Best Leaders Tap the 'Dark Side'

Study finds that flawed personalities make for better leaders
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 21, 2010 11:28 AM CDT
Best Leaders Tap the 'Dark Side'
Unpleasant personality traits can make people better leaders, the researchers say.   (YouTube)

Positive personality traits like being outgoing and decisive are often touted as the right stuff for leaders, but being a jerk helps, too, according to a new study. Researchers followed 900 officer cadets at West Point over a 3-year period and found that so-called "dark side" personality traits like being petty, arrogant, and inflexible helped boost the cadets' leadership abilities, the Telegraph reports.

Earlier studies had established that positive traits made people more effective leaders, and the researchers say they were surprised by how important a role negative traits—including narcissism and being overly critical—played. "Assumptions about how these traits affected performance and development were mistaken," the study's author says. "It appears that even negative characteristics can be adaptive in particular settings or job roles," he says, though excessive amounts of the traits should be considered pathological, and could ultimately be career-ending, not enhancing.
(Read more leadership stories.)

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