The Dark Side of Leadership Part 2

A few years back, in an earlier post entitled the Dark Side of Leadership, I discussed the responsibility that comes with being a leader that might test the resolve of some individuals. For example, terminating employees because the company is underperforming can be a stressful but necessary task that leaders are expected to do. Although this may not be deemed unethical, there is still an element of discomfort that exists. Today I want to shift the focus towards things that leaders do both intentionally and unintentionally that lead to poor decision making and occurrences of unethical behavior.

1) Leading autocratically:

Whenever you begin to believe you know it all, that is when you know absolutely nothing. Over time when those around you want to impress you, it can be easy to believe you are the end all be all. What might happen is that you begin to depend less on your team for solutions and lead by making all the decisions. This type of thinking can backfire as you lose the innovation that comes with having multiple perspectives to address challenges. Also, to make matters worse, when you do not engage your employees or consider their ideas, they will allow you to bask in your ignorance. You will truly know nothing when you try to direct everything, because your employees will no longer communicate important information to you from the trenches.

2) Not articulating codes of ethics:

Employees’ values differ based on differences in culture, beliefs, religion, even by industry. Leaders cannot assume everyone in the organization is on same page ethically. You have to articulate what you and your organization value in order to see those values show up in your employees. You must also scrutinize what behaviors are rewarded and how they are rewarded. The behaviors that receive attention are the ones that will be repeated, ultimately determining how your employees behave and perform. If you do not represent the values of your organization, then overtime it may be difficult to harness unethical behavior when it occurs.

3) Just being kind of “crazy”:

Recently, some researchers have found that some leaders may possess trait characteristics similar to psychopaths in the clinical sense. A study found that found that 8 out of 200 high-level executives had scores that exceeded the psychopathic threshold used in the criminal justice system. Individuals who fit this mold exhibit a higher degree of risk-taking, do not sense empathy like most other people, and use manipulation in the relationships they have. So if you think your boss is crazy, there is 4% chance you could be right.


Dr. Jason R. Lambert is a cofounder at, and a researcher, writer, and business professor whose research examines the impact of individual differences on organizational outcomes. His work has been presented at both regional and international conferences and in scholarly journals. His professional career spans 10 years in managerial roles in the private, public, and nonprofit sectors.

He can be contacted at or through his website at

Share, like, comment below, and follow if you enjoyed this post.

A Tip for the New Manager

So you got that new promotion? Congratulations. Now what? If you are like most newly promoted managers, you are excited, proud, but also a bit nervous about your new role. They say that with great power comes great responsibility. That is very true. But for such a great role, most managers use guess work, intuition, and heuristics because many companies do not train you to become a manager.  As a matter of fact approximately 80% of training occurs while on the job and is informal. You may have been the best employee, but employees and managers are not the same and should not function the same. That transition is very difficult for most because much of what you learn about leadership and management can often time be sugar coated and may not prepare you well. For example, a challenge to overcome that is rarely discussed is when your new workforce may have already made up their minds about you before you even start.

On your first day there will be employees that already hate you and employees that are hoping you will be their salvation and will love you before they even meet you. Why? They may love you because their old manager was so terrible that any replacement would be better. Maybe he or she was a poor leader or incompetent. Others will hate you before they even get to know you because many individuals fear change and the unknown. Or, they may have been comfortable with the old boss, or even liked the old boss. Maybe your new colleagues wanted your position.

Understanding why your employees may love or hate you is important to know how to move forward.  So, how do you manage employees who view you differently? Many new managers have a view that either they believe they should get their employees to like them or fear them. Both are bad ideas. The key is to earn respect. That way, regardless of whether employees like you or not, you can properly motivate them. In Dr. Amy Cuddy’s book “Presence” found here on my reading list, she discusses her research that shows that when meeting people for the first time we ask two questions: 1) Can I trust this person? and 2) Is this person competent? These two perceived characteristics about individuals allow them to have influence over others. In other words trust and competence equals respect. This explains why leaders may not be liked but are still rated as good leaders. It is because they are perceived to be trustworthy and competent. Think of it analogous to that friend of yours that some dislike coming around, but that person has had your back since grade school and you know without a doubt they will continue to have your back, and are also capable of having your back. You trust those individuals and will reciprocate their help. We do not have to like our leaders to follow them so long as we trust them and they perform.

So how do we earn respect? Research tells us that trust is perceived by employees when certain factors are in place. Competency is exemplified by how you interact with employees. Are you assisting them in ways to help them perform their jobs better? Are offering advice and feedback?  Do you facilitate opportunities for them to receive, training and opening channels for them to be engaged? At one of my old positions as a supervisor (in my early days before entering Higher Education) my evaluation scores from my subordinates increased just by incorporating a time during our meetings for them to share an idea or something they learned about our work since the last meeting. There are many simple ways to engage your employees to gain the trust and perception of competency that leads to respect. So only after you have built a foundation for respect you can begin to lead.

Like, follow and share this post by clicking below.

Do the same at


Dr. J