Leadership in organizations can often be dark and destructive. Utilizing a so-called trait approach is particularly helpful in understanding destructive leaders. Such leaders share common personality traits, notably including narcissism, hubris and Machiavellianism.
When individuals engage in destructive leadership behaviors, this can lead to mistakes within the organization and, ultimately, the leader derails. This dossier describes leadership incompetence and derailment and focuses on the root causes of why leadership fails through an examination of traits and behaviors that describe leadership incompetence and derailment.
In recent years, there has been a focus on the destructive side of leadership and how dysfunctional leaders can undermine an organization’s value. In fact, empirical research has focused on the personality characteristics of flawed leaders and have pointed to negative personality traits as predictors of leadership derailment (Hogan & Hogan, 2001; Kippenberger, 1997). There appear to be several personality traits that are related to leader failure yet the three that are consistent across all studies are narcissism, psychopathy, and Machiavellianism, referred to as the “Dark Triad” (Paulhus & Williams, 2002).
When we speak informally about an individual’s personality, we may be referring to any number of qualities, from their temperament to their sense of humor, even the kind of media they like. However, in the social sciences, the study of personality focuses on enduring, reliable traits about a person that can be measured, and which are useful in predicting behavior (Saucier & Srivastra, 2015). The leading perspective on personality within the social sciences is the Five Factor Model, or the “Big Five”, which describes individuals in terms of their openness to experience, conscientiousness, agreeability, extroversion, and neuroticism.
Most of the research on leader effectiveness has focused on the positive side of leader behavior. However, there is evidence that toxic leaders can seriously undermine organizational life through creating a climate of intolerance and incivility. This CQ Dossier describes toxic leadership and how this negative form of leadership can disrupt effective performance management.