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The walls within: working with defenses against otherness

Online Conference 5-11 July 2021

Leadership is Cheating Management

The ego ideal of ethical leadership, reified and deified over decades by being trumpeted in the business literature, marketing materials from purveyors of ethics training, and high-minded moral preaching from religious leaders has rarely been analyzed psychologically, much less called into question. This posture has been maintained despite countless examples of corruption, deception, illusion, lying, and cheating throughout history. This trend remains active and unabated, as documented in examples that populate the pages of contemporary media. For example: Car manufacturer's evading regulatory monitoring of its vehicles, corruption at every level of local, state, and federal government in countries across the developed and undeveloped world, falsification of scientific results in climate change, pharmaceutical trials, and basic biology and rule-breaking performers and miscreant regulators in sports, to name but a few. Only recently has cheating in all its forms been the subject of scientific investigation. Evidence from neurobiology, behavioral economics and experimental, evolutionary, and psychoanalytic psychology has demonstrated that the motivation for ethical (moral) behavior exists in conflict with potent motivations to deceive. This tension exists in many contexts including: connection versus competition, aspiration for gain versus fear of loss, creativity versus reality and is played out internally in self-image and socially in work and play. In this paper we continue efforts to understand the dynamics of deception in psychological terms including magical thinking, dread and shame, anxiety and risk, as well as hostility and aggression. We examine hierarchies of deception in terms of their unique dynamics as well as their impact on individuals and groups. We seek to offer a new paradigm for thinking about, learning from, and reflecting on ethics that more organically, compared to moral imperatives, informs executive and group behaviors in business, government, and sports.'