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Dark Leadership

November 26, 2011

Various “abstract” thoughts on “Dark Leadership”… Welcome your thoughts!

Individuals and Collectives: Self, Content, Form, and Context

Individually, I am my-self, you are your-self, she is her-self, he is him-self, and it is it-self. Collectively, we are our-selves (content) and they are them-selves (content). Among us is a context (inner), among them is a context (inner), and between us and them is a shared context (outer to us and them). In the shared context, we exhibit our form and they exhibit their form.

Self: Identity, Values, Cause, Observe, Orient, Decide, and Act

An individual self’s identity is defined by the self’s values (which give it meaning) and cause (which defines its purpose). A self observes its context, orients & decides based on its identity (values and cause), and acts within is context.

Selves: Relate, Behave, and Language

A collective (community) of selves relate to each other, behave (cooperate, coordinate, collaborate, co-create) with each other, and language (communicate and converse in conversation) each other.

Collectives: Uncertainty, Tension, Anchoring, Focal Points

Thriving on chaos in an age of discontinuity — where the past is plagued with incoherence & inconsistency, the present is plagued with chaos & ambiguity, and the future is plagued with unpredictability & uncertainty (turbulence, stress, disruption, etc.) — is Reality!

As this is the foundation of every context, tension (conflict) naturally emerges as selves relate, behave, and language; and selves confront these forces and tension (conflict) by anchoring around various focal points (Schelling points or social objects that foster the social construction of reality), which are reified as commitment (to shared values) and alignment (on shared causes), from which various collective selves (enterprises) emerge.

A collective self’s identity is defined by the shared values and shared causes of its constituent individual selves (within the context (inner) of the collective self).

As the constituent individual selves organize (form, storm, norm, and perform), they sustain their identity, engage each other in the negotiation of meaning (shared meaning), experience a sense of belonging (or not), and generate a shared repertoire. Fundamentally, engaging, experiencing, and generating involve relating, behaving, and languaging; and organizing is anchoring.

As the constituent individual selves engage, experience, and generate, they shape and are shaped by one another directly and indirectly. Direct shaping involves intrusively changing a self’s identity (values and cause) and indirect shaping involves non-intrusively changing a self’s identity (values and cause) by changing its context. Fundamentally, to lead (others) is to shape (their context) and to follow (another) is to be shaped (intrusively or non-intrusively); leading/leadership is shaping and following/followership is being shaped.

Human nature (and human beings as social animals) can generally be explored relative to two dimensions, a system dimension and a socio-cultural dimension, wherein individuals form collectives around a joint enterprise. Relationships, when formalized, establish the structure of the enterprise. Behaviors, when formalized, establish the processes of the enterprise. And language imbues the culture and sociality of the enterprise. The enterprise prospers if there is commitment to values (meaning) and alignment on a cause (purpose), thus, a meaningfully-purposeful enterprise within the context of an ecosystem.

Aspects, Dynamics, and Wholeness

Generally, every individual self is an aspect of one or more collective selves; the dynamics among aspects within a specific collective self cultivate the wholeness of that collective self; and ultimately, various collective selves form an ecosystem wherein they establish a context for one another.

Thrive: Vitality, Health, and Resilience

An individual self contributes its vitality (individual health) to every collective self of which it is an aspect. A collective self’s health is a function of the dynamics among its constituent individual selves as well as the dynamics among itself (the collective self) and its context. A collective self’s resilience is a function of the dynamics among itself (the collective self) and other collective selves within its context. A collective self will ultimately thrive or not given its context!

Fundamentally, thriving and high performance involves activating human vitality, fostering organizational health (performance and well-being), and ensuring marketplace resilience. Anything that inhibits thriving and high performance is a dysfunction!

Love: Intimacy, Passion, and Commitment

Love involves intimacy, passion, and commitment among selves. Intimacy among selves involves their connectedness (relationships). Passion among selves involves their drive or energy (vitality). Commitment among selves involves their short term decisions to be together and long term plans and accomplishments together.

Darkness: Narcissism, Machiavellianism, and Psychopathy

Darkness involves narcissism, Machiavellianism, and psychopathy. The Dark Triad, “a group of three personality traits,” involves these “theoretically distinct but empirically overlapping” constructs. See “The Dark Triad of personality: Narcissism, Machiavellianism, and psychopathy” for more information.

  • Narcissism involves an individual self (within a collective self) regarding/loving its own identity (values and cause) as more (or ultimately more) valuable than the identities of all other selves (within the collective self) such that it is willing to directly/intrusively/destructively (or non-intrusively) shape their identities to advance its own identity.
  • Machiavellianism involves an individual self (within a collective self) engaging, experiencing, generating, relating, behaving, and languaging so as to treat other selves (within the collective self) as means to an end.
  • Psychopathy involves an individual self (within a collective self) regarding/unloving the identities of all other selves (within the collective self) as less (or ultimately less) valuable than its own identity (values and cause) such that it is willing to directly/intrusively/destructively (or non-intrusively) shape their identities to advance its own identity.

Dark Leadership involves a self (within a collective self) who is narcissistic in valuing its identity, a psychopath in de-valuing the identity of other selves (within the collective self), and Machiavellian in actualizing its own identity through directly shaping the identity of other selves.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. November 27, 2011 10:11 am

    Good comments, Si. “Dark leadership” can refer to many things. At least one of them is “that which is hidden,” hence in the shadow. Our blind spots are in the darkness. Another meaning is destructive impulses, drives or thoughts. Interesting that you built the later into a triad.

  2. December 3, 2011 2:54 pm

    I am interested in the Dark Triad expressing itself in leadership that is de facto (they hold a leadership role on the leadership chart) vs. assumed leadership (an unconscientious, narcissistic, or manipulative personality). Do you see greater hope in the situation where the destructive Dark Triad types are not part of the formal hierarchical constructs of an enterprise, even though much of an organization’s socialization fixates on working around or through the irritating personality? Provided that the collective self of an enterprise recognizes and bands together to remediate, isolate, remove or neutralize the abusive personality, I feel that an organization can find equilibrium and alignment toward a meaningfully-purposed enterprise. The effectiveness of acting upon a non-hierarchical Dark Triad leader would be influenced strongly by the perceptions, permissiveness and passivity of the de facto leadership in relation to the assumed leader’s disruptive behaviors.

    However, if the de facto leader of an organization is a Dark Triad leader, what recourse does the collective self have in re-aligning the organization ad the meaningfully-purposed enterprise? What if the CEO is a Dark Triad type? Is there a recourse?

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