Volume 65, August 2006: The Dark Side of Leadership

Keyzine: An E-zine for Leaders about the People Side of Business

This is a monthly electronic magazine for anyone who wants to be a better leader, coach, facilitator, or simply, to tune up their people skills. It is a complimentary publication, devoted to the next evolution of Quality Thinking.

Publisher: © Key Associates, LLC, 2006 ISSN # 1545-8873

“What management needs to do to motivate people is to stop demotivating them.” — W. Edwards Deming

“Ethics is all about spiritually healthy people in socially harmonious relationships.” — Tom Morris

“When did I make my greatest hiring mistake? When I put intelligence and energy ahead of morality.” — Michael Blumenthal, former CEO, Unisys

“Enough about me. Now let’s hear what you think about me.” — Cartoon portraying a narcissist


  • What’s Hot in Leadership
  • Maintaining Yourself as a Leader
  • Frequently Asked Questions from Leaders
  • Educational Opportunities
  • Useful Websites & Newsletters
  • Articles/Publications

What’s Hot in Leadership

  • Attending to your own mental health and emotional stability.
  • Knowing your strengths and surrounding yourself with leaders who augment these abilities and offset your weaknesses.
  • Seeking credible feedback, for the purpose of improving.
  • Self improvement, period.

Maintaining Yourself as a Leader

In earlier issues, we have examined the qualities of the new leader: Steward, Systems Thinker, Learner, Visionary, Values-driven, Humanistic, a Coach/Mentor, Teacher. Yet many leaders stumble, even if they possess these traits, due to negative qualities – e.g., they are impatient, manipulative, egocentric, dominating, or critical of others. They are often loners, who do not understand the importance of relationships, nor do they know how to build and maintain them. Teamwork suffers. But the numbers (financials) are often good. If this describes you, please get help – coaching, counseling, training. Seek feedback from credible sources, then do not kill the messenger. And surround yourself with supervisors who are "people" persons, then don’t disempower them.

Frequently Asked Questions

“How do we prevent hiring "bad" leaders?”
Hire mainly for leadership skills – not just technical skill and business knowledge. The interview is critical. Narcissists and psychopaths interview well. Likeability is the poorest predictor of leadership ability and the best predictor of getting hired. Look instead for candidates who are emotionally well-adjusted. Kouzes & Posner (2003) describe the virtues of a good leader from the perspective of those led:
  • Integrity
  • Decisiveness
  • Competence

We rarely assess evidence of the first two qualities. Consider consulting former direct reports, not the HR department. Yet Hogan & Kaiser (2005) tell us that failure to hire well has less to do with the lack of good qualities than the presence of undesirable ones. Read on …

“Are there tools that help screen out candidates with undesirable qualities?”
Yes, I’ve learned of an instrument. Hogan & Hogan (1997) have developed an inventory of the 11 key dimensions of the dark side, using the DSM-IV Axis II personality disorders as a guide. It does require their certification and licensure to administer. Neither high scores nor low scores on the dimensions below are desirable.
Dimension Axis II Disorder
Excitable Borderline (emotional outbursts, volatility)
Cautious Avoidant
Skeptical Paranoid
Reserved Schizoid (poor communicator, insensitive)
Leisurely Passive-aggressive
Bold Narcissistic (unable to admit mistakes)
Mischievous Antisocial/psychopathic (bright, manipulative, deceitful, cunning, exploitive)
Colorful Histrionic (impulsive, attention-seeking, manages by crisis)
Imaginative Schizotypal (over-the-top visioning, erratic decision-making)
Diligent Obsessive-compulsive (intolerant, over-controlling)
Dutiful Dependent (indecisive, too concerned about pleasing others)

p. 71, Hogan & Kaiser, 2005.

“Our CEO is an aloof micromanager. And this is not the first leader I’ve seen who is like this.”
Studies give estimates that 50 to 70 or 75% of leaders are loners – they tend to be independent cowboys (Hagberg, 1966). They have a high need for autonomy and like to be in control. As a result, they are poor communicators (exactly what a leader most needs to be – a communicator). In advanced stages, this egocentricity and self-importance keeps them from hearing feedback and being objective about their strengths and weaknesses. Since the world does not exist beyond them, they create a “survival of the fittest ” culture.
“I am afraid of the reception I will get, if I point out that our "emperor has no clothes.”
Reasonably so. Be wary. Ask, “If I knew something that could help you be more successful, would you like to hear it?” Await clearance. Actually, this is why consultants are often called in. Chris Argyris(1991) talks about how difficult it is for smart people to learn. They get into “Defensive Reasoning,” wherein it is more important to appear to “be right” and to point the blame in another direction. They need to learn the same skills that effective organizations use: collect data, analyze it and test inferences. Top-level managers must first learn to change their defensive behavior, and learn how to learn.
“All of us make mistakes. Does this make us bad leaders?”
Stephen Covey (1992) speaks of leaders trying to talk themselves out of things they behaved themselves into. Better to own it and apologize when you make a mistake, then try to set if on the right path. Don’t duck it. If you have broken an agreement, remake one you can keep.


Interview with Harvard professors. Ronald A. Heifetz and Marty Linsky on the dark side of leadership and change: The Dark Side of Leadership.

Keyzines on related topics: Leadership, Trust & Integrity, Dealing with Difficult People, When Enough is Not Enough, and Ethics.

Useful Websites & Newsletters

Video, white paper, 12 checkpoints for making the right decision: Hogan Assessment Systems.

Employee Assessment Consultants.

Tom Heuerman has ezines related to the dark side of leadership: Twelve steps for Leaders, Old Villains and New Heroes, Hollow Men, and Ethical Leadership.

Key Associates offers

  • Leadership Development
  • Executive Interviews/Assessments
  • On-Site Training


  • Argyris, Chris. “Teaching Smart People How to Learn.” Harvard Business Review, May-June, 1991, 99-109.
  • Covey, Stephen R. Principle-Centered Leadership. Free Press, 1992.
  • Hagberg, Richard interviewed by Linda Grant, “Rambos in Pinstripes: Why So Many CEOs are Lousy Leaders,” Fortune,June 4, 1996, 147.
  • Hogan, R. & Hogan, B. Hogan Development Survey Manual. Tulsa, OK: Hogan Assessment Systems, 1997.
  • Hogan, Robert & Kaiser, Robert B. “What We Know About Leadership,” Review of General Psychology, 2005, 9(2), 169-180.
  • Kouzes, James M. & Posner, Barry Z. The Leadership Challenge. Jossey-Bass, 2003.
  • Kouzes, James M. & Posner, Barry Z. Credibility: How Leaders Gain and Lose It, Why People Demand It. Jossey-Bass, 2003.


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