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Introduction to Predatory Leadership

By Matt Kramer

This work evolved from the question “what can we do to make the world a
better place?” Additional questions – what makes it worse? Are the
destructive factors applied consciously or unconsciously? How much of the
problem results from acts, policies or decisions generated with the intention
or knowledge that someone will suffer as a consequence?

What appears to be lacking in public dialogue is an understanding of the

nature of those who cause harm in the world.

I do believe that most people are good. I used to believe that within even the
most evil was a spark of goodness that could be tapped to create a
transformation from evil to good. Now, older and wiser, I see that often what
appears to us to be the greatest evil is truly not evil in the minds of those
who actions cause harm to others. In their minds, they are the victims; those
they hurt asked for it: “You made me do it.”

I am a mediator, a student of people and stories. While I have taken a course

in couple’s therapy at UCLA, I am not a psychologist. I am seeking people
with expertise to expand, verify or correct, and help bring this conversation
into the public forum.

Below is a cobbling of ideas – I have yet to organize them into a cohesive and
accessible order. It is easy for me to go in any number of directions in
expanding this theory – that the psychological makeup of a few (4%
according to Martha Stout – The Sociopath Next Door) has had a hugely
destructive impact upon humanity. I do not believe that violence is man’s
default behavior. I believe that with some study, we can create new ways to
understand the nature of leadership, how the worst people are able to
become our leaders (in all arenas) and how to create the kind of change that
could transform society into a truly nurturing environment for all. At best,
such a change will take at least two or three generations – our human desire
for instant gratification is one of the obstacles to achieving that goal.

I hope the following is of interest.


Preamble – I have been told that I lack a succinct theory describing the
paradigm resulting from the rule of predatory leaders. I’m starting with an
attempt to define the theory.

Theory of Predatory Leadership – While it is generally taken for granted that

the degree of violence and corruption experienced in the world today is a
logical result of man’s nature, in reality, it is the nature of a very small
segment of the population – the predatory leader - that is the source and
driving force of events, policies and conditions that cause harm to others.

The psychological (and possibly physiological) makeup of the perpetrators is

measurably different than that of the general population. Over thousands of
years evolution has been impacted to the extent that in government, military,
religious and other organizations, perpetrators and victims to collude in
conscious and subconscious ways resulting in the complicated nature of
today’s status quo – a condition in which most people are passive and
apathetic when it comes to engaging in making changes outside of their
immediate sphere of influence. A metaphoric example in nature is the the
parasitic wasp Glyptapanteles which turns its host into a suicidal body guard.
( http://www.world-science.net/othernews/080605_glyptapanteles.htm )

Those who do work to make a difference are divided into two camps. One
group is comprised of the predators and parasites who exploit the resources
and efforts of humanity without any regard to the consequences; the other is
defined by the work of those who seek to heal the damage and improve the
conditions within which we all live.

I recently received a reply to my writing from a therapist who, in general, supports

my sentiments. However, in reading the original article below, she said she
couldn’t identify my theory. That tells me I have a lot of work to do to get this idea
into a presentable shape that will make it more accessible to readers. This is one
of the areas where I am seeking help.

After reading her response, I went to Google and asked the question: What is a

From one of the websites, I gleaned the following:

One sentence description: a theory is a tested and testable concept which is

used to explain an occurrence. Or, from the same site:
an explanation or thought which was based on observation and testing.

With those thoughts in mind, I wrote this first section to serve as an introduction
to the theory of predatory leadership.

As a student of the world, I have often observed a repeating occurrence: people

in positions of power initiating actions and policies that result in great harm to
large numbers of people and to the environment. I have a theory that, if proven,
could explain how these people are different than the majority of the population
and how they are able to prevail to the extent that their actions appear to be
widely condoned, often without question, until the consequences of their
arrogance is so egregious that people finally rise up against them.
My hope is that when this theory is defined, widely understood and accepted, it
can form the basis of dialogue and strategy for preventing “toxic” or “predatory”
people from gaining such power while at the same time, establishing systems to
identify and encourage capable people of a conscious and compassionate nature
to earn positions of leadership necessary to support and maintain a peaceful and
nurturing society.

I also believe that such a theory can be used to create standards by which the
actions of such people (and the organizations they rule) can be publically
assessed and recognized for the damage they cause.

At this point, I call this a theory of Predatory Leadership. My theory is that many
people in positions of power were able to attain those positions because,
possessed with an abusive or sociopathic personality, a combination of
determination and drive, and exceptional expertise in exploiting and manipulating
human nature, they were able to out compete (or eliminate) any competition that
stood in the way of their goal.

One reason they prevail is that, as predators on their way up the ladder, they are
able to convince many of their followers that they are acting selflessly on their
behalf when, in reality, they see their followers and others as a resource to be
used, mined and exploited with truly no concern for their welfare. When they
obtain control of the army, the reins of the corporation, the top position in their
church or religion, etc., their position may be such that they have to maintain an
outer façade of concern, or they may control such powerful forces that they can
openly act on their agenda.

One of the reasons this condition is repeated is that outside of a few

academicians, few understand the elements involved and can see the overall
and complex picture.

Some of the elements include:

<>-<> A public lack of understanding of the nature and behavior of the abusive or
sociopathic mind. (As with squares and rectangles, I believe there are
commonalities and differences between abusers and sociopaths.)

<>-<> Akin to the medical profession prior to the discovery of microbes, a

complete lack of awareness of how such personalities have formed, shaped and
infected all facets of society since early history. (It is my hope that this theory or
something like it can become the microscope through which humanity can finally
recognize and understand the infectious nature of their predators.)

<>-<> A desire on the part of the average person to want someone else to be in
charge, someone to take care of them, etc. As a result they are more open to
accepting the outright lies of their leaders. When a sociopath says to his
constituents, “Your problems are the fault of those ‘others’ and when I get rid of
them for you, your world will be all right”, enough people support and believe the
leader to the extent that dissenting voices are easily marginalized or eliminated.

<>-<> An ability to create confusing environments in which truth is obscured and

false premises are accepted as truth.


"It is too difficult too judge us . . . because what we did goes beyond
human imagination." Jean Hatzfeld (excerpt from an interview with a
perpetrator of the Rwandan genocide)

* * *
There are wonderful things happening in the world today. All over the
planet, thousands, if not millions of people are making bold and
powerful efforts to end war, eliminate disease and famine, and, in
general, make the world a better place for everybody. However, in
addition to the resistance experienced from those entrenched in the
status quo, the idealists face silent and relentless efforts to
marginalize their work. I believe, if it were not for these obstacles,
both visible and invisible, the majority of humanity's challenges could
be conquered within a very short time.

I have attended many lectures, seminars, conferences, rallies, marches,

etc., to support the cause of peace, overcome inhumane corporate
practices, and stop unnecessary war. Over and over again, I hear people
talking about ways to heal the damage. Sincere and heartfelt statements
are made about how we can do things better, improve governments and
mobilize for change. But I have never heard anyone name the core problem
let alone talk about how to eliminate it. The problem, the source of
most of humanity's misery, is the predatory leader. Until we understand
his nature and the successful methods he uses to achieve his goals, we
will not prevail against him.

Many feel that it is inevitable that people in power will succumb to the
exploitive opportunities of their position (power corrupts . . .) and
when idealistic youth ask why such people are in power and why don't we
change, their wiser elders shrug their shoulders to say, "That's the way
it's always been and that's how it always will be."

I disagree.

I believe there exists a systemic process yet to be publically

identified that very efficiently exploits the positive traits of human
nature. The predatory leader is adept at employing this process. It
allows those who are willing to do anything for power to outcompete
those who have the capacity to be compassionate leaders of conscience.
Its workings are generally unknown and we coexist with it in a way that
is similar to the way medicine coexisted with viruses and bacteria
before Pasteur's work revealed the microscopic agents of disease. The
consequence is that over and over again, we passively allow the worst
possible people to work their way into positions of power and control.

My primary goal is to educate people about the invisible nature and

practice of predatory leadership - how a small percentage of sociopaths,
abusive personalities and those who single mindedly seek to dominate and
control in their arenas are the major creators and contributors to our
painful history and devastating conditions of our present day debacles.
The first step towards an effective, healing change is to bring this
subject into public dialogue and encourage brainstorming on reinventing
the ways and means people have available to earn a place in positions of


Below is a draft article on the subject of predatory leadership

followed by two email responses from academics in the field of
leadership. While the researchers state that they are unable to get
involved themselves, the nature of their response gives me some hope
that this idea will be interesting to people who have the resources and
expertise to study it more deeply.

I have outlined some goals at the end of this email. I am particularly

interested in the perspective of psychologists, historians, political
scientists and sociologists. It will be extremely valuable to see how
the predatory leader shows up in different arenas such as corporate,
political, educational, religious, military, health care as well as in
other cultures.

You can access a rudimentary website on the subject at

mostpeoplearegood.com. A more robust and interactive site is currently
under construction. You may have ideas, suggestions or referrals; any
input is welcome.

All the best,

Matt Kramer http://www.mattkramer.com 707-795-6057

Predatory Leadership: A New Buzzword for Corrupt Times

by Matt Kramer
Next to plagues and natural disasters, corrupt leaders may be the
greatest contributors to past and present states of human misery. This
article begins to explore the historic and the current nature of
predatory leadership and its impact on humanity. The first step toward
creating effective change in the methods available to those who work
their way into positions of leadership is to understand how such people
think and act, and how they are able to attain the power they seek.

There was a time, in my naive youth, when I assumed that somewhere

within even the most evil of us exists a spark of compassion and the
possibility of reform. But now, from my perspective as an older and
wiser man, I no longer believe this to be true for a specific percentage
of the population.

In my work as both a business and family mediator, I have had cases in

which one of the parties was either uninterested or too self-interested
to display any commitment to sharing responsibility for the conflict on
the table. Instead, they fell into one or more of these categories:

1. They were expertly skilled at exploiting and manipulating every

opportunity to get what they want.

2. They were adept at confusing and camouflaging the issues to the point
that a fair resolution could not be reached .

3. They appeared incapable of any behavior other than bullying and

manipulation to the extent that the mediation ended without resolution.

Throughout my years in practice as a mediator I became fascinated with

the ease with which these abusive, narcissistic personalities were able
to control their spouses, employees, children and other primary
relationships, and began to formulate my theories about "predatory

For the most part, I support a generalization that "most people are
good." In 30 years as a business professional and world traveler, I have
had, at most, two incidents in which I encountered people who
intentionally wished me ill. In general I've found the vast majority of
human interactions to be positive experiences fueled by healthy

So what is different about the minority? According to Martha Stout (The

Sociopath Next Door), 4 percent of the population has an undiagnosed
(and perhaps outwardly invisible) personality disorder that combines a
narcissistic obsession for self entitlement with a lack of capacity for
empathy. What happens when a member of that minority attains a position
of social, corporate, political or religious power?
There is endless research on the symptoms of sociopaths and abusive
personalities, and for a quick overview, here are a few primary
examples. These traits might be present in a predatory leader (like
squares and rectangles, sociopaths and abusive personalities share some
common characteristics):

. In their minds, they are the only victims. In their public trials,
Saddam Hussein and Slobodan Milosevic never acknowledged they were
responsible for causing harm to others; their major efforts in the
courts were to direct attention to how badly they, themselves, were
being treated.

. They lack the capacity for compassion, empathy, shame or guilt.

. They make every effort to prove their actions are the fault of
somebody else.

. They often exhibit symptoms of narcissistic or borderline personality


Research shows that the brains of abused children and sociopaths are
physiologically different from those who were raised with the nurturance
each child deserves from birth. Sociopathic behavior indicates that they
lack the capacity for empathy and they appear to be incapable of taking
responsibility for the harm they have caused others. In my own
observations, within the abusers operates a mechanism that works
desperately to keep them from ever acknowledging they did anything
wrong. It's almost as if they are being controlled by a overpowering
subconscious belief that they will self destruct if they ever really
connect with either the nature of their submerged shame or fully grasped
the degree of pain and suffering they inflict upon others.

I correlate my own experience as a mediator with a quote from a review

of "The Sociopath Next Door" by Martha Stout:

"We are accustomed to think of sociopaths as violent criminals, but in

The Sociopath Next Door, Harvard psychologist Martha Stout reveals that
a shocking 4 percent of ordinary people - one in twenty-five - has an
often undetected mental disorder, the chief symptom of which is that
that person possesses no conscience. He or she has no ability whatsoever
to feel shame, guilt, or remorse. One in twenty-five everyday Americans,
therefore, is secretly a sociopath. They could be your colleague, your
neighbor, even family. And they can do literally anything at all and
feel absolutely no guilt."
Child psychiatrist Jack Westman estimates that each typical sociopath
will cost society $3 million over the course of his lifetime, but
society does virtually nothing to address this condition. In connection
to Westman's statement, I personally support a number of well meaning,
humanitarian organizations in which sincere, motivated people rally to
stop war, heal the planet, stop famine, etc. As I listen to their
impassioned speeches, I'm reminded over and over again, "These folks are
talking about healing huge and significant damage but nobody is talking
about how to eliminate the source of problem."

The source is complex, insidious and in many ways, well hidden. At the
same time, it is publically visible in a way that makes the horrible
acceptable. The consequences of war is sold to the public as a solution
because the other side, led by similar leaders selling the same
propaganda to their people, is making demons out of the first
population. In this way, the predatory leaders are partners in crime;
they need and use each other's pathologies to justify their own.

One of the greatest challenges is to define this complex issue in a way

that is accessible and interesting to people who could be motivated to
effect change. The first step is to bring the discussion to the general
public so that more people have the opportunity to develop and carry out


For examples of predatory leaders we can immediately point to obvious

examples of Hitler and Stalin who used dirty tricks, propaganda,
demonization of innocent people, war and assassination to achieve their
goals. But more pervasive and less obvious are the millions of petty
tyrants working at all levels of society, including:

. Government bureaucrats and corporate administrators, many of them in

positions to make life miserable for hundreds or thousands of people

. Employers who exploit and take advantage of employees.

. Abusive police officers who bully their neighborhoods

. Abusive gang leaders who bully their neighborhoods

. Abusive teachers who intimidate their students

. Religious clergy who abuse their following

. Corporate decision makers who hide or lie about toxic elements in

their products or lay off their work force in exchange for using slave
labor overseas.

. Insurgents who plant bombs and the people who recruit and train them.

. The domestic abuser who emotionally or physically terrorizes his/her


These are a few examples of people who decide to act -- consciously or

subconsciously -- to exploit and oppress others for their own benefit.
While there may be wide variations among these groups, they share a
common mindset that includes an unchecked sense of entitlement coupled
with a disregard for others that serves as the foundation for oppressive
decisions and actions.

One particularly dangerous aspect of predatory leaders is that their

agendas, often couched in a message that they are "helping their
people," provide opportunity for sociopathic personalities with fewer
leadership skills to thrive in service to their leaders. In such
service, a man who would be imprisoned for rape and murder in a peaceful
environment can join or form a militia where his crimes are excused,
overlooked or even requested as he carries out his mission. This appears
to be happening in Darfur today.

I will relate a brief story about a friend of mine who has the potential
to be a humane, compassionate and effective political leader. He was on
the ground floor of the national political arena and his friends and
colleagues had high hopes for him. But in his professional environment,
advancement in his field meant he had to compromise his conscience and
morals so thoroughly that he chose to drop out. He would ultimately be
replaced by someone who lacked similar conscience and was sufficiently
self serving that he could do the dirty work necessary to move up in the

This is one of the key reasons that we find ourselves with malevolent,
exploitive and murderous people in positions of power. While they may
not be proactively murderous, they are sufficiently bureaucratic in
mid-level positions to move through the ranks of the regime,
corporation, military unit or religious institution while serving their
own narcissistic agendas. The inhumane consequences of the bureaucratic
nature of managed health care are a current example.

In 1972 my friend took some time off from his studies at Harvard to work
on George McGovern's presidential campaign in New Hampshire. He did so
well that he was hired to run the state campaign for one of the Dakotas.
He told me about how excited he was to be meeting the top players in the
Democratic Party and that he could see making a career of this work. I
told him I looked forward to voting for him in 30 years.
A year later he dropped out. It wasn't that the competition was too
tough; he thrived on competition. The problem was that he was being
asked to do things that were too filthy for his conscience to bear. But
there were plenty of others waiting in line to do the dirty work, and
they would advance as a result. In this situation a potentially great
leader was marginalized while a sociopath forged ahead in the same

Over the centuries, the nature and path to power has become so infected
with the poison of sociopaths and the opportunists who gild their
pockets by serving the abusers in power, that a majority of the general
public accepts such abuse as inevitable and feels powerless to do
anything about it. This happens not just in the corporate, government,
military and political arenas, but also in educational, non- profit and
religious institutions. Most average folks complacently leave leadership
to others, and when this happens, ruthlessly competitive goal seekers
who will do anything to achieve their goals pervade all aspects of
culture and society.

For the sake of this discussion, from the Oxford English Dictionary, an
applicable definition of leadership is "a person or thing that leads."

Consider the position that all individuals are leaders in their own
lives by virtue of the fact that on conscious and subconscious levels,
they make leadership choices about every action they take. These choices
are as personal as selecting a school for their children or as
far-reaching as the decision to follow a leader who preaches harm to

This raises the question about the distinction between sociopathic

personalities and the actions of those who become enmeshed in their
policies. How do we discern between a conscientious person who harms
others because if they don't follow orders they'll suffer as a
consequence (soldiers, intimidated employees or abused family members),
and a sociopath who follows a murderous leader because the leader
provides an opportunity for the sociopath to "legitimately" impose his
will upon others without suffering any personal consequence.?

Look at how leadership shows up in the nuclear family. To many, an ideal

family is one where mother and father share roles as parents and leaders
of the family. In many families in which one parent is abusive and
controls the rest of the family, there is no room for shared leadership
or any independent initiative on the part of other family members. Often
this dysfunction is not visible outside of the family; friends will say,
"I thought they were the perfect couple." This example of dual
personalities exists in all forms of predatory leadership.

In the broad spectrum between the domestic abuser and the dictator of a
nation, they share a common pathological mindset. It is the lack of
understanding about how these sociopathic and abusive minds function
that enables such toxic entities to get into positions of power over and
over again.


With the goal of healing leadership, we can create a public dialogue,

encourage research and develop ways to educate consumers, voters,
corporations, families, educators and others, especially school age
children, to identify abusers before they complete the path to power.
With this education, bullies will have much less power in a schools,
neighborhoods and offices, and adolescents will be better able to
understand the difference between toxic and healthy romantic
relationships. An additional benefit of such education is that people
will make better choices for their marriages, there will be less
divorce, less abusive behavior and children will have a better chance to
grow up in healthy, non-abusive homes. A program like this, carried out
on a national basis, can go a long way towards breaking the cycle of
abused children growing up to be abusive parents and abusive leaders.

On the larger scale, I envision a manual of identified actions and

behaviors that would unmask the those parading publically as benevolent
leaders while behind the scenes, their actions are ruthlessly

In current events, the self serving interests of the predatory leaders

were exposed in Burma in the wake of the recent cyclone devastation.
Millions of dollars of aid and thousands of relief workers are standing
by while thousands of Burmese are dying from lack of potable water,
disease and starvation. The "leaders" are withholding their permission
of a full scale rescue effort because, according to a Reuters' report
published on May 9, 2008:

"Myanmar is not in a position to receive rescue and information teams

from foreign countries at the moment," the government-run Myanma Ahlin
newspaper said in a report on the aid operation slowly building up for
survivors of Cyclone Nargis."

Reading between the lines with an insight to the pathology of the

sociopathic leader, I know that what is happening is that those in power
fear losing control. If thousands of foreigners gain unrestricted access
to a population that has been rigidly denied contact with the outside
world, Senior General Than Shwe would face challenges to the tight grip
he has held on the nation since 1992. Maintaining that control is much
more important than doing everything possible to alleviate the
devastation in his country.

Researching and developing programs to fight predatory leadership is a

long term project and it is bigger than me. I do not want to own it or
profit from it. I want people to gain tools and insights to protect
themselves from the predatory personalities who lack conscience and
empathy - a significant element in their ability to cause pain and harm
to others as a byproduct of their pursuit of their goals.

Short term, my goals are in the following order:

1. Enlist fellow humanitarians to collaborate on research and developing

programs that will effectively address this monumental challenge. The
end result - maybe a couple of generations away - will be a paradigm
that includes a holistic process for identifying potential predators
before they attain power, redirecting them elsewhere and, at the same
time, identifying and nurturing potentially compassionate leaders.

2. Develop a more effective website - the current website is a hasty

setup to get something online: mostpeoplearegood.com

3. Write one or more books on the myriad aspects of this subject (the
subject would progress geometrically if it could include contributions
from professionals in the fields of psychology, poly sci, sociology,
history, etc.)

4. Integrate these concepts into our educational curriculum in

appropriate ways. For example, I believe there would be a significant
reduction in abusive marriages if Patricia Evans' book, "The Verbally
Abusive Relationship" was taught in junior high and high school.

5. Start a non-profit organization to bring in funding for promotion

(speakers bureaus?) and to develop research and tools to ensure the
development of the more humane aspects of the world's cultures.

Not too big a task, eh?

Thank you for reading this far. I look forward to interesting

conversations and any insights or critiques you may have.

Matt Kramer 707-795-6057 mattkramer.com

Correspondence with Professor Dean Simonton (UC Davis) and Professor

Jack Glaser (UC Berkeley):
Begin forwarded message: From: "Dean Simonton" Date: September 19, 2007
12:37:57 PDT To: Matt Kramer Subject: RE: Introduction to Predatory

Hi, Matt ~ Your concept of "predatory leaders" is a very interesting and

potentially useful one. It has some affinity with other concepts in the
literature on political leadership, such as Machiavellian, transactional
(rather than transformational), and negative (rather than positive)
charismatic leadership. Hence, one of your first tasks would be to
specify how this particular form of leadership differs from these other
forms. Unfortunately, my main research interests have drifted away from
political leadership. What little work I now do is restricted to the
predictors of presidential performance ratings. I wish you success. ~
Best, Dean

Dean Keith Simonton, PhD Distinguished Professor and Vice Chair

Department of Psychology One Shields Avenue University of California,
Davis Davis, CA 95616-8686

Home Page - http://psychology.ucdavis.edu/Simonton/


Begin forwarded message: From: "Jack Glaser" Date: September 19, 2007
10:37:19 PDT To: "Matt Kramer" Subject: Re: Introduction to Predatory

Dear Mr. Kramer,

Thanks for sending your message. The idea is extremely interesting, but
it is so far outside my area of expertise that I'm afraid I can't be of
help. The social psychologist who is most prominent in the study of
leadership is Dean Simonton. You may wish to look into his work.

Thanks again, and best of luck with your important work.

Jack Glaser

<><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><> Jack Glaser Assistant

Professor Goldman School of Public Policy University of California,
Berkeley 2607 Hearst Avenue Berkeley, CA 94720-7320 510-642-3047, FAX:
510-643-3047 http://ist-socrates.berkeley.edu/~glaserj/

On Sat, September 15, 2007 3:06 am, Matt Kramer wrote:

Dear Professor Glaser;

I learned of your work hearing you as a guest on Forum last week. I am
very impressed reading your C.V.; I hesitate to contact you; you are
certainly very busy. If you do not have time to respond to my query,
maybe you can provide an appropriate referral.

I would like to share a theory I am developing on the nature of

predatory leaders. I have been working as a professional mediator since
1994. In the course of my work, I began to study the nature of abusive
personalities and eventually recognized correlations between the
behavior of such personalities in the domestic arena and practically all
other areas of human interaction: corporate, government, educational,
religious, military, etc.

I feel this theory will be best served by sharing the development with
people with different areas of expertise: political scientists,
historians, psychologists, sociologists, etc. I do not wish to own this
idea; my desire is to help it make its way into public dialogue - if the
general population can learn to recognize the behavior patterns, maybe
they will start developing ways to protect themselves in their private
lives and find ways to redirect the predators away from access to
positions of power and control. I know this is tricky ground but I don't
know of any other efforts being made that address what I see as
humanity's primary problem.

Ironically, in my efforts to find partners, my own leadership abilities

are challenged. When I started talking about this subject a few years
ago, eyes glazed over rather quickly. I have fine tuned my elevator
speech to the extent that now when I have an opportunity to share these
ideas, people actually seem to get it. But the task feels much too big
for me to do it justice. I'd like to see a poly-sci class or a sociology
class take it on as a course of study. For your review, I will include a
draft article I have recently begun to write.