Are Psychopathic Leaders Effective or Harmful?

Jacqueline Marhefka over at I/O at Work published a plain-English summary of Shall We Serve the Dark Lords? A Meta-Analytic Review of Psychopathy and Leadership from the Journal of Applied Psychology.

The implicative segment of this paper’s title–Shall We Serve the Dark Lords?–proves that academics are neck-and-neck with craft breweries for the gold medal in the Silly Name Olympics. Seriously, Shall We Serve the Dark Lords? sounds like the kind of title a psychopath would come up with to try and trick non-psychopaths into falling in line.

“…results showed that psychopathic tendencies were weakly, negatively related to leadership effectiveness. This suggests that psychopathic leaders are fairly less likely to be effective leaders.

Jacqueline Marhefka, I/O at Work

This passage doesn’t make much sense to me. If psychopathic tendencies are weakly negatively correlated with leadership effectiveness, how can we say that psychopathic leaders are fairly less likely to be effective leaders?

My takeaway from the meta-analysis is that the fear of psychopaths in business is overblown. They’re only slightly more likely than non-psychopaths to become leaders in the first place. Further, when they do become leaders, they’re only slightly less effective than non-psychopaths.

Read Are Psychopathic Leaders Effective or Harmful? at I/O at Work and Shall We Serve the Dark Lords? A Meta-Analytic Review of Psychopathy and Leadership in the Journal of Applied Psychology.

About the Author

Ben Butina, Ph.D.
Dr. Butina, who hosts the Department 12 Podcast, is an industrial-organizational psychologist with interests in training, leadership development, talent management, and positive psychology in the workplace.

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