I once had a boss, let's call him Steve, who was a fire-setter. I don't mean he was an arsonist. But he was the kind of guy who would come to work and if there was nothing catastrophic happening, he would set a fire. As one of the people in his department responsible for putting out fires, it took me awhile to figure out that Steve did not like the status quo. He did not like people getting along with each other; he was suspicious of calm. He was one of those people that love turmoil, crave chaos and throw themselves into the middle of mayhem.
From the outside, it might have looked like he was a guy in charge of things. Steve was always front and centre when it came to addressing the media, employees, shareholders, the community. I sometimes heard people saying, "Aren't we lucky Steve's in charge of things."
But eventually, others came to suspect what I had already figured out - Steve was an attention junkie. He hungered for other people's power. He was addicted to pandemonium. He was like some kind of vampire that fed on instability and panic.
I'm no psychiatrist, but I suspect Steve's need to be at the centre of every crisis, most of which he initiated, was about being in control. Steve figured out the best way to be in control was to start a fire then convince everyone he was the only one who knew how to put it out.
Individuals like Steve are not just in big companies. You can find them in small communities, at all levels of government, in unions, in bridge clubs. Wherever they are, they aren't hard to identify. They are the ones who divide people. Who seek out the cracks in relationships and exploit them. People like Steve can be charming and articulate, they can impress people with fancy phrases and grand visions. But underneath they are waiting for the opportunity to set the match to the powderkeg.
People like Steve are dangerous and we must be wary of them. No matter how they appear, they are not in charge. And they are certainly not leaders. Because where they want to lead us is into the middle of the fire. And they don't care if we survive.