ChapterPDF Available

Abstract and Figures

For a long time, leadership research has focused too much on idealized, romantic, and “good” forms of leadership (e.g., transformational, empowering, authentic, and ethical leadership), but neglected the antagonistic part: the dark side of leadership. Current personality and leadership literature suggests that, due to their high need for power and social dominance orientation, a variety of dark triad personalities (narcissists, Machiavellians, and psychopaths) can be found in leadership positions. Accordingly, dark leadership reflects a part of leadership reality. Nevertheless, the dark side of leadership is still relatively understudied. This chapter combines dark triad personality with dark leadership research to describe narcissistic, Machiavellian, and psychopathic leadership. Additionally, the role of the dark triad in leader development is described. Dark leaders may be selfish, impulsive, exploitative, and toxic but still be as effective or successful as prosocial, self-controlled, and “good” leaders. The focus on leaders’ dark traits and leadership could improve our understanding of the complex, dynamic, and challenging field of leadership research. Thus, knowledge on the strengths and weaknesses of the dark triad can be utilized in leader development.
Content may be subject to copyright.
Dark Leadership 1
Dark Leadership:
The role of leaders Dark Triad personality traits
Marco R. Furtner1,2, Thomas Maran1,3, & John F. Rauthmann4,5
1Leopold-Franzens University of Innsbruck, Austria
2University of Liechtenstein, Liechtenstein
3Alps Adria University of Klagenfurt, Austria
4Humboldt-University of Berlin, Germany
5Wake Forest University, USA
To appear in:
Clark, M. G., & Gruber, C. W. (Eds.) (2017). Leader Development Deconstructed. Springer.
This version is the accepted form and has not undergone copy-editing yet.
Dark Leadership 2
For a long time, leadership research has focused too much on idealized, romantic, and “good”
forms of leadership (e.g., transformational, empowering, authentic, and ethical leadership),
but neglected the antagonistic part: the dark side of leadership. Current personality and
leadership literature suggests that, due to their high need for power and social dominance
orientation, a variety of Dark Triad personalities (narcissists, Machiavellians, and
psychopaths) can be found in leadership positions. Accordingly, dark leadership reflects a part
of leadership reality. Nevertheless, the dark side of leadership is still relatively understudied.
This chapter combines Dark Triad personality with dark leadership research to describe
narcissistic, Machiavellian, and psychopathic leadership. Additionally, the role of the Dark
Triad in leader development is described. Dark leaders may be selfish, impulsive,
exploitative, and toxic but still be as effective or successful as prosocial, self-controlled, and
“good” leaders. The focus on leaders' dark traits and leadership could improve our
understanding of the complex, dynamic, and challenging field of leadership research. Thus,
knowledge on the strengths and weaknesses of the Dark Triad can be utilized in leader
Dark Leadership 3
1. Introduction
For a long time leadership research has primarily focused on “good” leadership and
has until recently ignored the “bad” or “dark side” of leadership (Higgs, 2009). Leadership
research has extensively dealt in the past 30 years with the most powerful form of leadership
behavior that has been described so far: the charismatic approaches of transformational and
charismatic leadership. Based on its frequency and citations, transformational leadership
occupies the top position in leadership research.
But from where does the fascination for charismatic leadership come from?
Transformational and charismatic leadership describe a romantic and idealized form of
leadership. Their models have been influenced by powerful and influential persons who
shaped human history: Heroes, martyrs, saints, as well as political and religious leaders. All of
these people obtained the highest fame and success. All have in common that they are
attributed charisma. In short, transformational leadership has a great historical model: the
hero. Usually a hero has a socialized power motive with altruistic components. This means
that own power and strength are not used for egoistic purposes or even abused, but employed
for the benefit of the social community.
Although showing an unbroken enthusiasm for the charismatic leadership approaches,
criticism emerged (Bass & Steidlmeier, 1999; Conger & Kanungo, 1988): How many
transformational and charismatic leaders with a high socialized power motive actually exist in
daily business? And a second crucial question emerged to which the two most prominent
representatives of charismatic leadership approaches had to give an answer: Might there also
be a dark side of idealized transformational and charismatic leadership, which pursues selfish
goals? Both Bernard Bass with transformational leadership and Jay Conger with charismatic
leadership had to counter this criticism. Bass (1990) referred to the dark side of
transformational leadership as pseudo-transformational and Conger (1990) delineated a dark
Dark Leadership 4
side of charismatic leadership. The bright and the dark side of charismatic leadership
approaches describe two sides of the same coin. The bright and idealized side represents the
prototypical prosocial hero. The dark side refers to the anti-hero, which is characterized by a
selfish orientation. This is akin to the concepts of good against evil, yin and yang, bright
against dark, and hero versus anti-hero they all describe antagonistic pairs.
Although it is a positive and idealistic notion that good always triumphs over evil or
that leaders should correspond to the ideal image of a hero, the reality of daily leadership is
different. For example, Maccoby (2000) postulates that many leaders are narcissists. Indeed,
people seem to be fascinated by narcissists. But where does this fascination of anti-heroes
come from? According to Jonason, Slomski, and Partyka (2012), popular characters such as
Batman or James Bond have dark personality traits (Jonason, Li, & Teicher, 2010). The
fascination of the selfish anti-hero can be explained by the fact that they ignore existing laws
as if they were above them or larger than life. Despite the strong differences between “good”
and “evil”, both may have a common motive: They both pursue the goal of power. Heroes and
anti-heroes cross borders. They disregard conventions and are driven by a higher personalized
or socialized ideal. Heroes are self-controlled, socially responsible, honest, and advocates for
social community. Anti-heroes are more impulsive, less socially acceptable, selfish, and
perhaps even dishonest. However, both heroes and anti-heroes have an agentic social style
(Jonason et al., 2010). Dark leadership represents a part of leadership reality and describes the
dark part of the coin, a selfish and impulsive leader, which may nonetheless be as effective or
successful as bright and prosocially oriented leaders. Thus, a counter-trend to the
investigation of very positive and idealized constructs can be found since the early 2000s in
personality research with the Dark Triad of personality (Paulhus & Williams, 2002). The
present chapter deals with the dark side of leaders’ personality. Furthermore, the strengths and
weaknesses of the Dark Triad will be discussed for the purpose of leader development. On the
one hand, dark leaders have excellent strengths (e.g., self-confidence and dominance) which
Dark Leadership 5
could be considered in leader development; on the other hand, the knowledge about the
weaknesses of dark leader traits could be used to handle or neutralize them effectively.
2. The Dark Triad of Personality
Paulhus and Williams (2002) coined the term Dark Triad of personality for three
similar albeit distinct subclinical dark traits: narcissism, Machiavellianism, and psychopathy.
The concepts of narcissism and psychopathy originated in clinical literature. On the other
hand, Machiavellianism stems from the philosophy and tactical recommendations of Niccolò
Machiavelli, a political advisor to the Medici family in the 1500s (Christie & Geis, 1970).
Despite their different origins, narcissism, Machiavellianism, and psychopathy overlap
empirically: They all entail a character who exhibits selfishness, emotional coldness,
duplicity, and manipulation (Furnham, Richards, & Paulhus, 2013; Paulhus, 2014; Paulhus &
Williams, 2002). Still, narcissism is considered among these three traits the most adaptive and
desirable construct, while psychopathy seems least adaptive and acceptable (Rauthmann,
2012). The strongest mean correlations can be observed between psychopathy and
Machiavellianism, and the lowest associations between narcissism and Machiavellianism
(Furnham et al., 2013).
Of particular interest may be studies bringing together the Dark Triad and
interpersonal behaviors (Rauthmann & Kolar, 2013). For example, Dowgwillo and Pincus
(2016) showed that the Dark Triad projected differently onto the interpersonal circumplex
(IPC). The IPC postulates that two basic themes underlie social relationships (Bakan, 1966):
dominance/agency, related to autonomy and superiority, and affiliation/communion, related to
helping and forming nurturing relationships with others. Narcissism is characterized by high
dominance, psychopathy by a mixture of high dominance and low affiliation, and
Machiavellianism by low affiliation. In accordance with Paulhus (2014), psychopathy has the
highest impulsiveness, followed by narcissism and the relatively self-controlled
Dark Leadership 6
Machiavellianism (Malesza & Ostaszewski, 2016). Psychopathy and Machiavellianism share
both a high level in manipulation. Narcissism exhibited the highest level in grandiosity,
followed by psychopathy, while Machiavellianism does not tend be associated with grandiose
fantasies. In contrast to Machiavellians and psychopaths, who exhibited a greater tendency to
negative humor styles (aggressive, self-defeating), narcissists showed a positive affiliative
humor style (Veselka, Schermer, Martin, & Vernon, 2010). Further, narcissism seems to be
positively, Machiavellianism negatively, and psychopathy both positively and negatively
related to socio-emotional skills (Nagler, Reiter, Furtner, & Rauthmann, 2014). Thus, on
average, narcissists still appear as the more social among dark personalities. We should
mention here that the terms “narcissist”, “Machiavellian”, and “psychopath” are used as
abbreviations for people who score highly on standardized measures of narcissism,
Machiavellianism, and psychopathy as continuous trait dimensions. No psychopathology or
diagnostic labeling should be inferred here. Paulhus (2014) gives an overview of the key
features of the Dark Triad relative to the average population-wide level (see Table 1).
Table 1: Key features of the Dark Triad (based on Paulhus, 2014).
Key features
Only white-collar
Note: ++ (high levels of a given trait), + (slightly elevated levels)
2.1 The Dark Triad
Narcissism. Narcissists are grandiose self-promoters who strive for admiration from
others (Paulhus, 2014). Narcissists exhibit an excessive ego and show selfish behavior
(Paulhus & Williams, 2002). Raskin and Hall (1979) introduced the Narcissistic Personality
Inventory (NPI), which represents a subclinical version of the DSM-defined personality
Dark Leadership 7
disorder. On a conceptual level, the main facets of the NPI include grandiosity, entitlement,
dominance, and superiority (Paulhus & Williams, 2002). More recent conceptualizations
distinguish between narcissistic grandiosity and narcissistic vulnerability (e.g., Cain, Pincus,
& Ansell, 2008). In a similar vein, Back et al. (2013) described a “bright” and a “dark” side of
narcissism, narcissistic admiration and rivalry. Narcissistic admiration involves the pursuit of
uniqueness, grandiose fantasies, and charming behavior. Narcissistic rivalry is characterized
by the pursuit of superiority, devaluation of others, and aggressive behavior. While
narcissistic admiration leads to a self-confident, dominant, and expressive appearance,
narcissistic rivalry entails arrogant and contentious behavior. In the mid- to long-term time
range, narcissistic rivalry leads to a strong decrease in popularity in social groups (Leckelt,
Küfner, Nestler, & Back, 2015).
Machiavellianism. According to Paulhus (2014), Machiavellians are master
manipulators, pursuing a long-term oriented calculated social manipulation. As Hawley
(2003) notes, Machiavellians are “coercive controllers” with an adaptive combination of pro-
and antisocial tactics to best achieve their career-success related goals. Machiavellians are
cynical, tactical, and believe in interpersonal manipulation as the key for life success
(Furnham et al., 2013). They are cold-hearted and callous, and their primary motivation lies in
obtaining money, power, and status (Furtner & Baldegger, 2016). In contrast to narcissists,
however, they do not need admiration per se; rather, that would only be good if it were also
useful towards some other ultimate goal (e.g., if it resulted in more power or money). Thus,
self-promotion and self-aggrandization are not ultimate goals per se for Machiavellians, but
rather means to another end.
Psychopathy. Psychopathy is characterized by impulsivity, thrill-seeking, low
empathy, callousness, and interpersonal manipulation (Cleckley, 1976; Hare, 2003; Paulhus &
Wiliams, 2002). Psychopathy can be divided into two interrelated factors (Hare, 2003): Factor
Dark Leadership 8
1 with callous and manipulative traits (primary psychopathy) and Factor 2 with antisocial
behavioral tendencies (secondary psychopathy). Factor 2 differs strongly from narcissism and
Machiavellianism (Jones & Figueredo, 2013). Jones and Paulhus (2011b) showed that
psychopathy is related to dysfunctional impulsivity, whereas narcissism is associated with
functional impulsivity. Psychopaths are unable to inhibit antisocial impulses and show high
risk-taking behavior (e.g., persisting in gambling which leads to financial misbehavior; see
Jones, 2014). In contrast to narcissism, psychopathy and Machiavellianism show stronger
positive relations to self-reported violence (Pailing, Boon, & Egan, 2014). Moreover,
psychopathy is most strongly associated with bullying behaviors, followed by
Machiavellianism, and narcissism (Baughman, Dearing, Giammarco, & Vernon, 2012). Thus,
among the Dark Triad, psychopathy seems to be the socially most aversive, partly
dysfunctional, and thus “darkest” trait.
2.2 Is there a common dark core?
Recently, researchers raised the question whether antisocial Dark Triad personalities
exhibit a common dark or “evil” core and what that core would be (Book, Visser, & Volk,
2015; Jonason, Li, Webster, & Schmidt, 2009; Jones & Paulhus, 2011a; Jones & Figueredo,
2013). Although there is an overlap and a potential dark core, the Dark Triad traits should best
be viewed as separate domains. Indeed, recently developed inventories confirm unique
contributions of each trait to laboratory behaviors and real-world outcomes (Paulhus, 2014).
Within the five-factor model of personality (Big Five: Extraversion, Agreeableness,
Conscientiousness, Neuroticism, and Openness; Costa & McCrae, 1992), low Agreeableness
is the strongest negative correlate of the Dark Triad (Furnham et al. 2013). Another potential
dark core could be Honest-Humility from Ashton and Lee’s (2001) HEXACO model
(basically the Big Five plus a sixth factor). This sixth dimension distinguishes between
prosocial and antisocial behavior and therefore may be better qualified to explain the Dark
Dark Leadership 9
Triad. Lee and Ashton (2005) showed that all three Dark Triad traits were strongly negatively
correlated with the Honest-Humility factor (all rs > -.50).
Beside basic personality traits, a second possible core of the Dark Triad could be lack
of empathy or callousness (Jones & Paulhus, 2011a; Paulhus, 2014). While narcissists,
Machiavellians, and psychopaths exhibit a certain degree of callousness (Jonason, Lyons,
Bethell, & Ross, 2013), they are nonetheless able to cognitively understand the emotions of
others, though without an affective response to this information (Book, Quinsey, & Langford,
2007; Wai & Tiliopoulos, 2014). Thus, they have no impairment in cognitive empathy, but
exhibit a specific form of cold empathy. Moreover, Machiavellians have the ability to adapt
their empathy to current situations (McIlwain et al., 2012).
A third possible core may be psychopathy itself. Primary psychopathy could
potentially represent the core of all three dark personalities. This approach would support
empirical findings in which psychopathy is strongly related to narcissism and
Machiavellianism, whereas narcissism and Machiavellianism are not as strongly interrelated
(Furnham et al., 2013; Paulhus & Williams, 2002). However, psychopathy should still be
regarded as an independent construct (Book et al., 2015).
Another explanation for a common dark core may lie in the leadership-relevant trait of
social dominance. For example, Jones and Figueredo (2013) could show that social
dominance orientation has the same common core as the Dark Triad. Social dominance and
need for power are important targets for leader development (McClelland, 1975). “Friendly”
leaders with a high need for affiliation could learn from a leader coach how they can increase
their leader effectiveness with a more dominant appearance and a stronger social dominance
orientation (controlled conversations). Overall, future research should provide further
evidence that, despite differences between the Dark Triad traits, there may be a common core.
Dark Leadership 10
2.3 Origins of the Dark Triad
2.3.1 Evolutionary theory
At the core of all evolutionary approaches to personality is an important behavioral
ecological concept called Life History Theory (Del Giudice, Gangestad, & Kaplan, 2015;
Rushton, 1985, 1995; Stearns, 1992). Life History Theory proposes that trade-offs considering
the investment of energy in somatic growth versus recreational effort and quality versus
quantity of offspring underlies individual differences in personality (Ellis, Figueredo,
Brumbach, & Schlomer, 2009; Kaplan & Gangestad, 2005). It has been argued that dark
personalities have a fast life history strategy in exhibiting short-term mating, selfishness, and
other antisocial manifestations (e.g., Brumbach, Figueredo, & Ellis, 2009; Jonason et al.,
2009). Life history strategy is shaped by the environment early in life (between birth and the
age of five years), promoting either a slow strategy associated with long-term investments to
the future or a fast strategy characterized by the opposite pattern (Belsky, Schlomer, & Ellis,
2012; Ellis & Del Giudice, 2014). Del Giudice (2014) links fast life strategies with traits such
as low empathy, poor executive control, low agreeableness, enhanced impulsivity, risk taking,
opportunistic interpersonal intercourses, and volatile mating (Glenn, Kurzban, & Raine,
2011). All these features could be targets for leader development and increase the awareness
about the dark side of dark leader traits. They share one commonality, which is constitutional
for a fast life strategy: they lead to short-term advantages, but entail social and even formal
sanctions and punishments over the long term. McDonald, Donnellan, and Navarrete (2011)
showed that antisocial impulsiveness in secondary psychopathy, entitlement in narcissism,
and Machiavellianism are associated with a fast life strategy. By contrast, a slow life strategy
has been linked to fearless dominance, which is assigned to primary psychopathy.
However, one may ask how evolutionary approaches to Dark Triad personality traits
can be linked to leadership? As noted previously, dark traits can be described as an excessive
dominance motivation (see Johnson, Leedom, & Muhtadie, 2012): Narcissistic leaders desire
Dark Leadership 11
social power and aspire to be in leader positions, psychopathic ones usurp resources in an
aggressive manner, and Machiavellian ones exploit others by deception and manipulation
(Grijalva & Harms, 2014; Jones & Figueredo, 2013). Thus, dark personalities seem to
encompass a variety of behavioral dispositions, which qualify them as leaders (Grijalva &
Harms, 2014).
2.3.2 Psychogenic motives and values
Motives represent the basic drive for human action. Three particularly fundamental
motives have been repeatedly identified in literature: need for power, need for achievement,
and need for affiliation (McClelland, 1985). Need for power corresponds to the desire of a
person to take influence and control other people. Need for achievement represents a certain
standard of excellence that someone strives towards. People with a high need for achievement
strive to improve constantly their own performance. Need for affiliation aims to build,
maintain, or restore positive relationships with others.
Jonason and Ferrell (2016) examined relations between these three central human
motives and the Dark Triad. The Dark Triad showed particularly positive relations with need
for power (being dominant and powerful). Merely narcissism was additionally related to need
for affiliation. Both Machiavellianism and psychopathy showed only low and negative
relations to need for achievement, while narcissism exhibited inconsistent relations to need for
achievement. While Machiavellians and psychopaths had no need for social attachments,
narcissists require other people to obtain social appreciation (Jonason & Ferrell, 2016).
Another relevant study comes from Kajonius, Persson, and Jonason (2015) who examined
relations between the Dark Triad and 10 universal Schwartz values (e.g., power, security, and
benevolence). Machiavellianism and narcissism showed positive relations to the values
achievement and power, whereas psychopathy was positively associated with hedonism and
power. Overall, all three Dark Triad traits exhibited strong relations with power motives and
values. As need for power, which can be developed in leaders (McClelland, 1975), is a central
Dark Leadership 12
foundation for leadership, Dark Triad traits may also play an important role in leadership
(Furtner & Baldegger, 2016). Specifically, a strong power motive may be assessed at the
beginning of leader development sessions because it could be cultivated and formed to
something productive. On the other hand, the more agonistic and combative traits that come
with the Dark Triad could also be harnessed, especially in settings with high and fierce
competition. Thus, leader development trainings may benefit from assessing dark traits
because these may come with certain strengths (e.g., need for power, social dominance) that
confer an adaptive value in certain work environments (e.g., high competition).
3. The Dark Triad at Work
Dark personalities at work are relatively understudied (Spain, Harms, & Lebreton,
2013), though there is a recent surge in interest for this topic (Cohen, 2016; Harms & Spain,
2015). However, workplace behavior is one of the major outcome domains of the Dark Triad
(for a review, see Furnham et al., 2013). In a meta-analysis (245 independent samples),
O’Boyle, Forsyth, Banks, and McDaniel (2012) examined associations between the Dark
Triad, job performance, and counterproductive work behavior (CWB). Results showed that
Machiavellianism and psychopathy were negatively related to job performance. All three
Dark Triad traits were positively associated with CWB. This means that the assessment of,
and also reflection about, Dark Triad traits in ourselves (and others) may help us learn to
shape our behavior as a leader. Such reflection, in turn, may be able to make us more
effective. However, no studies have so far (to the best of our knowledge) examined the
beneficial effects of self/insight into one’s dark traits. Context effects, in the form of level of
authority and organizational culture (ingroup collectivism), were also taken into account in
the meta-analysis (O’Boyle et al., 2012). While Machiavellianism consistently showed
negative effects on workplace behavior across all situations (independent of their level of
authority and degrees of ingroup collectivism), narcissism showed a more complex picture:
Narcissists in positions of higher levels of authority showed stronger negative relations to
Dark Leadership 13
performance. Narcissists also performed more poorly in organizations with high degrees of
collectivism. Authority did not moderate relations between narcissism and CWB.
Furthermore, the relation between narcissism and CWB became weaker when collectivism
increased. Authority weakened associations between psychopathy and CWB. Psychopaths,
who are able to gain higher positions in organizations, may better control their impulsivity
and antisocial tendencies. However, there were only small effects between the Dark Triad and
job performance as well as small to moderate effects to CWB. Due to predominantly weak
effects, Cohen (2016) suggests various mediators (e.g., perception of organizational politics)
and moderators (e.g. political skill, organizational culture/climate) which should be
considered in future studies.
Jonason et al. (2012) investigated associations between the Dark Triad and tactics of
workplace manipulation. Psychopathy was associated with hard tactics (e.g., threats),
narcissism with soft tactics (e.g., offering compliments), and Machiavellianism with both.
Compared to women, men showed a more aggressive style of interpersonal influence. Overall,
though, Dark Triad personalities tended more towards hard than soft tactics, such as social
influence and manipulation at the workplace. Further, in a recent experimental design, Roeser
et al. (2016) examined effects of the Dark Triad and unethical behavior (operationalized by
cheating and lying). While Machiavellianism positively predicted cheating and psychopathy
impulsive cheating and lying, only narcissism did not predict unethical behavior (cheating and
lying) in this study. Thus, narcissism can be expected to be the most socially adaptive
dimension among the Dark Triad (Rauthmann & Kolar, 2012, 2013).
Jonason, Wee, Li, and Jackson (2014) dealt with the question of which vocational
interests are related to the Dark Triad. The results of their study suggest that the Dark Triad
may be useful for career inventories and talent management. For example, in terms of person-
job fit, dark personalities may be specifically interested in, select themselves into, and excel at
specific jobs and vocations. Psychopaths were more interested in realistic (e.g., building
Dark Leadership 14
kitchen cabinets) and practical jobs (e.g., repairing motor vehicles). Machiavellianism was
negatively related to social (e.g., teaching children), caring (e.g., treating people who are
sick), and practical jobs. Narcissism correlated positively with cultured (e.g., acting in a film)
and caring jobs. Psychopaths preferred jobs where they have little social interaction and were
relatively autonomous. Narcissists chose workplaces which have positive effects regarding
social admiration. Machiavellians avoided jobs that do not lead to status (Jonason et al.,
2014). But how do Dark Triad personalities perceive their workplaces? Machiavellians and
psychopaths perceived their workplaces as more competitive, whereas narcissists experienced
them as prestigious and more autonomous. Moreover, perceived prestige was a positive
predictor of job satisfaction (Jonason, Wee, & Li, 2015).
Can dark personalities have successful careers? Spurk, Keller and Hirschi (2016)
examined in early career employees the relations between the Dark Triad and subjective as
well as objective career success. Narcissism was positively associated with salary, and
Machiavellianism with leadership position and career satisfaction. Only psychopathy was
negatively associated with all career outcomes. Thus, narcissism and Machiavellianism were
positively related to objective career success. Furthermore, the Dark Triad traits of leaders can
have specific effects on followers’ career success. For example, Volmer, Koch and Göritz
(2016) showed in a longitudinal study that narcissism had positive effects on followers’
subjective (e.g., follower career satisfaction) and objective career success (e.g., follower
salary and promotions). The authors suggested that narcissistic leaders try to retain and
reward their followers to get consecutive admiration and appreciation. Conversely,
psychopathic leaders showed strongly negative effects on followers well-being and job
satisfaction (Mathieu, Neumann, Hare, & Babiak, 2014).
4. Dark Leadership
All three Dark Triad traits are related to need for power and have a social dominance
orientation (Hodson, Hogg, & MacInnis, 2009; Jones & Figueredo, 2013). A social
Dark Leadership 15
dominance orientation means that individuals prefer to control conversations and put pressure
to others. This fits to Altemeyer’s (2004) observation that dominant people are power-hungry
and manipulative. Thus, social dominance could be a viable construct to distinguish leaders
from non-leaders (Mann, 1959). Indeed, dominance was described as one of the first traits
related to leadership (Judge, Piccolo, & Kosalka, 2009). Dominant people have a higher
probability to emerge as leaders and be promoted to positions of authority (Son Hing,
Bobocel, Zanna, & McBride, 2007). Dominant leaders appear as competent and emit strong
authority. Interestingly, they are perceived as competent, even when they are not (Judge et al.,
2009). Although dominant leaders exhibit a politically oppressive style, each of the Dark
Triad traits may have a specific dominance style: Narcissistic leaders have a strong egoistic
focus (Morf & Rhodewalt, 2001); Machiavellian ones a cold, calculating, long-term oriented
and strategic style (Jones & Paulhus, 2009); and psychopathic ones an impulsive and
antisocial style (Williams, Paulhus, & Hare, 2007). The particular uniqueness of the Dark
Triad traits has different effects on leadership styles. In their theoretical-conceptual work
about the bright and the dark side of leader traits, Judge et al. (2009) focused on
Machiavellianism and narcissism, though they disregarded psychopathy. Although
psychopathy is the “darkest” and most malevolent type of the Dark Triad which could
arguably deal out strong damage to an organization, its role in organizational leadership is the
least explored (Mathieu et al., 2014). To approach the phenomenon of dark leadership,
narcissistic leadership, Machiavellian leadership, and psychopathic leadership is described
below in some detail.
4.1 Narcissistic leadership
According to Maccoby (2000), many dominating military, religious, political, and
economic leaders have a narcissistic personality (Rosenthal & Pittinsky, 2006). Narcissistic
leaders are perceived as arrogant, dominant, and authoritarian. They are effective leaders and
emerge as leaders in group settings (Nevicka, Ten Velden, De Hoogh, & Van Vianen, 2011),
Dark Leadership 16
probably because of their extraversion (Grijalva, Harms, Newman, Gaddis, & Fraley, 2015).
Rosenthal and Pittinsky (2006) emphasize that one should remove the idea whether
narcissistic leaders are “good” or “evil”. Rather, the context has to be considered (e.g.,
accordance between narcissistic leaders’ and organizational goals). Cultural factors (e.g.,
individualistic culture), environmental factors (e.g., instability, crisis), and structural factors
(e.g., absence of strict information control) have an important role in the emergence of
narcissistic leadership (Ouimet, 2010). Narcissistic leaders could show a beneficial or a
harmful behavior for organizations. It is therefore not surprising that Judge et al. (2009)
describe the bright and the dark side of narcissism, Maccoby (2000) the pros and cons, and
Rosenthal and Pittinsky (2006) the upside and the downside of narcissistic leaders (see Table
Dark Leadership 17
Table 1: The bright and the dark side of narcissism.
Bright and dark side of narcissism (Judge et al., 2009)
Charismatic leadership
High leader performance
Consensus-oriented in political and
influence processes
High organizational performance
Grandiose self-love (others are inferior)
Reputation-dependent decisions
Insensitive and hostile
Lack of empathy
Pros and cons of narcissistic leaders (Maccoby, 2000)
Great vision
Charismatic and gifted in attracting
Sensitive to criticism
Poor listeners
Lack of empathy
Lack of mentoring others
Desire to compete
Upside and downside of narcissistic leaders (Rosenthal & Pittinsky, 2006)
Supreme confidence and dominance
Inspiring followers with great visions
Context-dependent necessity (e.g., social
Shape the future
Great charisma
Feelings of inferiority and emptiness
about themselves
Need for recognition and superiority
Hypersensitivity and anger
Lack of empathy
Irrationality and inflexibility
Paranoia (e.g., creating enemies where
there had been none)
Dark Leadership 18
In a military context the best rated leaders represented the bright side of narcissism
(e.g., high in egotism and self-esteem), but without the dark side of manipulativeness and
impression management (Paunonen, Lönnqvist, Verkasalo, Leiikas, & Nissinen, 2006). For
practitioners, this knowledge could be used to focus and develop more strongly the strengths
of narcissists while trying to work against negative aspects of manipulativeness and
impression management. As can be seen in Table 2, narcissism shows particularly important
associations to charismatic leadership.
Furtner, Rauthmann, and Sachse (2011) examined associations between self-
leadership and the Dark Triad. They could show that self-leadership was positively related to
narcissism. In turn, self-leadership is an important basic skill for active and effective
leadership behavior, in particular transformational and charismatic leadership (Furtner &
Baldegger, 2016; Furtner, Baldegger, & Rauthmann, 2013). Rosenthal and Pittinsky (2006)
describe narcissism in a framework of two related leadership models: power motivation and
charismatic leadership. The authors state that power is one of the great motivators for
narcissistic leaders. Need for power is also one of most central motivational tendencies of the
entire Dark Triad. Interestingly, the power motive of U.S. presidents has been related to
charisma, communication ability, humor, combative skill, aggressiveness, and
exploitativeness (Deluga, 1997; Winter, 2005). Narcissistic leadership is related to a specific
subtype of power motivation, the personalized power motivation. Leaders with a high
personalized power motive have a charismatic, selfish, and aggressive style. Charisma, in
turn, is one of the most important positive traits of narcissism (Rosenthal & Pittinsky, 2006).
Not surprisingly, narcissism is also positively related to presidential charismatic leadership
and performance (Deluga, 1997). Charismatic leaders are exceptionally gifted (both
intellectually and socially), though charisma also has its dark side (see Conger, 1990 for
charismatic leadership). Similar to a personalized power motive, the dark side of charismatic
Dark Leadership 19
leadership is closely related to narcissistic leadership (Furtner & Baldegger, 2016; Rosenthal
& Pittinsky, 2006).
Previous studies on narcissism and leadership showed mixed results. The relationship
between narcissism and leader effectiveness could only be observed in self- but not in other-
ratings (e.g., supervisor- and subordinate-report). Grijalva et al. (2015) demonstrated that an
optimal, mid-range level of leaders’ narcissism is positively related to leader effectiveness.
Thus, very high and very low levels of narcissism are hindering, whereby moderate
narcissism is positively related to leadership effectiveness. Among the Dark Triad traits
narcissism is very agentic in nature and shows the strongest associations with extraversion
and openness (e.g., Paulhus & Williams, 2002). To foster leader emergence and effectivity,
narcissists should focus more on the “bright” side of narcissism and show a moderate form of
narcissistic characteristic (see Table 2). Ong, Roberts, Arthur, Woodman, and Akehurst
(2016) observed positive and negative effects of narcissistic leadership on leader emergence
and leader effectivity. While narcissists can be perceived at the beginning as transformational
and charismatic (i.e. leader emergence), the attractiveness of narcissists in peer-ratings, after a
brief “honeymoon” period of leadership, declined rapidly (i.e. leader effectivity). This is also
in line with other research demonstrating that narcissists’ initial positive appearance and
effects diminish after prolonged interactions (Küfner, Nestler, & Back, 2013; Leckelt et al.,
2015; Paulhus, 1998).
4.2 Machiavellian leadership
Judge et al. (2009) emphasize the important role of Machiavellianism in leadership,
and similar to narcissism, they describe a bright and dark side of Machiavellianism.
Machiavellians strive to leadership positions in which they can plan, coordinate, organize, and
control. They are very effective in organizational administration (Calhoon, 1969) and exhibit
a high calculative motivation to lead. Using an experimental design Drory and Gluskinos
(1980) compared high versus low Machiavellian leaders in task group-settings. High
Dark Leadership 20
Machiavellian leaders gave more orders, showed a greater responsiveness to situational
demands, exhibited a more participative style under unfavorable conditions, and were
consistently less concerned with their group members’ feelings. They had a wider range of
appropriate behaviors than low Machiavellian leaders. These findings fit to the
conceptualization of Machiavellian leaders as very strategic in their thinking and able to
navigate power dynamics in their business and organizations. Such leaders exhibit a wide
range of different influencing tactics to build political relations (Judge et al., 2009).
According to Simonton (1986), Machiavellian presidents had more legislative victories.
Additionally, Machiavellian presidents were highly effective by demonstrating intellectual
Although narcissists are usually perceived as more charismatic, Machiavellian leaders
may be experienced as charismatic under specific circumstances (e.g., occupation of very
powerful positions). For example, Deluga (2001) analyzed 39 American presidents and
showed that presidential Machiavellianism was positively associated with charismatic
leadership and rated performance. In a historiometric examination, Bedell, Hunter, Angie, and
Vert (2006) showed that charismatic (e.g., John F. Kennedy, Benito Mussolini), ideological
(e.g., Mohandas Gandhi, Fidel Castro), and pragmatic (e.g., Warren Buffet, Al Capone)
leaders differentially exhibited Machiavellian characteristics. Charismatic leaders showed
moderate and pragmatic leaders the highest levels of Machiavellianism. Pragmatic leaders
used a more functional, problem-based approach that deals with present situations and
demands. Personalized leaders with a strong ego focus exhibited more extreme Machiavellian
characteristics, while surprisingly also socialized “altruistic” leaders used Machiavellian
strategies. They manipulated given situations to obtain efficient and practical solutions. The
dark side of Machiavellianism can be attributed directly to the observations of Niccolò
Machiavelli. To reach their long-term goals, Machiavellian leaders abuse their leadership
Dark Leadership 21
position for personal purposes and reduce the work-related intrinsic motivation of their
subordinates (Judge et al., 2009).
Based on the results of three studies, Kessler et al. (2010) proposed a three-
dimensional model of Machiavellianism: maintaining power (e.g., “An effective individual
builds a powerbase of strong people”), management practices (e.g., “It is important for an
individual to learn about the mistakes of unsuccessful people”), and manipulative behaviors
(e.g., “Since most people are weak, a rational individual should take advantage of the
situation to maximize his/her own gains”). The first two dimensions are more positive in
nature: maintaining power and management practices were positively associated with
conscientious and negatively to CWB, while manipulative behaviors were positively related
to CWB. Machiavellian leaders showed positive associations to subordinates’ perceptions of
abusive supervision. These relations were fully mediated by subordinates’ perceptions of
authoritarian leadership. Therefore, Machiavellian leader tendencies will strongly express
authoritarian leadership behaviors (Kiazad, Restubog, Zagenczyk, Kiewitz, & Tang, 2010).
Not only leaders, but also followers, could have high Machiavellian tendencies. In a
recent study Belschak, Den Hartog, and Karlshoven (2015) demonstrated that
transformational leadership has a positive influence on Machiavellian followers.
Transformational leadership moderated relations between Machiavellian followers and
organizational citizenship behavior. Organizational Citizenship Behavior (OCB) is also
known as the good soldier syndrome (Organ, 1988). Citizenship behavior are often go beyond
an employee’s job description, for example helping others or putting in extra hours (Bolino,
Klotz, Turnley, & Harvey, 2013).With leaders’ transformational leadership the selfish
Machiavellian follower could be transformed in pro-organizational behavior. Nevertheless, it
has to be considered that Machiavellians may use OCB and prosocial behavior for selfish
purposes. Thus, it could also exists a dark side of organizational citizenship behavior (Bolino
et al., 2013). There are positive as well as negative Machiavellian tendencies which could be
Dark Leadership 22
considered in leader development. Machiavellian leaders are relatively self-controlled, acute,
and pragmatic. They exhibit high flexibility and are excellent business administrators.
Additionally, Machiavellian leaders have excellent negotiation skills (Judge et al., 2009). The
more negative aspects of Machiavellian tendencies would need to be recognized, reflected
upon, and eventually neutralized (or at least somehow channeled into more constructive
ways). For example, Machiavellian leaders are strongly manipulative and dishonest. They
exhibit an extrinsic (calculative) form of motivation to lead which reduce intrinsic work
motivation of followers. These tendencies will have to be kept at bay.
4.3 Psychopathic leadership
Psychopathy is the “darkest” Dark Triad trait in organizational leadership and also the
least explored (Mathieu et al., 2014). There is little evidence in terms of psychopathy and
leadership (Boddy, 2015a). To describe psychopathic leadership, the more general term of a
corporate psychopath is broadly used. Approximately 1% of the population who work for
organizations are estimated to be psychopaths (Coid, Yang, Ullrich, Roberts, & Hare, 2009).
How do psychopaths obtain organizational leadership positions? As soon as psychopaths are
in organizations, they use diverse strategies of impression management to reach their goal of
rising to the top of the organization. Psychopathic leaders ally themselves with their
promotors and at the same time they oppose their enemies which in their view constitute an
obstacle to a successful organizational career. Chiaburu, Munoz and Gardner (2013) showed
that primary psychopathy is an important predictor of careerism. According to Babiak and
Hare (2006), psychopaths divide organizational members in two fractions: One fraction is
composed of their supporters, the other fraction of their detractors who recognize that the
organization is in danger. Psychopaths try to outmaneuver and remove their detractors to
better ascend to power. According to Babiak, Neumann, and Hare (2010), about 4 % of
leaders at the senior management level of organizations are psychopaths. Psychopathic
leaders were associated positively with perceived charisma and presentation style, including
Dark Leadership 23
excellent communication styles (Babiak et al., 2010). Psychopathic leaders can be
predominantly found in senior management levels (Spencer & Byrne, 2016). Thus, good
presentation skills and excellent communication styles could be considered as strengths to
build upon in leader development, especially as they seem to promote organizational career.
Psychopathic leaders are very sensitive in the selection of their followers, who must
pay them absolute loyalty. Conformity and dependability of subordinates may play an
important role for the success of psychopathic leaders. Regarding the relationship between
psychopathy and the full-range leadership model (transformational, transactional and laissez-
faire leadership) two studies with relatively similar results revealed no associations between
psychopathy and charisma (Mathieu, Neumann, Babiak & Hare, 2015; Westerlaken &
Woods, 2013): Psychopathy was positively correlated with passive leadership (management
by exception and laissez-faire leadership) and negatively with active and effective leadership
(transformational and transactional leadership). Thus, psychopathic leaders avoid decision
making and do not care about their followers. Mathieu et al. (2015) concluded that, like
narcissism, psychopathy may be associated with leader emergence or a surface identification
with leadership, but not with leader effectiveness. Mathieu and Babiak (2015) also
demonstrated that leaders’ psychopathy was a stronger predictor for employee attitudes (job
satisfaction, turnover intentions, work motivation, job neglect) than the three dimensions of
the full-range leadership model. Mathieu and Babiak (2016) also found that psychopathic
leaders were positively associated with abusive supervision and employees’ turnover
intentions, and negatively to followers’ job satisfaction.
In summary, Boddy (2015a) expects a variety of negative consequences of
psychopathy for organizations (e.g., corporate failure, fraudulent activities, exploited
followers, workplace bullying, and short-term decision making). In a longitudinal case study
of a corporate psychopath as CEO, Boddy (2015b) describes the negative long-term effects of
psychopathic leadership. The delineated leadership style showed strong similarities to laissez-
Dark Leadership 24
faire leadership with negative outcomes related to bullying, staff withdrawal, and high
turnover rates. A high corporate psychopathy score of the CEO also reduced employees
organizational commitment, creativity, and innovation. Furthermore, the psychopathic CEO
focused on the strength of his own position and external reputation, while implementing a
climate of organizational fear. The dark aspects of psychopathic leadership should be
counteracted in leader development as they show a broad variety of negative outcomes for
individuals, teams, and organizations.
4.4 Dark leader traits and leader development
Leader development focuses on the intrapersonal development of skills (e.g., self-
awareness, self-regulation, and self-motivation) which are required for their formal leadership
roles (Day, 2000). These skills lead to increased individual knowledge, trust, and personal
power (Zand, 1997). The Dark Triad traits, rather than being purely maladaptive, can be seen
as adaptations promoting benefits for an individual primarily over the short term in an
unpredictable environment, along with some facets promoting also long-term success
(McDonald et al., 2011). This aspect can be employed for developing leaders.
How can the knowledge about Dark Traits be used for leader development?
Narcissism, Machiavellianism, and psychopathy are relatively stable personality traits, which
should be targeted through the selection process of leaders (Reichard & Johnson, 2011). The
knowledge about the dark personality traits of leaders could be used to determine the extent to
which a development readiness already exists in leaders (Avolio, 2004). Narcissists could
show the strongest development readiness, followed by Machiavellians and psychopaths
(Harms, Spain, & Hannah, 2011). Among the Dark Triad, narcissism is the trait that is most
strongly associated with agentic traits (openness, extraversion) and self-leadership (Furtner et
al., 2011; Paulhus & Williams, 2002). Self-leadership, in turn, is an important prerequisite for
charismatic and transformational leadership (Furtner et al., 2013). Thus, narcissistic leaders
may be perceived as charismatic. Narcissists strive for social recognition and admiration.
Dark Leadership 25
Both the leadership position as well as the leadership process can fulfill their basic motive for
social recognition and admiration. Narcissists enjoy the leadership process per se and show a
high intrinsic (affective) motivation to lead (Chan & Drasgow, 2001). The intrinsic
motivation of narcissistic leaders, in turn, increases their charisma (Barbuto, 2005; Furtner et
al., 2013; Shamir, House, & Arthur, 1993). Charisma is a key tool for narcissistic leaders to
receive social recognition and admiration. Not only the intrinsic motivation to lead increases
the charismatic perceptions of narcissists, but also their dominant, self-confident, and at the
same time charming appearance. On the basis of their central need for power, recognition, and
admiration, the development of charisma is a socially adaptive strategy of narcissists. In
summary, narcissists have good requirements to benefit from leader development as they are
open to new experiences and insatiable learners. They incorporate new knowledge (e.g., about
self-motivation) quickly to continually improve their personal effectivity and ultimately reach
their central goal.
On the basis of their relative good self-control, high adaptability, and flexibility for
situational demands, Machiavellians may also benefit from leader development.
Machiavellians could show a high learning ability in the framework of leader development, if
the mediated knowledge (e.g., increasing ones self-regulation) serves for their personal long-
term goal (attaining power and status). Machiavellians are masters of manipulation and
tactical deception. They have the highest self-control among the Dark Triad traits (Paulhus,
2014), show a high adaptability, and must exert a certain degree of awareness to flexibly
adapt to specific situations. On the basis of increased awareness (of internal and external
processes) and the acquisition of new and personally relevant knowledge, Machiavellians
could also benefit from leader development.
Psychopaths have a great interest in experiencing new things and are very
adventurous. Despite their high impulsivity and their relative short-term focus, psychopaths
who strive for high leadership positions in organizations could also obtain advantages from
Dark Leadership 26
leader development. To reduce their central weakness of low self-control, an emphasis should
be put on the training of specific self-regulatory techniques (e.g., cultivation of mindfulness
How can the strengths and weaknesses of dark leaders be utilized in leader
development? The knowledge about the pros (adaptive advantages) and cons (maladaptive
disadvantages) of the Dark Triad traits can be very useful for leader coaches. Dark leaders can
reflect on their strengths and weaknesses and develop a plan to use their strengths and
neutralize or eliminate their weaknesses. Young executives, “bright” leaders (e.g.,
empowering leaders), and leaders with a high need for affiliation as well as a low social
dominance orientation could learn from the strengths of dark leaders. For example, affiliative
leaders may become aware that they may not be sufficiently dominant and effective in their
leadership role.
With the central aim of leader development in improving leaders individual
knowledge, trust, and personal power as well as to promote the human capital of individual
leaders, Table 3 summarize the key strengths and weaknesses of leaders’ Dark Triad traits.
This knowledge can be utilized directly in leader development.
Table 3: Strengths (to be developed) and weaknesses (to be worked on) of the Dark Triad in
leader development.
Strengths (to be developed)
Weaknesses (to be worked on)
Intrinsic (affective) motivation
to lead
Sensitive to social cues
Oversensitive to criticism
Exaggerated self-love
Lack of empathy
Dark Leadership 27
Highly flexible in social
Astute and strategic thinking
Effective in business
Tactical negotiating skills
Broad variety of influencing
Extrinsic (calculating)
motivation to lead
Lack of empathy
Unpredictable and irrational
5. Conclusions and Future Research
The dark side of leadership has long been ignored in leadership research and is still
under researched. Currently, many different terms are used for the dark side of leadership
(e.g., destructive leadership: Krasikova, Green & LeBreton, 2013; toxic leadership: Pelletier,
2010; abusive leadership: Johnson, Venus, Lanaj, Mao, & Chang, 2012; unethical leadership:
Brown & Mitchell, 2010). Yet, a uniform concept of dark leadership does not exist, but would
be highly conducive for the exploration of the dark side of leadership. Focusing on Dark Triad
traits of leaders may be a fruitful foundation for dark leadership research. Krasikova et al.
(2013) describe the Dark Triad leader characteristics as predictors of engaging into
destructive leadership. While personality research has investigated the Dark Triad of
personality for over 15 years, leadership research focused more recently and independently of
personality psychology on narcissism, Machiavellianism, and psychopathy. Following the
issue whether there is a dark common core of the Dark Triad of personality, the question
Dark Leadership 28
arises if there is also a common dark core in leadership. Different potential cores of the Dark
Triad have been proposed, such as disagreeableness (Furnham et al., 2013), low
honesty/humility (Lee & Ashton, 2005), callousness (Jones et al., 2013), need for power
(Jonason & Ferrell, 2016) and social dominance orientation (Jones & Figueredo, 2013). In
leadership context need for power (McClelland, 1975) and social dominance orientation
(Judge et al., 2009) may play the most important role for dark leadership.
Narcissistic leadership, as the most adaptive and brightest side of leaders’ dark
tendencies, has received the most attention so far. The darker the personality trait, the less it
has been researched. As such, psychopathy, being the most malicious Dark Triad trait concept
(Krasikova et al., 2013), has hardly been investigated. Generally, narcissists are deemed most
qualified as leaders and may indeed also be effective in leader roles. Besides narcissists also
Machiavellians and psychopaths strive to power and leadership positions. Nevertheless,
among the Dark Triad, narcissism could have the most important role in leadership research.
It is likely that a lot of leadership positions are occupied by narcissists (Maccoby, 2000).
Positive relations between narcissism and leader emergence confirm this (Mathieu et al.,
2015; Ong et al., 2016). As narcissists always want to approve their own grandiosity and
dominance, they strive for unrestricted social appreciation and acceptance. They have an
inherent interest in leadership and exhibit a high affective (intrinsic) motivation to lead.
An additional strength of narcissistic leaders is demonstrated by the fact that, based on
their visions, dominance, and strong social influence, they exhibit the most powerful forms of
leadership behavior, transformational and charismatic leadership. The key force of narcissistic
leaders is that they are perceived as charismatic. Nevertheless, it must be considered that
selfish narcissists are driven by a personalized power motive and therefore exhibit a dark and
personalized form of transformational and charismatic leadership.
Dark Leadership 29
In contrast, Machiavellian leaders are typical managers and administrators. They have
a special talent for planning, organizing, and controlling. Machiavellian leaders feature a high
personalized power motive and a calculative motivation to lead (Chan & Drasgow, 2001). On
higher leadership levels Machiavellians could even be perceived as charismatic, although
commonly charisma may be stronger attributed to narcissistic leaders. With their charismatic
qualities narcissistic leaders can stimulate the intrinsic motivation and performance of their
followers (Rosenthal & Pittinsky, 2006), while due to their pragmatic perspective
Machiavellians reduce followers’ work-related intrinsic motivation (Judge et al., 2009). Just
as narcissistic leaders, Machiavellian leaders show a strong authoritarian leadership behavior.
The powerful leadership approach of transformational leadership, which is more demonstrated
by narcissists, can be a means to motivate Machiavellian followers to a pro-organizational
Based on their personalized power motive and social dominance orientation,
psychopathic leaders show the strong desire to get to the top of an organization. They exhibit
a non-altruistic/antisocial motivation to lead. Psychopaths polarize and hence know only
friends or enemies. In organizational context psychopathic leaders exhibit an unpredictable
and impulsive leadership behavior. Psychopathic destructive leadership behavior could have
strong negative effects on organizational members and effectivity (Boddy, 2015b). Despite
their high impulsivity, psychopathic leaders use a wide range of strategies and tactical
arrangements, though these are usually geared more toward short-term benefits and hence not
calibrated to long-term consequences. Although psychopathy is positively associated with
leader emergence it is negatively associated with leader effectivity (Mathieu et al., 2015),
often, psychopathic leaders show a very passive and ineffective leadership behavior (e.g.,
management-by-exception, laissez-faire) and similar to Machiavellian leaders are not
interested in leadership per se. As a consequence, they entail a variety of negative effects for
their followers (e.g., low job satisfaction, work motivation, high turnover intentions, and job
Dark Leadership 30
neglect) and their organizations (e.g., corporate failure, workplace bullying), making them
truly toxic and destructive in leadership contexts.
Investigating the Dark Triad in context of leadership is a nascent field. There are
several avenues for future research. First, there is currently no clear picture of psychopathy’s
role in leadership. Results are inconsistent and sometimes contradictory (e.g., successful vs.
unsuccessful careers). Second, more studies are needed which examine the Dark Triad
directly with different types of leadership behavior and relevant outcome variables (e.g.,
leader effectiveness, followers’ job performance). Third, in the framework of the Dark Tetrad,
sub-clinical sadism is discussed as a fourth important malevolent dimension, which also has
high callousness (Paulhus, 2014). Yet the role of sadism in leadership is completely unknown.
Fourth, not only dark leaders, but also dark followers and the situational context (e.g.,
organizational individualism versus collectivism) should be considered more. Fifth, two-way
interaction effects of pairs of Dark Triad traits (e.g., a leader could exhibit high narcissistic
and Machiavellian characteristics or Machiavellian long-term strategies could buffer
psychopathic impulsivity) should be examined in the leadership context.
Finally, the effects of the Dark Triad on leader development, leader emergence, and
leader effectivity should be investigated in detail. For example, there exists only one study
examining the influence of dark personality traits on leader development (Harms et al., 2011).
The authors demonstrated that although several dark personality dimensions were negatively
associated with change in leadership, other dimensions of the Hogan Development Survey
HDS (cautious, bold, colorful, and dutiful) showed positive relations to leader development
over time. Bold (overly self-confident, arrogant, and entitled) was positively associated with
narcissism, primary psychopathy and Machiavellianism. Colorful (dramatic, attention
seeking, and interruptive) was positively related to narcissism and primary psychopathy
(Douglas, Bore, & Munro, 2012). Bold and colorful are particularly interconnected with
Dark Leadership 31
narcissism and development (Harms et al., 2011). Narcissists are insatiable learners
(Maccoby, 2003), for example, Napoleon had an enthusiastic interest for works of military
history and philosophy. The connections between psychopathy and leader development
remained unclear, although bold and colorful were also related to psychopathy. Furthermore,
bold was also associated with Machiavellianism. Machiavellians are highly adaptable and
flexible. Besides narcissism Machiavellians and psychopaths may also benefit from a leader
development program. First, this program could contain the strengths and weaknesses of
leaders Dark Triad traits. Second, it could also initiate specific behavioral changes. As self-
influencing processes towards behavioral change, self-leadership facets (e.g., self-goal setting,
self-observation, self-reward, and self-cueing) could be used (Lucke & Furtner, 2015). Young
or ineffective leaders could also benefit from a specific focus on leaders’ Dark Triad traits.
Passive leaders or leaders with a high need for affiliation could reflect about their (in certain
environments) inappropriate leadership behavior and learn from the strengths of dark leaders
(e.g., need for power, social dominance orientation). In the context of leader development,
leader coaches can especially use the knowledge and strengths of the Dark Triad to increase
individual knowledge, trust, personal power, and leader effectiveness.
But one must never forget that what narcissists, Machiavellians, and psychopaths have
learned will be used exceptionally for selfish purposes and goals. Thus, despite their poor
self-control and on the base of personal goals, it’s possible that narcissists, Machiavellians as
well as psychopaths could increase their personal effectivity with a leader development
program, while narcissism as the most adaptive trait of the Dark Triad promises best learning
outcomes (Spain et al., 2013).
Due to their high personalized power motive, strong social dominance orientation,
charisma, and impression management narcissists, Machiavellians, and psychopaths have in
common that they strongly and inexorable strive for leadership positions, which are directly
Dark Leadership 32
related to power and success. Therefore, it can be assumed that a variety and possibly the
majority of leadership positions are occupied with Dark Triad personalities. As Avolio,
Walumbwa, and Weber (2009) noted “the period that leadership theory and research will
enter for the next decade is indeed one of the most exciting in the history of this planet” (p.
442). Concerning this, the focus on the role of leaders’ Dark Triad personality traits and dark
leadership could improve our understanding of the complex field of leadership research,
which for long time has only been fascinated of “good” and “idealized” leadership behaviors.
Dark Leadership 33
Altemeyer, B. (2004). Highly dominating, highly authoritarian personalities. Journal of Social
Psychology, 144, 421-447.
Ashton, M. C., & Lee, K. (2001). A theoretical basis for the major dimensions of personality.
European Journal of Personality, 15, 327-353.
Avolio, B. J. (2004). Examining the full range model of leadership: looking back to transform
forward. In D. V. Day, S. J. Zaccaro, & S. M. Halpin (Eds.), Leader development for
transforming organizations: grow leaders for tomorrow (pp. 71-98). Mahwah, NJ:
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Avolio, B. J., Walumbwa, F. O., & Weber, T. J. (2009). Leadership: current theories, research
and future directions. Annual Review of Psychology, 60, 421-449.
Babiak, P., & Hare, R. D. (2006). Snakes in suits when psychopaths go to work. New York,
NY: HarperCollins.
Babiak, P., Neumann, C. S., & Hare, R. D. (2010). Corporate psychopathy: talking the walk.
Behavioral Sciences and the Law, 28, 174-193.
Back, M. D., Küfner, A. C. P., Dufner, M., Gerlach, T. M., Rauthmann, J. F., & Denissen, J.
J. A. (2013). Narcissistic admiration and rivalry: disentangling the bright and dark
sides of Narcissism. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 105, 1013-1037.
Bakan, D. (1966). The duality of human existence. Chicago: Rand McNally.
Barbuto, J. E. (2005). Motivation and transactional, charismatic, and transformational
leadership: a test of antecedents. Journal of Leadership and Organizational Studies,
11, 26-40.
Bass, B. M. (1990). From transactional to transformational leadership: learning to share the
vision. Organizational Dynamics, 18, 19-36.
Bass, B. M., & Steidlmeier, P. (1999). Ethics, character, and authentic transformational
leadership behavior. The Leadership Quarterly, 10, 181-217.
Baughman, H. M., Dearing, S., Giammarco, E., & Vernon, P. A. (2012). Relationships
between bullying behaviours and the Dark Triad: a study with adults. Personality and
Individual Differences, 52, 571-575.
Bedell, K., Hunter, S., Angie, A., & Vert, A. (2006). A historiometric examination of
Machiavellianism and a new taxonomy of leadership. Journal of Leadership and
Organizational Studies, 12, 50-72.
Dark Leadership 34
Belschak, F. D., Den Hartog, D. N., & Kalshoven, K. (2015). Leading Machiavellians: how to
translate Machiavellians’ selfishness into pro-organizational behavior. Journal of
Management, 41, 1934-1956.
Belsky, J., Schlomer, G. L., & Ellis, B .J. (2012). Beyond cumulative risk: distinguishing
harshness and unpredictability as determinants of parenting and early life history
strategy. Developmental Psychology, 48, 662-673.
Boddy, C. R. (2015a). Organisational psychopaths: a ten year update. Management Decision,
53, 2407-2432.
Boddy, C. R. (2015b). Psychopathic leadership: a case study of a corporate psychopath CEO.
Journal of Business Ethics, doi:10.1007/s10551-015-2908-6.
Bolino, M. C., Klotz, A. C., Turnley, W. H., & Harvey, J. (2013). Exploring the dark side of
organizational citizenship behavior. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 34, 542-559.
Book, A. S., Quinsey, V. L., & Langford, D. (2007). Psychopathy and the perception of affect
and vulnerability. Criminal Justice and Behavior, 34, 531-544.
Book, A., Visser, B. A., & Volk, A. A. (2015). Unpacking “evil”: claiming the core of the
Dark Triad. Personality and Individual Differences, 73, 29-38.
Brown, M. E., & Mitchell, M. S. (2010). Ethical and unethical leadership: exploring new
avenues for future research. Business Ethics Quarterly, 20, 583-616.
Brumbach, B. H., Figueredo, A. J., & Ellis, B. J. (2009). Effects of harsh and unpredictable
environments in adolescence on development of life history strategies: a longitudinal
test of an evolutionary model. Human Nature, 20, 25-81.
Cain, N. M., Pincus, A. L., & Ansell, E. B. (2008). Narcissism at the crossroads: phenotypic
description of pathological narcissism across clinical theory, social/personality
psychology, and psychiatric diagnosis. Clinical Psychology Review, 28, 638-656.
Calhoon, R. P. (1969). Niccolo Machiavelli and the Twentieth Century Administrator, The
Academy of Management Journal, 12, 205-212.
Chan, K. Y., & Drasgow, F. (2001). Toward a theory of individual differences and leadership:
understanding the motivation to lead. Journal of Applied Psychology, 86, 481-498.
Chiaburu, D. S., Munoz, G. J., & Gardner, R. G. (2013). How to spot a careerist early on:
psychopathy and exchange ideology as predictors of careerism. Journal of Business
Ethics, 118, 473-486.
Christie, R., & Geis, F. L. (1970). Studies in Machiavellianism. New York: Academic Press.
Cleckley, H. (1976). The mask of sanity (5th edition). St. Louis, MO: CV Mosby.
Dark Leadership 35
Cohen, A. (2016). Are they among us? A conceptual framework of the relationship between
the Dark Triad personality and counterproductive work behaviors (CWBs). Human
Resource Management Review, 26, 69-85.
Coid, J., Yang, M., Ullrich, S., Roberts, A., & Hare, R. D. (2009). Prevalence and correlates
of psychopathic traits in the household population of Great Britain. International
Journal of Law and Psychiatry, 32, 65-73.
Conger, J. (1990). The dark side of leadership. Organizational Dynamics, 19, 44-55.
Conger, J., & Kanungo, R. N. (1988). Charismatic leadership in organizations. Thousand
Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
Del Giudice M. (2014). An evolutionary life history framework for psychopathology.
Psychological Inquiry, 25, 261-300.
Costa, P. T. Jr., & McCrae, R. R. (1992). Normal personality assessment in clinical practice:
the NEO Personality Inventory. Psychological Assessment, 4, 5-13.
Day, D. V. (2000). Leadership development: a review in context. The Leadership Quarterly,
15, 857-880.
Del Giudice, M., Gangestad, S. W., & Kaplan, H. S. (2015). Life history theory and
evolutionary psychology. In D. M. Buss (Ed.), The handbook of evolutionary
psychology Vol 1: Foundations (2nd ed.) (pp. 88-114). New York: Wiley.
Deluga, R. J. (1997). Relationship among American presidential charismatic leadership,
narcissism, and rated performance. The Leadership Quarterly, 8, 49-65.
Deluga, R. J. (2001). American presidential Machiavellianism: implications for charismatic
leadership and rated performance. The Leadership Quarterly, 12, 339-363.
Dongwillo, E. A., & Pincus, A. L. (2016). Differentiating Dark Triad traits within and across
interpersonal circumplex surfaces. Assessment, 1-21.
Douglas, H., Bore, M., & Munro, D. (2012). Distinguishing the Dark Triad: evidence from the
Five-Factor model and the Hogan Development Survey. Psychology, 3, 237-242.
Drory, A., & Gluskinos, U. M. (1980). Machiavellianism and leadership. Journal of Applied
Psychology, 65, 81-86.
Ellis, B. J., & Del Giudice, M. (2014). Beyond allostatic load: rethinking the role of stress in
regulating human development. Development and Psychopathology, 26, 1-20.
Ellis, B. J., Figueredo, A. J., Brumbach, B. H., & Schlomer, G. L. (2009). The impact of harsh
versus unpredictable environments on the evolution and development of life history
strategies. Human Nature, 20, 204-268.
Dark Leadership 36
Furnham, A., Richards, S. C., & Paulhus, D. L. (2013). The Dark Triad of personality: a 10
year review. Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 7, 199-216.
Furtner, M. R., & Baldegger, U. (2016). Self-Leadership und Führung: Theorien, Modelle
und praktische Umsetzung (2. Auflage) [Self-leadership and leadership: theories,
models, and practical application (2nd edition)]. Wiesbaden: Springer Gabler.
Furtner, M. R., Rauthmann, J. F., & Sachse, P. (2011). The self-loving self-leader: an
examination of the relationship between self-leadership and the Dark Triad. Social
Behavior and Personality, 39, 369-380.
Furtner, M. R., Baldegger, U., & Rauthmann, J. F. (2013). Leading yourself and leading
others: linking self-leadership to transformational, transactional, and laissez-faire
leadership. European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology, 22, 436-449.
Glenn, A. L., Kurzban, R., & Raine, A. (2011). Evolutionary theory and psychopathy.
Aggression and Violent Behavior, 16, 371-380.
Grijalva, E., & Harms, P. D. (2014). Narcissism: an integrative synthesis and dominance
complementarity model. Academy of Management: Perspectives, 28, 108-127.
Grijalva, E., Harms, P. D., Newman, D. A., Gaddis, B. H., & Fraley, C. (2015). Narcissism
and leadership: a meta-analytic review of linear and nonlinear relationships. Personnel
Psychology, 68, 1-47.
Hare, R. D. (2003). The Hare psychopathy checklist revised. Toronto, Canada: MHS.
Harms, P. D., & Spain, S. M. (2015). Beyond the bright side: dark personalities at work.
Applied Psychology, 64, 15-24.
Harms, P. D., Spain, S. M., & Hannah, S. T. (2011). Leader development and the dark side of
personality. The Leadership Quarterly, 22, 495-509.
Hawley, P. (2003). Prosocial and coercive configurations of resource control in early
adolescent: a case for the well-adapted Machiavellian. Journal of Development
Psychology, 49, 279-309.
Higgs, M. (2009). The good, the bad and the ugly: leadership and narcissism. Journal of
Change Management, 9, 165-178.
Hodson, G., Hogg, S. M., & MacInnis, C. C. (2009). The role of “dark personalities”
(narcissism, Machiavellianism, psychopathy), Big Five personality factors, and
ideology in explaining prejudice. Journal of Research in Personality, 43, 686-690.
Johnson, R. E., Venus, M., Lanaj, K., Mao, C., & Chang, C.-H. (2012). Leader identity as an
antecedent of the frequency and consistency of transformational, consideration, and
abusive leadership behaviors. Journal of Applied Psychology, 97, 1262-1272.
Dark Leadership 37
Johnson, S. L., Leedom, L. J., & Muhtadie, L. (2012). The dominance behavioral system and
psychopathology: evidence from self-report, observational, and biological studies.
Psychological Bulletin, 138, 692-743.
Jonason, P. K., & Ferrell, J. D. (2016). Looking under the hood: the psychogenic motivational
foundations of the Dark Triad. Personality and Individual Differences, 94, 324-331.
Jonason, P. K., Li, N. P., & Teicher, E. A. (2010). Who is James Bond? The Dark Triad as an
agentic social style. Individual Differences Research, 8, 111-120.
Jonason, P. K., Li., N. P., Webster, G. D., & Schmitt, D. P. (2009). The Dark Triad:
facilitating a short-term mating strategy in men. European Journal of Personality, 23,
Jonason, P. K., Lyons, M., Bethell, E. J., & Ross, R. (2013). Different routes to limited
empathy in the sexes: examining the links between the Dark Triad and empathy.
Personality and Individual Differences, 54, 572-576.
Jonason, P. K., Slomski, S., & Partyka, J. (2012). The Dark Triad at work: how toxic
employees get their way. Personality and Individual Differences, 52, 449-453.
Jonason, P. K., Wee, S., & Li, N. P. (2015). Competition, autonomy, and prestige:
mechanisms through which the Dark Triad predict job satisfaction. Personality and
Individual Differences, 72, 112-116.
Jonason, P. K., Wee, S., Li, N. P., & Jackson, C. (2014). Occupational niches and the Dark
Triad traits. Personality and Individual Differences, 69, 119-123.
Jones, D. N. (2014). Risk in the face of retribution: psychopathic individuals persist in
financial misbehavior among the Dark Triad. Personality and Individual Differences,
67, 109-113.
Jones, D. N., & Figueredo, A. J. (2013). The core of darkness: uncovering the heart of the
Dark Triad. European Journal of Personality, 27, 521-531.
Jones, D. N., & Paulhus, D. L. (2009). Machiavellianism. In M. R. Leary, & R. H. Hoyle
(Eds), Handbook of individual differences in social behavior (pp. 102-120). New
York: Guilford.
Jones, D. N., & Paulhus, D. L. (2011a). Differentiating the Dark Triad within the
interpersonal circumplex. In L. M. Horowitz, & S. Strack (Eds.), Handbook of
interpersonal psychology: theory, research, assessment, and therapeutic interventions
(pp. 249-269). New York: Wiley.
Jones, D. N., & Paulhus, D. L. (2011b). The role of impulsivity in the Dark Triad of
personality. Personality and Individual Differences, 51, 679-682.
Dark Leadership 38
Judge, T. A., Piccolo, R. F., & Kosalka, T. (2009). The bright and dark sides of leader traits: a
review and theoretical extension of the leader trait paradigm. The Leadership
Quarterly, 20, 855-875.
Kajonius, P. J., Persson, B. N., & Jonason, P. K. (2015). Hedonism, achievement, and power:
universal values that characterize the Dark Triad. Personality and Individual
Differences, 77, 173-178.
Kaplan, H. S., & Gangestad, S. W. (2005). Life history theory and evolutionary psychology.
In D. M. Buss (Ed.), The handbook of evolutionary psychology (pp. 68-95). Hoboken,
NJ: John Wiley & Sons.
Kessler, S. R., Bandelli, A. C., Spector, P. E., Borman, W. C., Nelson, C. E., & Penney, L. M.
(2010). Re-examining Machiavelli: a three-dimensional model of Machiavellianism in
the workplace. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 40, 1868-1896.
Kiazad, K., Restubog, S. L. D., Zagenczyk, T. J., Kiewitz, C., & Tang, R. L. (2010). In
pursuit of power: the role of authoritarian leadership in the relationship between
supervisors’ Machiavellianism and subordinates’ perceptions of abusive supervisory
behavior. Journal of Research in Personality, 44, 512-519.
Krasikova, D. V., Green, S. G., & LeBreton, J. M. (2013). Destructive leadership: a
theoretical review, integration, and future research agenda. Journal of Management,
39, 1308-1338.
Küfner, A. C. P., Nestler, S., & Back, M. D. (2013). The two pathways to being an (un-
)popular narcissist. Journal of Personality, 81, 184-195.
Leckelt, M., Küfner, A. C. P., Nestler, S., & Back, M. D. (2015). Behavioral processes
underling the decline of narcissists’ popularity over time. Journal of Personality and
Social Psychology, 109, 856-871.
Lee, K., & Ashton, M. C. (2005). Psychopathy, Machiavellianism, and narcissism in the Five
Factor model and the HEXACO model of personality structure. Personality and
Individual Differences, 38, 1571-1582.
Maccoby, M. (2000). Narcissistic leaders: the incredible pros, the inevitable cons. Harvard
Business Review, 78, 68-77.
Maccoby, M. (2003). The productive narcissist: the promise and peril of visionary leadership.
New York: Broadway Books.
Malesza, M., & Ostaszewski, P. (2016). Dark side of impulsivity Associations between the
Dark Triad, self-report and behavioral measures of impulsivity. Personality and
Individual Differences, 88, 197-201.
Dark Leadership 39
Mann, R. D. (1959). A review of the relationships between personality and performance in
small group. Psychological Bulletin, 56, 241-270.
Mathieu, C., & Babiak, P. (2015). Tell me who you are, I’ll tell you how you lead: beyond the
Full-Range leadership model, the role of corporate psychopathy on employee attitudes.
Personality and Individual Differences, 87, 8-12.
Mathieu, C., & Babiak, P. (2016). Corporate psychopathy and abusive subversion: their
influence on employees’ job satisfaction and turnover intentions. Personality and
Individual Differences, 91, 102-106.
Mathieu, C., Neumann, C., Babiak, P., & Hare, R. D. (2015). Corporate psychopathy and the
Full-Range leadership model. Assessment, 22, 267-278.
Mathieu, C., Neumann, C. S., Hare, R. D., & Babiak, P. (2014). A dark side of leadership:
corporate psychopathy and its influence on employee well-being and job satisfaction.
Personality and Individual Differences, 59, 83-88.
McClelland, D. C. (1975). Power: the inner experience. New York: Irvington.
McClelland, D. C. (1985). Human motivation. Glenview, IL: Scott, Foresman.
McDonald, M. M., Donnellan, M. B., & Navarrete, C. D. (2011). A life history approach to
understanding the Dark Triad. Personality and Individual Differences, 52, 601-605.
McIlwain, D., Evans, J., Caldis, E., Cicchini, F., Aronstan, A., Wright, A., & Taylor, A.
(2012). Strange moralities: vicarious emotion and moral emotions in Machiavellian
and Psychopathic personality styles. In R. Langdon & C. Mackenzie (Eds.), Emotions,
imagination, and moral reasoning (pp. 119-148). New York, NY: Taylor & Francis.
Morf, C. C., & Rhodewalt, F. (2001). Unraveling the paradoxes of narcissism: a dynamic self-
regulatory processing model. Psychological Inquiry, 12, 177-196.
Nagler, U. K. J., Reiter, K. J., Furtner, M. R., & Rauthmann, J. F. (2014). Is there a “dark
intelligence”? Emotional intelligence is used by dark personalities to emotionally
manipulate others. Personality and Individual Differences, 65, 47-52.
Nevicka, B., Ten Velden, F. S., De Hoogh, A. H. B., & Van Vianen A. E. M. (2011). Reality
at odds with perceptions: narcissistic leaders and group performance. Psychological
Science, 22, 1259-1264.
O’Boyle, E. H. Jr., Forsyth, D. R., Banks, G. C., & McDaniel, M. A. (2012). A meta-analysis
of the Dark Triad and work behavior: a social exchange perspective. Journal of
Applied Psychology, 97, 557-579.
Dark Leadership 40
Ong, C. W., Roberts, R., Arthur, C. A., Woodman, T., & Akehurst, S. (2016). The leader ship
is sinking: a temporal investigation of narcissistic leadership. Journal of Personality,
84, 237-247.
Organ, D. W. (1988). Organizational citizenship behavior: the good soldier syndrome.
Lexington, MA: Lexington Books.
Ouimet, G. (2010). Dynamics of narcissistic leadership in organizations: towards an
integrated research model. Journal of Managerial Psychology, 25, 713-726.
Pailing, A., Boon, J., & Egan, V. (2014). Personality, the Dark Triad and violence.
Personality and Individual Differences, 67, 81-86.
Paulhus, D. L. (1998). Interpersonal and intrapsychic adaptiveness of trait self-enhancement:
a mixed blessing? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 74, 1197-1208.
Paulhus, D. L. (2014). Toward a taxonomy of dark personalities. Current Directions in
Psychological Science, 23, 421-426.
Paulhus, D. L., & Williams, K. M. (2002). The Dark Triad of personality: narcissism,
Machiavellianism, and psychopathy. Journal of Research in Personality, 36, 556-563.
Paunonen, S. V., Lönnqvist, J.-E., Verkasalo, M., Leikas, S., & Nissinen, V. (2006).
Narcissism and emergent leadership in military cadets. The Leadership Quarterly, 17,
Pelletier, K. L. (2010). Leader toxicity: an empirical investigation of toxic behavior and
rhetoric. Leadership, 6, 373-389.
Rauthmann, J. F. (2012). The Dark Triad and interpersonal perception: similarities and
differences in the social consequences of narcissism, Machiavellianism, and
psychopathy. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 3, 487-496.
Rauthmann, J. F., & Kolar, G. P. (2012). How “dark“ are the Dark Triad traits? Examining
the perceived darkness of narcissism, Machiavellianism, and psychopathy. Personality
and Individual Differences, 53, 884-889.
Rauthmann, J. F., & Kolar, G. P. (2013). Positioning the Dark Triad in the interpersonal
circumplex: the friendly-dominant narcissism, hostile-submissive Machiavellian, and
hostile-dominant psychopath? Personality and Individual Differences, 54, 622-627.
Raskin, R., & Hall, C. S. (1979). A Narcissistic Personality Inventory. Psychological Reports,
45, 590.
Reichard, R. J. & Johnson, S. K. (2011). Leader self-development as organizational strategy.
The Leadership Quarterly, 22, 33-42.
Dark Leadership 41
Roeser, K., McGregor, V. E., Stegmaier, S., Mathew, J., Kübler, A., & Meule, A. (2016). The
Dark Triad of personality and unethical behavior at different times of day. Personality
and Individual Differences, 88, 73-77.
Rosenthal, S. A., & Pittinsky, T. L. (2006). Narcissistic leadership. The Leadership Quarterly,
17, 617-633.
Rushton, J. P. (1985). Differential K theory: The sociobiology of individual and group
differences. Personality and Individual Differences, 6, 441-452.
Shamir, B., House, R. J., & Arthur, M. B. (1993). The motivational effects of charismatic
leadership: a self-concept based theory. Organization Science, 4, 577-594.
Simonton, D. K. (1986). Presidential personality: biographical use of the Gough Adjective
Check List. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 51, 149-160.
Son Hing, L. S., Bobocel, D. R., Zanna, M. P., & McBride, M. V. (2007). Authoritarian
dynamics and unethical decision making: high social dominance orientation leaders
and high right-wing authoritarianism followers. Journal of Personality and Social
Psychology, 92, 67-81.
Spain, S. M., Harms, P., & Lebreton, J. M. (2013). The dark side of personality at work.
Journal of Organizational Behavior, 35, 41-60.
Spencer, R. J., & Byrne, M. K. (2016). Relationship between the extent of psychopathic
features among corporate managers and subsequent employee job satisfaction.
Personality and Individual Differences, 101, 440-445.
Spurk, D., Keller, A. C., & Hirschi, A. (2016). Do bad guys get ahead or fall behind?
Relationships of the Dark Triad of personality with objective and subjective career
success. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 7, 113-121.
Stearns, S. C. (1992). The evolution of life histories. Oxford, NY: Oxford University Press.
Vernon, P. A., Villani, V. C., Vickers, L. C., & Harris, J. A. (2008). A behavioral genetic
investigation of the Dark Triad and the Big 5. Personality and Individual Differences,
44, 445-452.
Veselka, L., Schermer, J. A., Martin, R. A., & Vernon, P. A. (2010). Relations between
humor styles and the Dark Triad traits of personality. Personality and Individual
Differences, 48, 772-774.
Volmer, J., Koch, I. K., & Göritz, A. S. (2016). The bright and the dark side of leaders Dark
Triad traits: effects on subordinates career success and well-being. Personality and
Individual Differences, 101, 413-418.
Dark Leadership 42
Wai, M., & Tiliopoulos, N. (2012). The affective and cognitive empathic nature of the Dark
Triad personality. Personality and Individual Differences, 52, 794-799.
Westerlaken, K. M., & Woods, P. R. (2013). The relationship between psychopathy and the
full range leadership model. Personality and Individual Differences, 54, 41-46.
Williams, K. M., Paulhus, D. L., & Hare, R. D. (2007). Capturing the four-factor structure of
psychopathy in college students via self-report. Journal of Personality Assessment, 88,
Winter, D. G. (2005). Things I’ve learned about personality from studying political leaders at
a distance. Journal of Personality, 73, 557-584.
Zand, D. E. (1997). The leadership triad: knowledge, trust, and power. New York: Oxford
... Nicht alle Führungskräfte sind professionell und wollen sich aufrichtig weiterentwickeln. Manche Menschen streben in erster Linie nach Geld, Macht und Status (Furtner et al., 2017). Insbesondere Personen mit machiavellistischen Tendenzen nutzen Selbstdarstellung, Selbstverherrlichung und Manipulation, um diese Ziele zu erreichen (Furtner et al., 2017). ...
... Manche Menschen streben in erster Linie nach Geld, Macht und Status (Furtner et al., 2017). Insbesondere Personen mit machiavellistischen Tendenzen nutzen Selbstdarstellung, Selbstverherrlichung und Manipulation, um diese Ziele zu erreichen (Furtner et al., 2017). Neben einer hohen Selbstkontrolle sind machiavellistische Personen Meister der Manipulation und haben einen kalten, berechnenden, langfristig orientierten und strategischen Stil (Furtner et al., 2017;Jones & Paulhus, 2009). ...
... Insbesondere Personen mit machiavellistischen Tendenzen nutzen Selbstdarstellung, Selbstverherrlichung und Manipulation, um diese Ziele zu erreichen (Furtner et al., 2017). Neben einer hohen Selbstkontrolle sind machiavellistische Personen Meister der Manipulation und haben einen kalten, berechnenden, langfristig orientierten und strategischen Stil (Furtner et al., 2017;Jones & Paulhus, 2009). Ihre Selbstentwicklung basiert ebenfalls auf ihrem Streben nach Geld, Macht und Status. ...
... In order to better understand the relationship between dark personality traits and work/organization-related outcomes, it is essential to take into account what is known about the "nature" of the so-called dark traits and "dark behaviors"-especially given that such behaviors can often be detected in leadership positions, constituting risk factors for both the well-being of employees and the organization as a whole [48]. While there are arguments supporting that some work-related behaviors are rolespecific and not indicative of the person's personality traits, research evidence also shows that, for example, adopting a callous and manipulative attitude at work can also be a state of mind far beyond a role-restricted behavior. ...
... A strong desire for power and the need to dominate others play a significant role in dark leadership [48]. Suessenbach et al. [73] introduced a taxonomy of reasons for power desire. ...
Full-text available
Individuals who score high on dark personality assessments are found in managerial positions and are more likely to get promoted. Congruently, abusive and toxic leadership is still tolerated in most industries; and many aspects of toxic organizational culture are maintained over time and interventions (e.g., bullying, employee silence). There is a gap in our understanding of how positive and negative elements of individuals interact in the workplaces. We review the existing evidence on how dark personality traits might be linked with positive and negative aspects of work-life and whether this evidence can help us answer the question how do dark personality traits help individuals get ahead at work? Finally, we propose implications for practice and directions for future research.
... According to Blickle et al. (2023), effective leadership is associated with moderate levels of narcissism, a conclusion that aligns with the research conducted by Grijalva et al. (2015). Furthermore, Furtner et al. (2017) have documented in their study that a positive correlation exists between narcissism and effective leadership. Singh and Pathardikar (2010) conducted a study that revealed that extroversion is considered the most crucial trait within the five-factor model. ...
The analysis of the relationship between personality traits and leadership effectiveness has been a central area of investigation within organizational psychology for an extended period. This review aims to examine the impact of fundamental personality traits on leadership effectiveness. Based on empirical findings derived from the Five-Factor Model (FFM), it has been observed that specific personality traits, namely conscientiousness and emotional stability, exhibit consistent associations with effective leadership behaviors. Conscientious leaders exhibit traits such as organization, diligence, and responsibility, which in turn contribute to enhanced decision-making capabilities and the successful execution of projects. Emotional stability enables leaders to effectively manage and navigate the various stressors encountered in the workplace, demonstrating composure and a clear understanding of the situation. Openness to experience, a personality trait identified in the Five-Factor Model (FFM), has the potential to facilitate innovative thinking and adaptability, both of which are crucial for effectively navigating the dynamic challenges of the business environment. Nevertheless, it is widely agreed upon that these characteristics hold significant value. Nonetheless, the ideal equilibrium of these traits differs depending on the specific circumstances, sectors, and societal norms. There is also evidence from research suggesting that situational factors and individual experiences may moderate the influence of personality. In summary, personality traits are a fundamental framework for assessing leadership potential. However, it is essential to recognize that the expression and influence of these traits are complex and varied, thus necessitating a comprehensive approach to cultivating leadership skills. This systematic review aims to compile a comprehensive body of evidence spanning thirteen years, focusing on the impact of personality traits on leadership performance. The study examines various personality traits, including extroversion, approachability, receptivity to new experiences, neuroticism, conscientiousness, narcissism, honesty-humility, approach to risk, and tolerance of ambiguity. A significant positive correlation was observed between effectiveness and all traits mentioned above except neuroticism and, in certain instances, narcissism. The results of our study can serve as a basis for future investigations in this field.
... Dette bidrar til at alle som arbeider med rekruttering og seleksjon av ledere har en meget ansvarsfull og utfordrende oppgave. Furtner et al. (2017) hevder at forskningen innen ledelse i lang tid har tatt utgangspunkt i for romantiserte og idealiserte former for ledelse som eksempelvis transformasjons-, «empowering», autentisk og etisk lederskap. I de senere år har forskning rundt den mørke triaden blitt viet større oppmerksomhet (Krasikova et al., 2013;Schyns & Schilling, 2013). ...
... The illustrative terms used to describe themdeviant, aberrant, and toxic -often serve as a boundary. As a result, organizational researchers are becoming increasingly interested in the dark triad personality and its links to leadership and more recently there have been requests for more dark triad personality studies to help us comprehend leadership and leader derailment (e.g., Furtner et al, 2017;Judge et al., 2009). While it is undoubtedly true that human nature has an evil side, and the Dark Triad literature has made significant contributions to our knowledge of this part of mankind, research has also thoroughly demonstrated the positive, growth-oriented, and benevolent side of individuals (e.g., Kaufman, 2019;Seligman, 2012). ...
Full-text available
Leaders may have characteristics of the dark triad that is divided into Narcissism, Machiavellianism, and Psychopathy. These individuals are typically considered dominant and assertive, ingredients that are argued to be associated with good leadership. Other leaders are associated with the light triad and have characteristics based on Kantianism, Humanism, and Faith in Humanity. Thus, the following problem arises: What characteristics of Dark Triad Versus Light Triad could be suitable to classify good leaders? To answer this problem, it was set the objective of mapping, in the light of the bibliometric review, which characteristics of Dark Triad Versus Light Triad could be suitable for this classification. For that, a bibliometric search was performed in the Web of Science database. The results of the current study suggest that the Dark Triad versus Light Triad personality traits might be used to classify good leaders because they can provide a precise and objective evaluation of the individual and a more precise understanding of what it takes to be a good leader. Resumo: Os líderes podem possuir características da "Dark Triad" que se divide em Narcisismo, Maquiavelismo e Psicopatia. Essas pessoas são normalmente consideradas dominantes e assertivas, ingredientes estes que podem estar associados a uma boa liderança. Outros líderes são associados à "Light Triad" pois possuem características baseadas no Kantismo, Humanismo e Fé na Humanidade. Assim, surge o seguinte problema: Que características da "Dark Triad" versus "Light Triad" poderiam ser adequadas para classificar os bons líderes? Para responder a esse problema, foi traçado o objetivo de mapear, à luz da revisão bibliométrica, as características da "Dark Triad" Versus "Light Triad" que poderiam ser adequadas para esta classificação. Para tal, foi realizada uma pesquisa bibliométrica na base de dados Web of Science. Os resultados da investigação, sugeriram que os traços de personalidade Dark Triad versus Light Triad podem ser usados para classificar bons líderes porque estes podem fornecer uma avaliação precisa e objetiva do indivíduo e uma compreensão mais precisa acerca do que é necessário para ser um bom líder.
... Psychopaths differ from narcissists and Machiavellians where these individuals lack a conscience (Kipfelsberger & Kark, 2018) and are devoid of feelings of shame, guilt or remorse (Kets de Vries, 2012). According to Furtner et al. (2017), psychopathy is strongly associated with bullying behaviours in contrast to Machiavellianism and narcissism. Furthermore, Mathieu and Babiak (2016:105) confirmed that 'leaders with psychopathic traits are inclined to abusive supervision', which negatively influences employees' job satisfaction and increases turnover intentions. ...
Full-text available
Orientation: There is a growing body of knowledge on the role of human resource (HR) professionals in workplace bullying, but their role in perpetuating a toxic leadership culture in organisations remains unscrutinised. Human resource professionals are uniquely positioned to influence toxic leadership styles as they are required to cultivate and sustain the organisational leadership culture.Research purpose: The aim of this study was to identify gaps in HR practices that could contribute to toxic leadership in organisations.Motivation of the study: The inherent role conflict of the HR professional and competing demands from organisational stakeholders are likely to create toxic outcomes.Research approach/design and method: A phenomenological study was carried out at a South African organisation to gain insight into the practices of HR professionals. Data were collected using semi-structured interviews and the key findings of the study were identified through a thematic analysis.Main findings: Three themes emerged that contribute to creating gaps in HR practices that support toxic leadership: toxic HR practices, challenges faced by HR professionals and business results at any cost.Practical/managerial implications: The findings suggest a need to alleviate the inherent role conflict experienced by HR professionals, so that their contributions to toxic leadership are minimised.Contribution/value-add: This study contributes to the literature on toxic leadership by expounding on the role of the human resources professionals (HRP) and gaps in their practices that contribute to toxic leadership. Suggested guidelines and recommendations are offered to address the gaps in HR practices.
Recently, much debate has occurred regarding Machiavelli’s standards for good leadership. Drawing on his unusually approving—but still understudied—treatment of Marcus Furius Camillus, a Roman general and ruler, this paper presents a new perspective on Machiavelli’s leadership teachings. It argues that the Machiavellian leader possesses a rare self-honesty that frees him from heroic visions of himself and, thus, from dangerous vanity and from vengefulness toward opponents. Although this leader is no altruist, then, he often benefits his people more effectively than other rulers can, for he views the needs of his state with clearer eyes. This complex outlook differs from the ones that most scholars have attributed to the Machiavellian leader. It also provides us with a nuanced framework for considering what qualities to look for in potential leaders today.
Abusive supervision is a widely-studied phenomenon experienced by a multitude of workers across organizations and occupations. It has typically been conceptualized as a chronic phenomenon with negative outcomes. However, preliminary evidence indicates that conceptualizing abusive supervision as constant may not be accurate, and that its outcomes may vary temporally. This study uses a within-person approach to capture the dynamic nature of abusive supervision and subordinate responses more fully. We surveyed 102 full-time employees from the U.S. who responded to 932 daily surveys assessing personality, workplace behaviors, and justice perceptions. Daily abuse led to lower perceptions of justice and increased retaliation on the same day, but not the following days. Rather, employees who engaged in workplace deviance more often reported more abusive supervision, potentially as a justification for their behavior. Further, justice perceptions predicted increased reports of abuse, indicating that this may be a circular relationship instead of a unidirectional one. Finally, narcissism exacerbated the relationships explored. These results can be used to implement interventions directed at both supervisor behavior and subordinate perceptions and behaviors.
Full-text available
Posljednjih godina, među znanstvenicima, sve češće raste zanimanje za proučavanje loših odnosno mračnih ponašanja u organizacijskome okruženju. Jedna od zanimljivijih mračnih osobina je mračna trijada: narcizam, psihopatija i makijavelizam. Kada se promatraju učinkovitosti vodstva, uvijek se naglašavaju dobre osobine i crte ličnosti vođa. Unatoč sve većem interesu, postoji ograničen broj istraživanja koja se odnose na povezanost između mračne trijade i vodstva. Uspješno vodstvo nije jednoznačan pojam te niska razina mračnih osobina kod vođa može pridonijeti uspješnom vodstvu. U ovome će se radu najprije definirati pojam osobnosti s naglaskom na mračne osobnosti te će se uspoređivati s vodstvom u organizaciji. Stoga je glavni cilj ovoga rada bio ispitati jesu li mračne osobine ličnosti potrebne da bi se uspješno vodila organizacija. U svrhu istraživanja glavnoga cilja provedeno je ispitivanje putem anketnog upitnika i situacijskoga testiranja na malom uzorku menadžmenta izabranog poduzeća. Rezultati istraživanja pokazali su da mračna trijada ima negativnu korelaciju s dugoročnom uspješnošću vodstva u organizaciji. Kada se u obzir uzme kratak rok i mali postotak mračnih osobina, dobivamo pozitivne rezultate u uspješnosti vodstva.
Full-text available
Understanding the nature of ‘‘evil’’ has been challenging for a number of reasons. A productive psychological approach to this problem has been to study antisocial traits associated with negative outcomes. One such approach has grouped together three antisocial personalities known as the ‘‘Dark Triad’’: Machiavellianism, Narcissism, and Psychopathy. Researchers have proposed various models to account for the common core of these antisocial personalities – a core that might well be considered the psychological equivalent of the core of ‘‘evil’’ – and these models have not been directly compared, to date. We conducted two studies (total N > 700) to compare the utility of the various models using Canonical Correlation Analyses (CCAs). Results confirm that the HEXACO personality model (and, in particular, the Honesty–Humility factor) is not only the most theoretically parsimonious model, it also best accounts for the empirical overlap between these constructs that represents the core of the Dark Triad. Results also support the idea that the core of the Dark Triad represents an alternative life history strategy.
Full-text available
A broad, integrative theoretical framework for understanding the relationship between individual differences and various leader behaviors is presented; it proposes a new individual-differences construct called the motivation to lead (MTL). A large-scale study using 3 samples in different occupational and cultural contexts shows 3 factors underlying MTL, namely, affective-identity, noncalculative, and social-normative MTL. A parsimonious model of antecedents to MTL is developed through hierarchical regression modeling and is cross-validated using confirmatory latent variable modeling. MTL is shown to provide incremental validity over other predictors such as general cognitive ability, values, personality, and attitudes in the prediction of 2 behavioral measures of leadership potential. Findings are discussed with reference to the theoretical framework proposed for understanding individual differences in leader behavior.
Full-text available
The purpose of this article is to review literature that is relevant to the social scientific study of ethics and leadership, as well as outline areas for future study. We first discuss ethical leadership and then draw from emerging research on "dark side" organizational behavior to widen the boundaries of the review to include unethical leadership. Next, three emerging trends within the organizational behavior literature are proposed for a leadership and ethics research agenda: 1) emotions, 2) fit/congruence, and 3) identity/identification. We believe each shows promise in extending current thinking. The review closes with discussion of important issues that are relevant to the advancement of research on leadership and ethics.
Leaders play a pivotal role in organizations. In the present study, we investigated the role of leaders' Dark Triad traits (i.e., narcissism, psychopathy, and Machiavellianism) on employees' objective career success (i.e., salary and number of promotions) and subjective career success (i.e., career satisfaction). Further, we investigated how leaders' Dark Triad traits affect employees' well-being (i.e., emotional exhaustion and job satisfaction). In a longitudinal study with two measurement points and a time lag of 3 months, 811 employees from the private and public sector in Germany participated. Results from multiple regressions showed that leaders' Dark Triad traits had, depending on the specific Dark Triad trait, bright and dark sides for employees. Narcissism turned out to be the brightest Dark Triad trait with benefits for subordinates' objective and subjective career success, and with no adverse effects on subordinates' well-being. Extending previous research by investigating the link between leaders' Dark Triad traits on subordinates' outcomes, we found evidence for the assumption that Machiavellianism and psychopathy have detrimental effects, also when considering subordinates' career success and well-being. Implications for leadership and career research are derived.
This chapter provides an overview of life history theory (LHT). LHT conceptualizes specific allocation tradeoffs in terms of three broad, fundamental trade-offs: the present-future reproduction trade-off, the quantity-quality of offspring trade-off, and the tradeoff between mating effort and parenting effort. The chapter then considers specific applications of LHT to an understanding of the human life course. The topics concerning human life histories are the evolution of large brains, development and childhood, and aging. The chapter argues for ways in which LHT can and should be infused into evolutionary psychology. Over the past 40 years, evolutionary biology has witnessed a tremendous explosion in understanding of adaptations, particularly as they relate to behavior. A key foundation of these developments is economic cost-benefit analysis of selection pressures. LHT is not a particular domain of cost-benefit analysis; rather, it is a broad, overarching perspective within which understanding of adaptation must ultimately be situated.
Possessing subclinical psychopathic personality traits may provide a selective advantage in corporate environments. Known as ‘successful psychopaths’, these individuals often procure senior positions in respected companies. Prevalence of specific personality dispositions among leadership groups can promote a ‘corporate culture’ whereby subclinical psychopathic managers pressure their employees to embrace similar personality dispositions. As a result, these employees often demonstrate a greater vulnerability toward experiencing workplace psychological distress and developing a psychopathology. The current study aimed to examine the extent and effect of primary psychopathy in a major advertising agency. It was predicted that there would be greater levels of primary psychopathy in senior-level managers, and that this would result in their subordinate's decreased job satisfaction. Results indicated that greater levels of primary psychopathy were predominately observed within senior-level managers compared to the other corporate designations. Additionally, it was apparent that senior-level managers valued homogeneity in their subordinates' personality and behaviour, which were identified by high conformance and dependability ratings. However, the role of primary psychopathy in attenuating subordinate job satisfaction was less clear.
Recent discussions surrounding the Dark Triad (narcissism, psychopathy, and Machiavellianism) have centered on areas of distinctiveness and overlap. Given that interpersonal dysfunction is a core feature of Dark Triad traits, the current study uses self-report data from 562 undergraduate students to examine the interpersonal characteristics associated with narcissism, psychopathy, and Machiavellianism on four interpersonal circumplex (IPC) surfaces. The distinctiveness of these characteristics was examined using a novel bootstrapping methodology for computing confidence intervals around circumplex structural summary method parameters. Results suggest that Dark Triad traits exhibit distinct structural summary method parameters with narcissism characterized by high dominance, psychopathy characterized by a blend of high dominance and low affiliation, and Machiavellianism characterized by low affiliation on the problems, values, and efficacies IPC surfaces. Additionally, there was some heterogeneity in findings for different measures of psychopathy. Gender differences in structural summary parameters were examined, finding similar parameter values despite mean-level differences in Dark Triad traits. Finally, interpersonal information was integrated across different IPC surfaces to create profiles associated with each Dark Triad trait and to provide a more in-depth portrait of associated interpersonal dynamics.
The Dark Triad traits (i.e., psychopathy, narcissism, & Machiavellianism) have become a popular topic in personality psychology and in the media and may have important evolutionary significance. To provide new insight into the Dark Triad traits, we present four studies (N = 2506) with two measures of the Dark Triad traits, in two volunteer, one mTurk, and one American undergraduate sample using three frameworks of individual differences in psychogenic motives (i.e., achievement, power, and, affiliation). Although results were not fully robust to method and sampling variance, all three traits were associated with motivations towards trying to be dominant and powerful, but only narcissism was motivated by affiliation or intimacy needs. Sex differences in the Dark Triad traits were often accounted for by individual differences in the intimacy and power motives. The Discussion highlights the utility of evolutionary models to improve our understanding of the motivational systems “under the hood” of those characterized by the Dark Triad traits.