We’ve previously talked about the nature of a good leader. Oliver James has now related the Dark Triad of personalities to 3 types of boss: the psychopath, the Macchiavelli and the narcissist.
This is a little worrying. Particularly as it seems that any one of these types will probably manifest behaviours from the other two types as well. Let’s look at the first type, the psychopath. There are going to be elements of this profile that lend themselves well to being a good leader, being cunning and charming for example, and having the ability to be detached and remorseless. However most psychopaths are of average intelligence, are untruthful and unreliable, and display poor judgement as well as being pathologically egocentric. Not such great leadership behaviours.
What about the narcissist? Being conceited, argumentative and selfish don’t seem to put one in the front line for promotion to leadership. Neither does expecting constant praise and admiration or expressing disdain for those you believe to be lesser mortals than you. And as for Macchiavelli, well the man himself got on in life through his willingness and aptitude for deceit, manipulation and exploitation to gain and maintain power.
So why do our leaders exhibit these personality types? What is it that allows them to ‘get on’ and us to support them?
All three of these types are closely associated with charisma. Macchiavellians exercise control over close relations in order to achieve their aims and they gain popularity as a result of an ability to create a desirable image that is in fact distinct from who they are, but which appeals to others. Psychopaths are disarming and can seem to be fearlessly heroic which attracts others to them. David T. Lykken in his book ‘The Antisocial Personalities’ observed that Lyndon Baines Johnson and Winston Churchill were “daring, unconventional youngsters who began by playing by their own rules” before becoming successful leaders. Narcissistic leaders are dominant and self-confident with a sense of entitlement. Research done in Silicon Valley revealed that narcissistic business leaders there earned more and stayed in their jobs longer. Being action oriented and goal focused can be an appealing trait in a boss.
Whether or not we think Bill Gates, General Petraeus and Winston Churchill are examples of any of these personality types, we might be best served to look at what elements of their personalities have served us well, how those elements might be emulated and how they can inform us to recognise and nurture better leaders in the future. Lots of scope for innovative thinking there for leadership and management training! Meanwhile, if you fancy doing your own Meta Profile test, get in touch.