The following definitions are not from the dictionary. They are labels used to describe three types of manager from the standpoint of personality, ethics, behavior and effectiveness. They are the result of over 2,000 interviews with corporate personnel, about their relationships with bosses, peers and subordinates.
The "Leader" is an ethical manager with charisma who effectively leads a group for the long-term benefit of the organization. He respects all his responsibilities: the environment, the investors, senior management, subordinates and the customers of the corporation. He receives high ratings from superiors, peers, and subordinates, and he has unlimited career potential.
He is a proactive manager, willing to forego short-term expediencies that would hurt the long-term health of the organization and everyone it affects. (Examples: he does not stop preventive maintenance to cut costs, or does not eliminate cross-training of employees to make the quarterly report look better.)
The "Builder" is also an ethical and effective manager, but without charisma. He or she has most of the same traits as the Leader, but not in the same quantities or combinations. Perhaps the Builder simply has not yet been acknowledges as a leader. Superiors usually rate Builders "adequate" to "high," but see them as dead-ended in their careers, or as having only limited leadership potential.
On the other hand, peers and subordinates believe that the Builder's experience, talents, and past contributions warrant a higher-level position. Like the Leader, the Builder is seen as a genuine team player, respecting all his constituencies.
The Destructive Achiever
The "Destructive Achiever" (DA) has the Leader's charisma but not the latter's operational values or ethics. He sees his obligations only to those who most directly affect his career and personal power and wealth. He can make the corporation exceptionally successful, but always at the expense of one of his responsibilities.
The investors may profit handsomely from his management, but workers may find that they have lost their standard of living. Or, the corporation may make huge profits, but the environment may never recover—or the health of consumers may be put at risk. The Destructive Achiever's orientation is short-term profits and the quarterly report—not what is best for the long-term health of the organization and all it affects.
He is a reactive manager; he lets current problems—that have difficult or costly solutions—pressure him into rash or unethical action. To make a bad quarterly report look better, he puts pressures on subordinates to falsify financial reports, or he causes a cover-up of unfavorable test data about the corporation's product.
Senior executives credit the DA with getting the job done; but they may or may not perceive the individual as having high ethical standards or a net positive long-term impact on the organization.
Most subordinates and some peers rate the DA as "poor" to "very poor." They see him as being committed primarily to his own short-term personal goals and career, even at the expense of the total organization. The DA's support comes from those who respect power, as well as from those who are willing to make the compromises they see as necessary for the group's benefit. Peers and subordinates may openly speculate about how such an individual could ever succeed in a sophisticated organization with an excellent reputation for good management.
Obviously, from the standpoint of our country's long-term health, Leaders and Builders should be leading our country's corporations. Unfortunately, that's not the case.
Today's cultural climate almost requires Destructive Achievers, who now dominate corporate America. If an executive cannot produce quick and significant increases in shareholder value, he has almost no chance of gaining entry into America's new aristocracy: the Chief Executive Officer.
The most obvious—and most publicized—route to personal power and wealth today is for the CEO simply to lie, some legally (distorting financial reports, but still within "accounting procedures"), and some illegally (actually falsifying data).
A close second, and just as rewarding to the CEO—and costly to society—is for him to sell-out his own employees: an obvious violation of the ethical principle of utility, as well as the principles of rights and justice.
They do it in any number of creative ways: closing down existing manufacturing operations in this country and moving to China; replacing staff with temporary help (with no benefits and decreased pay); using "globalization" and the threat of job loss to keep employee pay low; destroying unions, and, in general, increasing productivity by simply demanding that employees work harder for less pay.
Because of their willingness to behave selfishly, and to satisfy the immediate demands of investors, DA s cut ethical corners throughout their careers. This gives them tremendous advantages over true Leaders, and certainly over Builders. The advantages are many, but are not necessary to consider for purposes this discussion.
The significance of the distinctions between Leaders, Builders and Destructive Achievers—as applied to governance—is discussed elsewhere in this web site.