The Dark Side of Managerial Success

When people in leadership positions focus more on getting promoted than on getting things done, they may possess characteristics of the “dark triad.”   In being successful only for themselves, earning promotions by networking and engaging in office politics, they may have little regard for the health of the organization they work for, or for the people who work for them.

Narcissists, Machiavellians, and psychopaths make up the dark triad, and Daniel Goleman devotes a chapter to those personality traits in his book Social Intelligence (Bantam Books, 2006). He also talks about healthy narcissism as having “confidence appropriate to [her] level of talent—an essential ingredient for success.” As far as Machiavellians and psychopaths having a “healthy” side…not so much! Their biggest lack seems to be one of empathy.

What does it take to be effective AND successful? It has a lot to do with emotional intelligence competencies.

More than the threshold competencies of IQ and job skills, to be both effective and successful also requires distinguishing competencies, in both self-management and relationship management. On the “self” side these are emotional self-awareness, emotional self-control, adaptability, achievement orientation, and a positive outlook. And on the relationship side we find influence, coaching and mentoring, inspirational leadership, conflict management, teamwork, empathy and organizational awareness.

A healthy narcissist can manage these traits and characteristics effectively without going over to the dark side, but without empathy, the Machiavellian and psychopath cannot.

So what do you think? Which of the distinguishing characteristics would you assign to your favorite supervisor and how were they manifested? And how about a supervisor you weren’t as fond of? Which characteristics were/are missing? And what did/does that look like in your workplace? Even more important, what is the impact on your day-to-day happiness and satisfaction @ work?

If you supervise others, which of the distinguishing characteristics would you like to work on for yourself?