'Snakes' give capitalism a bad name
by David Philpott, chairman of the Institute of
Directors Kent branch
With Messrs Cameron and Miliband locked in combat as I write -
each seeking to re-define what kind of capitalism we ought to have,
my mind has been on a curious journey that has led me to a simple -
some might say far too simple - belief.
Our corporate greed, the dirty washing of the past decade, is
now being hung out to dry and we are all beating ourselves up over
what we need to do from here.
Say what you will about the St Paul's Cathedral protesters, they
got the Church and City thinking about the social consequences of
unrestrained capitalism. If this unrestrained capitalism did
anything, it gave birth to a general acceptance of corporate
bullying in the boardroom. It was seen as the price for earning big
I am reminded now of the European HR director of a global brand
of my acquaintance, who dreads going into work each and every day
because of the thuggish, foul-mouthed behaviour of her chief
To the outside world though, he is a dazzling example of
entrepreneurial leadership who makes lots and lots of money for his
shareholders. He is a successful businessman. But in the workplace,
he is just a bully who has lost the respect of his senior staff.
This is not good capitalism, it is bad capitalism.
This kind of behaviour is well observed by Dr Paul Babiak in his
brilliant book Snakes in Suits, [published by HarperCollins].
In it, he describes how psychopaths manipulate†their way into
work and get promoted and then explores the effect their presence
has on colleagues and corporations and, more significantly, the
superficial similarities and fundamental differences between
leadership skills and psychopathic traits.
What's all this talk of bullying got to do with re-defining
capitalism, I hear you asking? Well, everything really.
In my opinion, good capitalism is all about being decent and
reasonable in the way one conducts business. Think Cadbury's. Think
Rowntrees. These were the caring capitalists who understood that
with great wealth comes great responsibility.
Someone, speaking of herself, said to me: "I don't live my life
in compartments. There is not a workplace Sally, a social Sally, a
homemaker and mum that is Sally - I am the same person in all those
"I don't suddenly transform from a hard-faced sales executive
who just wants to seal the deal into a loving mum when I walk
through the door of my home."
And that's the point isn't it?
If we are true to ourselves, we have to be true to others too,
so when we meet them - at work or at play - they see the real us. I
just can't help wondering though, if we are really seeing the real
Mr Cameron and the real Mr Miliband.