Some academic researchers have found it useful to conduct
critiques of emotional and cultural aspects of organizations and policy making.
This type of work supports the notion that a wounded leader may influence the
personality of his organization and its behaviour. Wounded leaders may bring
with them what has been described as a huge “well of fear” that fuels the
abusive behaviour of adults. This may also fuel the behaviour of their
These researchers have drawn parallels between personality
and corporate culture. Few harried husbands, fathers or wounded leaders would
fail to identify with the “trick-cyclists, keeping upright and steady simply
because they move forward so quickly”[i].
If a leader or corporation is not moving forward, fearful stagnation might
result. Worse yet, a pause might result in self-examination and coming to terms
with the wounds.
Fear generated by childhood abuse and self-doubt plays a
larger, but unrecognized, role in the emergence and shaping of social,
economic, cultural, and political structures. Fear may blind us to ways of
making clear, life-enhancing decisions and being constructive. In addition, it
may cause the passing on of hurts and fears to co-workers and even entire
organizations. Conversely, a person who has been supported and whose nature has
been confirmed will act constructively, not destructively. Nor, it seems
evident, would this person build an organization that acts destructively.
Studies cite the dangers of getting “the testosterone
flowing” to the detriment of the organization. Wounded leaders seem to treat
corporate mergers and acquisitions as some sort of life-or-death military
operation. Military and macho terminology are common. One company called its
teams working on due diligence “Commando
Squads”. Team members were presented with 18-inch bowie knives engraved with
their names, as well as the name of the target organization. While no doubt an
extreme manifestation, this macho trophy would seem to suit many senior men in
[i] Maguire, John, “The Tears Inside The Stone: Reflections on the Ecology of Fear”, in Scott Lash, Bronislaw Szerszynski & Brian Wynne, (eds), Risk, Environment & Modernity, London: Sage Publications, 1996.)
From Wounded Leaders: How Their Damaged Past Affects Your Future, available here.