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The Dark Triad Leaders – a danger or a prospect for the organization?

Updated: Nov 28, 2023

Barbara Maciejewska is the author of the article titled: The Dark Triad Leaders- a prospect for the organisation

Publicathion date : 26/08/2023

Have you ever heard about “dark triad personality”? It refers to three personality traits – narcissism, psychopathy, and Machiavellianism. Why are they called the “dark triad”? This is actually because of their negative and destructive outcomes. Let’s briefly define each psychological feature.

The dark triad triangle

What does “the dark triad” consist of?

● Narcissism

As most people think narcissism is characterized by supremacy, the seeking of admiration and attention from others. In other words, we are talking about self-love, high self-evaluation, and egocentrism. But also it involves defensiveness and hypersensitivity, which aren’t so obvious. To sum up, narcissism is associated with a highly exaggerated but also highly sensitive self-image and a desire for praise.

● Psychopathy

Psychopathy, on the other hand, has to do with low levels of empathy and responsibility, guiltlessness, and high levels of egocentricity and impulsivity. The person can present uncontrolled aggressive behaviors and seek thrilling feelings, and situations.

● Machiavellianism

This personality trait refers to the instrumental treatment of others to achieve goals and/or gain profits for oneself. To do that, people with a high level of this feature consciously manipulate others, using reckless and unethical behaviors in a self-serving manner. One of the profits one can seek is gaining and maintaining power.

To sum up, all three psychological traits partly overlap with each other. They include excessive self-interest, ruthless disregard for others, manipulative behavior, and emotional insouciance.

possibility to identify Dark Triad leader in job interviews

Is it possible to identify Dark Triad in a recruit?

Many assessments are looking for employees who score highly in attributes. They are precious and valuable to the role they are seeking to fill and the whole organization as well. The most popular measure to assess these traits is traditional self-reporting personality instruments. So, individuals respond to a series of statements related to their beliefs and attitudes. The gamble which has to be taken into account is that the respondent can surmise the goal of the questionnaire and intentionally distort his answers.

The alternative to the first way of assessment is using both psychological theory and data-driven methodologies. The aim of this is to detect and measure undesirable behaviors. This enables recruiters to calculate the likelihood that an applicant will exhibit certain hazardous personality traits. If something draws their attention, they can further verify during the job interview.

scam alert for the Dark triad leaders

Dark triad leader – (dis)advantages for the company

The leader who evinces dark triad attitudes might be seen as competent, likable, inspiring, and charismatic at first glance. They are valuable, especially in times of crisis and change when the decisions have to be made quickly. Narcissist leaders can be effective and thrive. Actually, Machiavellianism and psychopathic managers have good negotiation skills and are self-controlled. They are also able to draw upon their communication skills.

Seemingly all these pros of having dark triad leaders in the organization are useful and working just for a short period of time. At high levels of dark triad traits, the company runs the risk of these individuals cultivating a negative organizational climate. In addition, they are more likely to engage in unethical behaviors to achieve their goal (e.g. deceit, bully tactics, etc.)

Also, it can link to several negative outcomes in the working place. Some examples are poorer job performance from themselves and their subordinates, less ethical decisions, and low team morale. So, in a long time period, it is not beneficial for the organization to have this kind of a leader who manages the team.

bottom line on the paper

Bottom line: danger or a prospect for the organization?

Trying to answer the question in the title of this article, in my opinion, there is no good or correct answer. Some studies show that individuals with high dark triad tendencies are often in leadership positions. Additionally, they achieve valuable results (e.g. financial results) for the company. At this point, there is a question I would like to leave you with: What’s more important – the company’s good or employees' good? Circumstances alter cases…

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