Posts by Cillín Hearns

The dark side of being a winner

The Dark Side of Being a Winner and Why Leaders Need to be Aware of it

February 18th, 2024 Posted by Leadership Coaching, Leadership Tools, Performance Coaching 0 thoughts on “The Dark Side of Being a Winner and Why Leaders Need to be Aware of it”

Now that the election has come and gone my mind can’t help but jump back to the local Tauranga election in which Sam Uffindell was successful. He won and according to him in an earlier interview he has always been a winner; in fact, his dad instilled it in him. This comment raised a red flag for me becauseit seems to be a philosophy of life for Uffindell and considering his upbringing in private schools and his past behaviour he almost seems to be a poster child for what Ian Robertson terms The Winner Effect. It isn’t just Uffindell who has fallen foul to the dark side of winning. Simon Henry, through his disgraceful and arrogant comments about Nadia Lim last year, is also an example of someone who may have fallen foul to its seduction.

So what is The Winner Effect and how can we recognise it? 

When a person is prone to winning it becomes, like a drug, addictive. There is a certain ‘high’ that people get from winning that is produced by a heady cocktail of testosterone and dopamine, and, over time, due to chemical changes in the brain, leads to behaviours that can inevitably be the downfall of the winner. Dopamine, as you’re aware, fuels the brain’s reward system but when this system is hijacked through the use of cocaine, heroin, or other more behavioural rewards, such as the thrill of gambling or sex, then even higher levels of dopamine are needed to achieve the same ‘high’.

However, there is another natural reward that some people crave, and that is the reward of power. Power causes a surge of testosterone which in turn triggers the release of dopamine and anything that repeatedly and strongly triggers a surge in dopamine in the brain’s reward system runs the risk of unleashing the unquenchable cravings of an addict. This may be partly the reason why so many politicians and world leaders don’t want to step down or relinquish their hold over people; think of the likes of Stalin, Mao, Kim Il Sung, Mugabe and, more recently, Putin.

Now most CEOs and politicians aren’t drug addicts or gamblers but the effect of dopamine on the brain motivates you and sharpens your goal-achieving eye; hence increasing your risk taking behaviour. This heady cocktail of hormones also causes blinkers to our better judgement; we become tunnel-visioned and fail to heed the advice of others because, after all, we get a sense that we cannot fail – we’re winners. Unfortunately, other behaviours tend to emerge from these chemical changes over time, one of which is a reduction in empathy. We start to see others as objects, not as people but as pawns that we can manipulate for our own gain. We recognise that there are rules that we must abide by but we also believe that the rules that apply to the great unwashed don’t apply to us; entitlement is often the term used to describe this. We justify our treatment of others in ways such as, if I’m behaving this way to you, you must be a really bad person and you deserve it. As an example of the blindness that power-addled brains can portray we only need to go back to the beginning of the Global Financial Crisis. At the outset of the GFC the CEOs of some of America’s biggest banks and car manufacturers all flew by private jet when they were called to a meeting in Washington, and they couldn’t see why this was a problem. The brains of these immensely powerful men had been shaped by power so that it was difficult for them to see their actions as others saw them.

So why is it then that not all CEOs and those with great power bestowed on them turn into tyrants? The answer lies in a different type of power. When people go off the rails they tend to have a high need for personal gain; this type of power is categorised as p-power. However, those whose goals are more socially focused, whether for a group, an institution or for society in general, have what’s referred to as s-power. We all have the capacity for both types of power and it largely comes down to which type is more dominant. Those with s-power-dominance tend to have some moral standing and a concern for others. It’s important to note that in order to achieve great things we need p-power (goal achievement and all the hard work and singular focus that it brings) but in order to ensure it doesn’t take over we need to exercise our s-power. It’s the s-power that causes ‘activity inhibition’ which allows us a degree of self-judgement, self-control and good sense. In short, it gives us the ability to critically examine our own character. S-power not only tames p-power, it also dissolves the physiological linkage to testosterone and the competitive aggression that goes with it.

Therefore, the antidote to ego-driven p-power is self-reflection, practicing humility, and giving the power to others allowing them to make decisions that are right for them, and supporting others in the quest for a greater good.


If you’d like to know more about how to achieve more as an individual or as a team, or if you’d like to explore how coaching can help you become a better leader (of others or yourself!), or even if you’re just generally curious about what professional coaching can offer you, please contact us at any time for a free consultation.

Subscribe & Stay Informed

Best way to keep in touch with our latest news and updates.

We'll never spam or give this address away

Are We Fostering a Generation of Team Disharmony?

March 29th, 2023 Posted by Leadership Coaching, Leadership Tools, Performance Coaching 0 thoughts on “Are We Fostering a Generation of Team Disharmony?”

In my earlier years I wanted to be in a leadership position so badly for so long and I was pretty forthright in pursuing it. Then when I got the opportunity I was delighted! Unfortunately a huge driver for me was ego; I wanted the title more than I understood what actual good leadership was. (more…)

Adapting to the New Age of Work

February 27th, 2023 Posted by Leadership Coaching, Leadership Tools, Performance Coaching 0 thoughts on “Adapting to the New Age of Work”

When working with leaders I often run them through the Six Leadership Styles and use these as a basis to help them identify their Leadership Philosophy. One of the styles is the Commanding Leader and, unfortunately, this style is still all too common in our organisations. However, whenever I ask for examples of what this looks like people often say it’s the model of leadership the army employs. (more…)

Why goal setting doesn’t work

January 31st, 2023 Posted by Life Coaching, Performance Coaching 0 thoughts on “Why goal setting doesn’t work”

Are you part of the 55% of people who set new year’s resolutions but fails to keep them 12 months down the line, or do you follow through and make the changes that enable you achieve your goals? Why is it that the vast majority fail to achieve their goals; 11% even give up in less than a month. Here are a few tips for why goal setting doesn’t work and a few to help you smash your goals for the year! (more…)

My Personal Experiment

November 9th, 2022 Posted by Life Coaching 0 thoughts on “My Personal Experiment”

If you’ve ever worked with me you know that I don’t promote ideas that I don’t put into practice myself. Over the last 4 months I’ve been focusing on something that’s not entirely new but is always on my mind, as I’m sure it’s on your mind too! How do I know this? Because it’s something that is constantly in the media and is never far from people’s lips. What’s this ‘not entirely’ new experiment I’ve been implementing?


Dealing with the Ups and Downs of Life

October 25th, 2022 Posted by Leadership Coaching 0 thoughts on “Dealing with the Ups and Downs of Life”

As I write this I’m not long back in New Zealand after taking another unplanned trip back to Ireland. Although it was great to see family, sadly the circumstances weren’t what I would have wished for; however, in life we can’t always choose the outcomes we’re faced with. In these instances we can ask ourselves, “Why did this happen to me?” but, after working through the emotion that often comes with tough times, I prefer to ask, “What now?”


Building a Cohesive Culture in a Hybrid World

August 16th, 2022 Posted by Leadership Coaching, Leadership Tools, Performance Coaching 0 thoughts on “Building a Cohesive Culture in a Hybrid World”

From catching up with my coaching colleagues a common theme that keeps coming up is that CEOs and senior leaders are struggling to build or maintain a sense of culture within their teams or across their organisation. While it is a new world, a lot of the skills leaders possess can be easily transferred to this new world. The problem is that in the majority of cases these skills are simply just tweaking the basics. (more…)

Did he just say, “Let them eat cake?”

July 22nd, 2022 Posted by Leadership Coaching, Leadership Tools, Performance Coaching 0 thoughts on “Did he just say, “Let them eat cake?””

According to Wikipedia, “Let them eat cake” is the traditional translation of the French phrase “Qu’ils mangent de la brioche”, said to have been spoken in the 17th or 18th century by “a great princess” upon being told that the peasants had no bread. The French phrase mentions brioche, a bread enriched with butter and eggs, considered a luxury food. The quote is taken to reflect either the princess’s frivolous disregard for the starving (more…)

What’s the one thing that is more powerful than training?

April 30th, 2022 Posted by Life Coaching, Performance Coaching 0 thoughts on “What’s the one thing that is more powerful than training?”

I was only ever pretty average at school. The best grade I got was a ‘B’ and I only got it once. Needless to say the world of academia wasn’t for me. I was more into sports and training at the time so it was off to fitness and leisure management for me. What was really interesting is that I soon propelled myself to the top of the class. (more…)

How Can You Put Psychological Safety Into Action?

March 29th, 2022 Posted by Leadership Coaching, Leadership Tools, Performance Coaching 0 thoughts on “How Can You Put Psychological Safety Into Action?”

Have you ever been brushed off, ignored, demeaned, silenced, or humiliated? These painful and memorable experiences trigger the self-censoring instinct that is within us all and effectively neutralises performance. When social friction exists in a team the predictable approach to our work is one of caution, preventing people from bringing their whole self to work. (more…)