Crazy Leadership Findings

Topic: Emotions at Work, Leadership, Personality
Publication: Personality and Individual Differences
Article: The “dark” side of leadership personality and transformational leadership: an exploratory study.
Blogger: LitDigger

Are you tired of all the literature linking narcissism to leadership?

Ready for a new spin? Well, buckle your safety belts and whirl around with me. A recent article by Khoo and Burch (2008) found some evidence linking a histrionic/colorful personality dimension to positively predict transformational leadership (which could be described as motivating followers to develop, perform, and reach above and beyond their goals).  The authors used the Hogan Development Survey (HDS) in their analysis, and overlapped HDS’s personality themes with personality disorders in the DSM-IV.  That’s how they got the “histrionic/colorful” dimension and terminology (the first term is from the
DSM-IV, and the second is from the HDS).

Hmmmmmm . . . So is this really true?!  Are people who demonstrate exaggerated emotionality, draw attention to themselves, overly dramatize most things, and enter and exit rooms like they’re the second coming actually more likely to be transformational leaders?  I challenge you now to think of someone you know with that type of personality I just described.  Now think of them leading a company.  A little bit frightening, isn’t it?

The authors also found that avoidant/cautious (characterized by social inhibition, for example) and narcissistic/bold (you know what this is; think Stephen Colbert) types were less likely to demonstrate transformational leadership.

So to all you Colbert-types out there: just because you are rating yourselves high on leadership doesn’t necessarily mean that other people rate you high on leadership.  (Food for thought that may not be all that appetizing.)

This study’s findings are interesting, but I’d like to see more research done on this topic before I decide how I feel about it.  In the meantime I’ll be sitting around wondering about how slight craziness may pay off if used in the right way.  Play the hand your dealt, I suppose?  I think many people would sooner change card games.

Khoo, H.S., Burch, G.S.J. (2008). The “dark” side of leadership personality and transformational leadership: an exploratory study. Personality and Individual  Differences, 44 (86-97).