The Cabal

by | Jun 26, 2023

I began my book “The Intrepid Brotherhood” with a quote from Peter Zrioka:

Why is it that the monsters among us so easily find willing
disciples? It is because they are not the apparitions we expect
them to be, but rather reflections of ourselves.

Social scientists have conducted exhaustive studies trying to identify why some (many) humans willingly succumb to things they know are contrary to moral behavior. Books like Brian Klaas’ Corruptible and Jack McCullough’s The Psychopathic CEO do a great job of analyzing why we keep giving power to people who never should have had it in the first place. But, the fact they seem to be able to easily attract so many followers to their perverted version of leadership is really unsettling.

In the situation described in my book, I was amazed at the individuals who seemed to be eager to join this group and who readily subscribed to the chaos created by the toxic leader. They included purported born-again Christians, members of the legal profession, and folks who considered themselves leadership coaches and counselors among others.

Psychologists propose that there are many reasons people chose to follow tyrants. Dr. Ronald E. Riggio cites these shortcomings1:

  1. A preference for “strongman” leaders – too many of us confuse arrogance and narcissism for true leadership.
  2. We are victims of our own mental shortcuts – We fool ourselves into believing the bad leader is “really OK”.
  3. We equate effectiveness with being a good leader – I included the poster at the bottom for a couple of reasons. One is because of it’s observation about what toxic leaders and their most ardent supporters have in common. The other reason is because of the Machiavellian belief espoused by all of these characters that “the end justifies the means”. In other words, it’s okay if you achieve results through bad behavior.
  4. We bask in the leader’s power by association – We like to be on the winning side, and we’re willing to support bad leaders if we get what we want from them. In her book The Allure of Toxic Leaders, Dr. Jean Lipman-Blumen suggests that followers enable and assist bad leaders because it gives them a sense of power. Bad followers/”henchmen” are drawn to bad leaders because they can share power. Nadine Matheson terms it this way2: “We’re fascinated because these people are able to tap into and indulge in a part of their egos that the majority of us would happily leave in the shadows.”

Stay Courageous,


1Why Do People Follow Bad Leaders? | Psychology Today

2Why Are We Obsessed With Psychopaths? ‹ CrimeReads