, and then carried on. What happened next demonstrated a characteristic which is probably necessary (although not sufficient) for success as a sports star, political, military, or business leader, and even for entrepreneurs and Nobel-winning scientists. It is sometimes referred to as extreme determination, guts, self-belief, or the ability to tough it out, or even as a will to succeed. Or maybe resilience. In trait theory it also goes under various names such as ego strength and achievement need. Other ‘maps’ refer to the exceptional capacity of exceptional people to achieve exceptional goals. Earlier leadership studies described almost mystically ‘The Right Stuff’, a version of another tautology for ‘having what it takes’. Leadership guru Jim Collins refers to fierce resolve.

Overlapping Concepts

These concepts seem to me to be rather overlapping. They are based on countless studies of leader behaviours. Only a small proportion, such as the work reported by Collins, have been rigorously conducted . Collins suggests that successful business leaders have often combined a personal modesty with fierce resolve. He contrasts this with a more blatant and charismatic style of so-called natural leaders, who may be engaged in a constant battle with egotism and narcissistic delusions.

I Have Seen the Future…

Del Potro was playing Andy Murray, another top player noted for his fierce resolve. Often a top player fights back after a medical break. Nadal, for example, has also acquired a reputation for doing so on the rare occasions he faces defeat, and almost regardless of the ranking of his opponent.

Because of the tournament round-robin design, Del Potro could have conserved energy in face of almost inevitable loss of the first set. Instead he battled and clawed back several games. I scribbled down a headline to myself ‘I have seen the future and it’s called Del Potro’.

As it turned out, Murray squeezed through that match. It did not change the opinion I had formed. Here was someone with that something extra under the pressures of extreme competition.

A few days later Del Potro demonstrated his fierce resolve, winning again against World No 1 Roger Federer. Ironically, his three-set triumph gave him a marginal qualification into the knockout stages of the tournament at the expense of Andy Murray.

There he will face other players of similar levels of fierce resolve and with marginal differences in conditioning, talent and other ingredients which may play a part in the outcome of the tournament. I’m not saying Del Potro is a winner of this prestigious tournament. But I am saying again that ‘I have seen the future and it’s called Del Potro’.

Note to leadership students

This case deserves study as part of any leadership development programme. You will find it worthwhile to go more deeply into the literature ‘maps’ for theories of leadership traits and behaviours associated with excellence and success. Fierce resolve is found in the socially-oriented achievements of a Ghandi and a Mandela, but also in the histories of tyrants such as those catalogued by Jeff Schubert and other leadership researchers.


Leaders We Deserve: Andrea Williams

May 21, 2008

If leadership is the process of influencing others to achieve your goal then Andrea Williams is one the clearest examples I have come across of that species. In that respect she would be a candidate for running many a commercial organization

This week, political attention in Britain brought into focus issues of the most contested and deeply held kind for many people. Parliament debated the Human Fertilization and Embryology (HFE) Bill.

The Government chose to make it a conscience vote. This was to lead to some differences in how the processes of influence played out. The process of lobbying by interest groups did not disappear, but rather took on a different guise.

Mentioned in Dispatches

The role of one particular lobbyist was captured in a riveting TV documentary by David Modell in the Despatches series.

Modell has won praise and prizes for his work through which he reveals the operations of various groups whose behaviours tend to be labelled as extremist and fundamentalist. Neo-nazis, Animal Rights Activists, Football Hooligans, and now Fundamental Christians. His skill is to win from group members acceptance for his presence as a non-judgmental recorder. While this is an over-simplified view, his filming has a non-judgmental quality, leaving the viewer space to a better understanding of individual behaviours regardless of whether the beliefs and practices are found acceptable.

In this programme one personality dominated by her sheer energy and capacity to make a difference to situations in which she engaged. The central character was Andrea Williams, who seems to be increasingly devoting her efforts to causes within religious networks. Among her roles is that of Policy Director of The Lawyers’ Christian Fellowship.

The Lawyer turned Activist

In an interview for The Church Times, she explains how her upbringing had led to her activism. She also explained how her husband’s job as a senior executive of a telecommunications company gives her the opportunity to devote her time to her religious beliefs

In the programme, we follow Ms Williams in a series of scenes in which she repeatedly displayed a capacity to take control of events by her words and actions. Let her loose in many corporate battlegrounds, and she would quickly emerge on top. Or, perhaps more subtly, as the person influencing the top cat.

Maybe this will happen. If not, it is because Andrea Williams has signed up to a different cause. Her motivations are primarily non-secular.

Modell, writing in The Independent describes one recent example of her influencing skills at work on the Conservative Peer, Norman Tebbit:

Lord Tebbit meets us in Central Lobby and takes us to a meeting room. He and Ms Williams perch across the corner of a huge oak table. Ms Williams is persuading him of the importance of laying an amendment to the Bill. “You can get a slot on the Today programme,” she says. “Because you can say, ‘I’m tabling an amendment to reduce the upper limit on abortion’.”

Ms Williams has already written the amendments she wants incorporated into the legislation. Lord Tebbit is asked if he’d be willing to lay one, and he agrees to consider it. Ms Williams doesn’t hesitate in closing the deal. Without missing a beat, she reaches into her bag and pulls out an A4 sheet. The document is passed to Lord Tebbit and he takes it away with him. It seems too easy.

Other examples of the leader captured in action also caught my eye. There is confirmation of the rapid rapport, turning to friendship and political alliance, between herself and Conservative MP Nadine Dorries.

Charisma in action, I muttered to myself.

Indeed, Ms Dorries sponsored an amendment to the HFE bill debated in Parliament (May 19th -20th, 2008), and spoke in the debate in tones that seemed to echo those of her close friend Andrea Williams.

In yet another episode in the film, Ms Williams arrived at a demonstration where events were somewhat complicated by a general lack of focus, exemplified by a well-intentioned supporter who was capturing media attention with a ranting performance. Andrea swiftly marshaled the more media-attractive supporters into line, and made a good stab at shifting the ranting one off-stage.

Modell had also been energetic advancing his own cause. Writing in The Telegraph timed to plug the programme, he noted

I met [Andrea Williams] on a demonstration against the Sexual Orientation Rights [gay rights] legislation outside Parliament at the beginning of last year. The protest had been organized by the Lawyers’ Christian Fellowship (LCF) – or, more specifically, by Andrea Williams, its public policy director.

Ms Williams believes any law that goes against her strict biblical beliefs must be fought. Her latest target is the Human Fertilization and Embryology (HFE) Bill … Ms Williams tells me why she is campaigning against it. “I believe there’s a spiritual battle going on,” she explains. “These laws reject God, and any rejection of God is the work of the enemy, Satan.”

In yet another cameo within the programme, we heard the evocative use of statistics which characterizes the charismatic leader. (Yes, I encourage my students to bring statistics to life, but I think I’ll not use this particular example). The number of abortions in this country, she told a rapt audience of fundamentalist Christians, has now reached a scale comparable with that of the holocaust. Her mission is to stop another holocaust.

Leadership Watch

I have no hesitation in offering the case for study towards understanding the nature of exceptional leadership behaviours. The performances of the wannabe apprentices in the Alan Sugar series rarely demonstrate the raw influencing skills witnessed here.

The Problems with Charisma

One of the problems with charisma is one which has troubled earlier researchers into leadership. The very elements that had been attributed to transformational leaders turned out to be too similar to the characteristics found in leaders such as Hitler.

The evaluation of any set of leadership behaviours forces an examination of the leader’s beliefs. Here we have a leader who is driven by a deep sense of mission, and of evils to be tackled. In efforts to achieve the ends she so fervently seeks, she resorts to a form of rhetoric that often attracts descriptions such as spell-binding or magical. It appeals to visceral values and fears.

The style worked for President Kennedy and Martin Luther King many years ago. It seems to be working for Barack Obama at the moment. But in its mechanisms of influence, it can not be disconnected from the performances of an Andrea Williams. Nor unfortunately can it be distanced from the style of leaders who have also been labelled with various clinical terms from narcissism to megalomania.


Was Castro the Leader America Deserved?

February 21, 2008

fidel-newzealblogspot.jpg
Fidel Castro steps down as President of Cuba. He is acknowledged as one of the major revolutionary leaders of the twentieth century. His iconic status presents him as a much-loved transformational figure, or a tyrant in the mould of a Hitler, Stalin, and Mao. Another perspective is that Castro’s regime was sustained by a field of situational forces, including the policies of successive American governments

Documentation on Castro’s leadership is extensive, and is now set to increase, following his departure from direct power. Even his sternest critics acknowledge that he has presided over transformational changes in Cuba to social conditions such as literacy and health-care. These achievements are regarded as the products of Castro’s social preoccupations. His critics point to restrictions on individual rights considered among the prized characteristics of democratic regimes. These include the freedom to travel, freedom of information (the internet, a free press) and the freedom to elect political opponents to the regime. For such critics, Cuba is among a diminishing handful of States clinging to an increasingly anachronistic version of Marxism.

The Schubert proposition

The Schubert proposition is that tyrants reproduce a universalistic pattern of repression, which maintains them in power through the brutal and brutalizing methods of the leader.

Along with other commentators, I have found the Schubert Proposition interesting and well-researched historically. It has the additional merit of testability.

Millman’s extension to Schubert’s proposition

The American Psychologist Robert Millman, in Substance Abuse: A Comprehensive Textbook, distinguishes between those who are born narcissistic and those who acquire it through the trappings of power. According to The Times

Almost every week we have news of a celebrity, lottery winner or City squillionare behaving badly, and some of them may be victims of what a psychiatrist from Cornell University Medical School has coined “acquired situational narcissism” (ASN).

The case of Fidel Castro, as well as Millman’s analysis of acquired situational narcissism, suggests an extension to Schubert’ s theorizing.

Schubert draws attention to the internal forces around the inner circle of a tyrant, and the emergence of a cadre of puppet-like sycophants. Millman looks to the external context.

Back to Lewin

I find myself going back to a hoary theory of social dynamics proposed by the great Kurt Lewin over half a century ago. Force Field Analysis proposes an equilibrium model of social structures.

We can examine Castro’s political survival in such terms. The no-engagement policies of the USA sustain the support provided from Castro’s supporters. For much of the period, the situation was simplified when there was a so-called balance of power. To the West there was America, pushing for change. To the East, the world-power that was the USSR was pushing back to sustain the regime.

The New York Times this week captured the essence of Lewin’s theory.

It was age and illness, not the free voice of the Cuban people, that finally led Fidel Castro to announce Tuesday [Feb 19th 2008] that he is stepping down as Cuba’s president after a mere 49 years of absolute power…Cuba is a closed, repressive society. The American policy of non-engagement and embargo provided Mr. Castro with a built-in excuse for his own failed economic policies and ruthless political repression. It made it easier for him to wall ordinary Cubans off from American friendships, political ideas and affluent lifestyles. It handed him a propaganda tool to discredit courageous Cubans who openly campaigned for greater democracy. Continuing this policy of isolation will only make it easier for whoever succeeds Mr. Castro to continue the same repressive policies.

Leadership reflections

Fidel Castro is more than a footnote in world history. Maybe his case will also contribute to our understanding of charismatic leaders and theories of narcissism.