The Paradox of Why People Prefer One Type of Unquintessential Leader Over Another

Posted: March 13, 2016 in Examples and Analyses of Lack of Leadership and Unquintessential Leadership
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Unquintessential leaderA recent study showed that people, when given the option between two different types of unquintessential leaders, overwhelmingly preferred and fared better emotionally and physically one type over the other.

One type of unquintessential leader in the study was a consistent jerk. This person treated everyone badly all the time.

The other type of unquintessential leader in the study was a loose cannon. This person’s behavior was always unpredictable all the time.

I described some of the attributes of this loose cannon type of unquintessential leader recently, and in my own experience have worked with both types of unquintessential leaders and agree that although neither is a cakewalk, it’s easier to navigate the waters with a consistent jerk than it is with a loose cannon.


Because consistent jerks are predictable. They never change anything, even their patterns of behavior, no matter what setting they are in or who they are with. They are equal-opportunity bullies and tyrants.

Knowing that gives their teams an advantage in being able to find and use tested ways to work with them or find and use tested ways to work around them, depending on which scenario needs to be employed to move forward, make progress, and complete projects.

Loose cannons, on the other hand, are completely unpredictable. You never know who’s going to show up – the nice or the rude, the fair or the unfair, the angry or the calm – and the only thing you can absolutely count on is that aboutfaces in positions and answers are practically instantaneous and neverending.

It is a nightmare trying to work with this type of unquintessential leader. What often usually happens is that their teams end up circumventing these loose cannon unquintessential leaders altogether and, after internally agreeing among themselves on best practices and the path forward, move toward project completion without the loose cannon unquintessential leader being aware or involved.

The inherent problem that could arise – and sometimes does – is that critical mistakes and errors are made that can have significant or even dire consequences because the team couldn’t work with the loose cannon unquintessential leader.

The results of this study are illuminating as the United States has begun another iteration of the granddaddy of its political dances: the “I-Want-to-be-President” ball that comes around every four years.

Politics of any kind – business, organizational, social, governing, etc. – is a manifestation of unquintessential leadership. It’s about pride, arrogance, vanity, greed, and power. It’s simply about “What’s In It for Me?”

Politicians are unquintessential leaders. They have no integrity – although they will assure they do. They are fundamentally dishonest in everything – although they all claim to be the only one telling the truth about anything. And they are not qualified to lead, because they don’t care about the people they are supposed to be leading, only about what’s expedient for them and what will make them look good (their “legacy”).

Two of the politicians attending this current version of the President’s ball seem to be rapidly moving toward being the nominees of their respective parties.

One is Donald Trump, who would be the Republican nominee. The other is Hillary Clinton, who would the Democrat nominee.

That either of these candidates has the popular support – or any support – they do has baffled me to no end. It still baffles me. 

Donald Trump is a consistent jerk unquintessential leaderHowever, Donald Trump fits the category of the consistent jerk unquintessential leader, which may, as scary and horrifying as it is (logically, who in their right mind would want to be on his team?), explain why he leads the Republican field.

Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, is a loose cannon unquintessential leader

Hillary Clinton is a loose cannon unquintessential leaderAnd, like her husband, former President Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton is mercurial and unpredictable, switching positions and answers, as well as attitudes and treatment of people, on a dime and good enough – in my opinion, ominously good – at covering her tracks to make her fickleness (as well as wrong-doing, in many cases) obvious and as strong a negative as it should be against her as the presumptive nominee of her party.

So the question I’m left with – and that we who are striving to become quintessential leaders should be asking as well – is have we as a society been so inundated with unquintessential leadership that we accept it as normal?

You and I cannot afford to do that. This is not leadership. It is not quintessential leadership. It is not normal. There is nothing good, redeeming, or acceptable about it.

I urge each of who is on the road to becoming a quintessential leader to take a long, hard look at ourselves and see whether we have abandoned or compromised with the traits that define quintessential leadership.

Now is the time to get back on the quintessential leader track, refocused, recommitted, and fully engaged.

How are we doing?



  1. My husband told someone the other day he needed to have his t.v. fixed. They said, “Why?” He said, “Because it is broken, all I can see on it anymore is Trump and Clinton!” I wrote a post several months ago on “Dump Trump.” As for Hillary, we had to tolerate her and her husband here in Arkansas for years – 10 of those years as the Governor and his wife. Bill was a terrible Governor and a lot of us were very happy when they left our state. This presidential race every 4 years is so tiring and very hard to endure. I will not be voting if it comes down to a race between Trump and Clinton, I will not be a part of this mayhem. Very good post my dear.


  2. […] need look no further than consistent jerks and loose cannons who are in leadership positions – both types are unquintessential leaders – to see that their approach is always […]


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