Fabian Hirose |  Management Consulting

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From dark to light: Managing the dark side of personality for effective leadership performance


Report by Dr Nadine,  Dr Sabine Bergner and Stefan Wills for Ashridge Executive Education at Hult International Business School. 

The impact of personality characteristics in the workplace is of great interest to leaders and followers and has thus been studied extensively for many years. Until recently, the focus of this work has been on ‘bright’ personality traits and how these impact organisational behaviour.

Recent incidents, such as the financial crises, however, have led to a change in focus and greater interest in the darker side of personality and its influence on workplace behaviour. Questions such as ‘if the bright traits positively impact leadership performance do the dark traits result in poorer leadership performance?’ or ‘does the dark side of personality accelerate career advancement?’ have become interesting.

The research presented in this report explores the impact of the dark traits of narcissism, Machiavellianism, and psychopathy on leadership performance. Additionally, the study also examines the reasons why a leader’s dark traits might impact leadership performance. More detailed, it explores the influence of the dark traits on leader-follower relationships, as one mechanism of action that shapes leadership performance. Furthermore, it investigates the role of similarity in leaders’ and followers’ personalities on relationship quality and thus investigates whether leaders have a better or worse relationship with followers who are similarly dark regarding their personality.

Download a copy of the free report here.