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Evil, toxic and pathological categories of leadership: implications for political power

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Bostock, WW (2010) Evil, toxic and pathological categories of leadership: implications for political power. In: Challenging Evil, Time, Society and Changing Concepts of the Meaning of Evil. At the Interface . Inter-Disciplinary Press, Oxford, pp. 11-18. ISBN 978-1-84888-026-9

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Abstract

The study of the psychology of individual leaders is rightly placed at the centre of many disciplines such as government and history. There are many theories of leadership, and the majority of these are concerned with rational policy, strategy and decision. However there is also a need to be concerned with collective emotions such as identification, fear, hysteria, and other manifestations of the unconscious that are used by leaders as raw materials to produce an outcome that may be catastrophic in outcome. When this has occurred, it may be valid to blame leadership, particularly where the leader is a despot. However, there is a philosophical problem when the leadership in question is a result of evil intention or mental disorder, or psychopathology or persistent personality disorder characterized by antisocial behaviour. This dichotomy has been described as the mad/bad problem: is the offender mad and therefore in need of treatment, or bad and therefore in need of punishment? Many writers such as Staub have identified the category of evil leadership, defined in terms of the destruction of human beings, even where the original intention may not have been to cause evil. Another approach is to identify a leader as toxic, producing extreme levels of dysfunctional leadership characterized by organizational contamination. Yet another category is pathological leadership, or leadership that leads to consequences that most people in moments of reasonableness would regard as disastrous. This definition of pathological leadership or leadership which leads to disastrous consequences is given special attention in this discussion, as it has the advantage of leaving separate the question of an evaluation of the motives and the mental condition of the pathological leader, who, on achieving political power, may have catastrophically toxic consequences.

Item Type: Book Section
Keywords: Evil, leadership, pathology, politics, toxicity
Publisher: Inter-Disciplinary Press
Page Range: pp. 11-18
Date Deposited: 07 Sep 2010 02:18
Last Modified: 07 Sep 2010 02:18
URI: http://eprints.utas.edu.au/id/eprint/10055
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