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3: Join the dark side?

There are good and bad leaders but also leaders with malevolent qualities that can have a terrible impact on the people around them, we call them dark leaders. What personality traits do they have? and what do we do about it? In this episode we learn how to identify dark leadership traits so that we can act on it and build a safe environment to keep away dark patterns.


  • Dark leadership

    • Important to distinguish between bad leadership and dark leadership.
      • Bad leadership is when the good things are not well implemented
      • Dark leadership is the bad things well implemented
  • What traits are common in dark leaders

    • Dark leaders have in common that they are selfish, emotionally cold, and manipulative, as well as striving for power and social dominance
    • They relentlessly and uncompromisingly pursue the goal of attaining powerful and prestigious leadership positions in organizations
    • In psychology, the term the dark triad describes three personality traits that come together in one person: narcissism, Machiavellianism, and psychopathy
      • narcissism is composed of grandiosity, perceived superiority and entitlement
      • Psychopathy is when someone is emotionally cold, remorseless and impulsive, and lack of empathy.
      • Machiavellianism manifests as being manipulative, self-centered and domineering. This person deceives and tricks others.

    Leaders might have some of these traits but it doesn’t make them dark leaders. Leadership positions might require a certain level of narcissism to survive.

  • What can we do?

    • Signs You May Be Dealing With A Dark Leader At Work

      • The person is overbearing, dominating and aggressive, and you can’t reason with them.
      • The person chases after a goal at all costs, regardless of sound advice against the endeavor.
      • The person harasses and demeans and is irrational in their treatment of their employees.
    • How To Identify Dark Leadership During The Interview Process (when you are interviewed)

      • Look at employee reviews, and notice if there is high employee turnover
      • Arrive a bit early, and observe — listen to the emotional tone and get a feel for the place. Do you hear laughter? Do you see smiles? What’s the body language? Trust your instincts.
      • Ask questions like
        • How long have you been with the company?
        • After we are finished, can you walk me around and introduce me to a few people here?
        • Do the leaders have an open-door policy?
        • Is the organization involved in any charity group?
  • Leadership tactics our personal goal as someone who leads is to create a safe environment where people can grow to develop into the best version of themselves. Kind of like building a safety net that says "go ahead, do your acrobatics, I got you

  • How do I do that?
    I build trust

    • I am curious and I listen to understand, no blame and no judgements allowed here
    • What I say is what I am, I own what I say and live up to it. If I don't believe it, I don't say it
    • I'm not a leader, I lead. This difference was drawn by Simon Sinek and I kind of liked it. A leader holds a position of power or authority, but those who lead inspire us.

    I challenge

    • Identify opportunities for the person = person's interest together with a company problem
    • I place myself as a compass, and not a GPS. The difference between guiding in the right direction and telling someone what to do.
    • I delegate making decisions as much as possible.

    I follow up

    • Recognise good work and efforts
    • Learn from mistakes
    • Ask for feedback and what can I do better