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Leader Killers

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Workshops and Presentations on Dealing with Antagonists

Frequently Asked Questions


What is an antagonist?

The word antagonist is defined and used throughout Leader Killers in this way:

Antagonists are individuals who, on the basis of nonsubstantive evidence go out of their way to make insatiable demands, usually attacking the person or performance of others. These attacks are selfish in nature, tearing down rather than building up, and are frequently directed against those in a leadership capacity.

Are antagonists really that much of a threat?

Antagonists are a greater threat than many people realize. This is how author Kenneth Haugk describes them in the introduction to Leader Killers:

Antagonists are not just misguided and misunderstood. They are out to hurt people, and they do. Sooner or later most organizations and most individuals-leaders or not-encounter antagonists. Antagonists, although few in number, have the potential for disproportionately disrupting or destroying the efficiency and effectiveness of an organization as well as the peace of mind and well-being of the individuals within that organization.

Antagonists are dangerous foes: persistent, devious, self-centered, and willing to go to great lengths to cause trouble.

What separates antagonism from normal conflict or differences of opinion?

Conflict is inevitable in any organization. In fact, it can be a healthy way to bring about positive change or reinforce values. Antagonism, on the other hand, is always unhealthy and destructive.

Most people who become involved in workplace conflicts are mentally healthy, morally responsible, rational, and willing to discuss and compromise in order to solve problems.

A small but very vocal and disruptive minority, however, are wholly motivated by the desire for power. They delight in initiating unhealthy conflict, thrive on the upheaval and commotion they produce, and have no desire whatsoever to see conflict resolved. They are antagonists.

Is this book intended only for businesses?

Although businesses of all sizes and types will definitely benefit from the information in Leader Killers, they are not the sole audience of the book. Antagonists can and will appear anywhere-the public sector, academia, sports, volunteer associations, religious groups, and other organizations. Antagonism is a way of life for these individuals, so they may practice it anywhere, at any time. Any organization will find the principles and suggestions in Leader Killers to be beneficial to leaders at all levels. (See the Book Excerpts for sample information.)

How will I know when I need to use the advice in this book-that is, when I'm actually dealing with an antagonist?

Dr. Haugk outlines this information in Part One of Leader Killers, called "Identifying Antagonists." The first seven chapters point out the personality traits of antagonists, identify eighteen "red flags" that can serve as early warning signals of antagonism, describe tactics that antagonists often use, and offer other helpful information on how they behave and why. (See the Book Excerpts for sample information.)

Does this book offer specific, practical advice as well as general guidance?

Leader Killers offers both in abundance. Several chapters present a broad, all-encompassing guide to recognizing antagonists or guarding against them. Part Two of the book, "Dealing with Antagonists," focuses on handling potential confrontations with antagonists in specific situations. One chapter describes four specific strategies that leadership teams can use in dealing with antagonists. Others give advice for situations, such as when an antagonist is present in a meeting or how to deal with an antagonist who seems indispensable to the organization. Leader Killers serves as both a general guide for preparation and a manual for specific action.

My organization doesn't have any antagonists. Would this book still be useful?

Freedom from antagonism is a wonderful thing! Unfortunately, there's no guarantee that it will last-and that's where this book comes in. Even if you see no immediate threats, prevention is always a better course than trying to fix problems after they emerge. Part Three of the book, "Preventing Antagonism," helps organizations prepare for the possibility of future problems with antagonists. (See Book Excerpts for sample information.)

Leader Killers will also help you detect antagonistic activity that isn't immediately obvious. The red flags, traits, and tactics Dr. Haugk describes may reveal antagonists where once none seemed to exist. Whether or not antagonists are disrupting your organization or department at the moment, Leader Killers is a valuable tool for any leader.

I've already handled antagonists in my organization. Does this book still have anything to offer me?

Absolutely! Although you may feel confident handling antagonists on your own, it would definitely help to be aware of the best approaches for the situation. The executive director of a health organization said this about Leader Killers:

I wish I'd read it a year ago when I really needed it! Dr. Haugk's book gives me a clear picture of what I did well in handling an antagonist as well as what course of action might have been a better choice. Now I'm prepared for the next time!

Also, weathering an antagonist's assault is only part of the process. To make your organization truly safe, you need to be able to prevent or minimize further antagonism. Part Three of the book contains advice on creating an anti-antagonist culture in your organization and educating others about dealing with antagonism.

What prompted Dr. Haugk's interest in writing about antagonists?

Dr. Haugk's own personal experience, in addition to his counseling a number of individuals who had been hurt by antagonists' attacks, led him into extensive research on the subject.

His background as a clinical psychologist informs his understanding of the antagonistic mindset, allowing him to pinpoint the traits and motivations that define an antagonist and to formulate the best possible defenses. For Leader Killers, he compiled data from many interviews and surveys conducted with organizational leaders. Leader Killers stands on a very solid foundation of professional expertise and diligent research.

As one business leader wrote:

Haugk does more than simply provide information about dealing with antagonists. He plays the role of a wise, good-humored advisor, reminding readers of the pitfalls that come from self-doubt, self-deception, and fear. His voice inspires us to be courageous and powerful leaders in the face of antagonists.

Dr. Haugk's knowledge of the subject and his desire to guide others through the treacherous minefields of antagonism combine to make Leader Killers a powerful addition to any leader's resources.