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Psychopathy and leadership effectiveness: Conceptualizing and testing three models of successful psychopathy

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Research on the relationship between psychopathy and leadership effectiveness has adopted very different perspectives on psychopathy. To advance this field of research, the current paper introduces an overarching framework of “successful psychopathy” (Lilienfeld et al., 2015) to the leadership domain, comprising three conceptual models (the differential-severity model, the moderated-expression model, and the differential-configuration model) and their “hybrid” forms, which are combinations of two or three models. We test the three alternative conceptual models and four hybrid models in two independent samples of leader-subordinate dyads (N1 = 178 and N2 = 668) whereby leaders’ self-reported psychopathy is related to a range of subordinate-rated effectiveness criteria, including three performance dimensions and charismatic leadership. A recurrent pattern of findings across both studies provides evidence for differential effects for the various psychopathy subdimensions, whereas little support was found for the models assuming curvilinear and/or moderated effects. Implications for research on leader psychopathy are discussed.
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... In parallel with the aforementioned leadership research literature, there has been research into the prevalence of seriously destructive leadership malpractice from a psychological perspective inclusive of psychopathy (Barelds, Wisse, Sanders & Laurijissen, 2018;Landay, Harms & Credé, 2019;Mathieu, Neumann, Hare, & Babiak, 2014;Vergauwe et al., 2021), narcissism (Erkutlu & Chafra, 2017;Fatfouta, 2019) and megalomania (Seifried, 2018;Seifried, Katz, & Pfleegor, 2015). Psychopathy is a clinical construct defined by a cluster of personality traits and characteristics including grandiosity, egocentricity, deceptiveness, shallow emotions, lack of empathy or remorse, irresponsibility, impulsivity, and a tendency to ignore or violate social norms (Mathieu et al., 2014). ...
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