The Dark Side of Leadership

  • Bekir Emre Kurtulmuş


This chapter solely focuses on what may be termed the dark side of leadership. The term simultaneously encapsulates traits which can be described as toxic, destructive, evil abusive and aimed at derailing leadership. These terms all describe negative leadership practices and their impact on people and organizations. No matter how it is described, the dark side of leadership has a very strong impact both on organizations and employees. The relationship between dark leadership and organizations is complicated, and involves various factors such as context, environment and the personal nature of individuals. In this chapter there are two main focuses: the dark leadership concept explained from a leadership perspective and the relationship between dark leaders, organizations and employees.


Leadership The dark side of leadership Destructive leadership Employees and leadership theories 


  1. Adams, A. (2014). Bullying at work: How to confront and overcome it. London: Virago.Google Scholar
  2. Ashforth, B. (1994). Petty tyranny in organizations. Human Relations, 47(7), 755–778.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Avolio, B. J., Reichard, R. J., Hannah, S. T., Walumbwa, F. O., & Chan, A. (2009). A meta-analytic review of leadership impact research: Experimental and quasi-experimental studies. The Leadership Quarterly, 20(5), 764–784.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Babiak, P., & Hare, R. (2006). Snakes in suits. New York: HarperCollins Publisher.Google Scholar
  5. Bass, B. M., & Steidlmeier, P. (1999). Ethics, character, and authentic transformational leadership behavior. The Leadership Quarterly, 10(2), 181–217.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bigelow, B. A., Boulamatsi, A., Dimotakis, N. E., Krasikova, D., & Scott, K. L. (2017). Understanding when and how the dark side of leadership is destructive. Academy of Management Proceedings, 2017(1), 14805 Briarcliff Manor, NY 10510: Academy of Management.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bligh, M. C., Kohles, J. C., Pearce, C. L., Justin, J. E., & Stovall, J. F. (2007). When the romance is over: Follower perspectives of aversive leadership. Applied Psychology, 56(4), 528–557.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Boddy, C. R., Ladyshewsky, R., & Galvin, P. (2010). Leaders without ethics in global business: Corporate psychopaths. Journal of Public Affairs, 10(3), 121–138.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Bolden, R. (2004). What is leadership? Leadership south west research report. Exeter: Centre for Leadership Studies.Google Scholar
  10. Burke, R. J. (2017). Toxic leaders: Exploring the dark side. Effective Executive, 20(1), 10–14.Google Scholar
  11. Carson, M. A., Shanock, L. R., Heggestad, E. D., Andrew, A. M., Pugh, S. D., & Walter, M. (2012). The relationship between dysfunctional interpersonal tendencies, derailment potential behavior, and turnover. Journal of Business and Psychology, 27(3), 291–304.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Clements, C., & Washbush, J. B. (1999). The two faces of leadership: Considering the dark side of leader-follower dynamics. Journal of Workplace Learning, 11(5), 170–176.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Conger, J. A. (1990). The dark side of leadership. Organizational Dynamics, 19(2), 44–55.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Conger, J. A. (1998). The dark side of leadership. In G. R. Hickman (Ed.), Leading organizations: Perspectives for a new era. Thousand Oaks: Sage.Google Scholar
  15. Cropanzano, R., Dasborough, M. T., & Weiss, H. M. (2017). Affective events and the development of leader-member exchange. Academy of Management Review, 42(2), 233–258.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Cruickshank, A., & Collins, D. (2015). Illuminating and applying “the dark side”: Insights from elite team leaders. Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, 27(3), 249–267.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Effelsberg, D., Solga, M., & Gurt, J. (2014). Transformational leadership and follower’s unethical behavior for the benefit of the company: A two-study investigation. Journal of Business Ethics, 120(1), 81–93.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Einarsen, S., Hoel, H., Zapf, D., & Cooper, C. L. (2003). The concept of bullying at work: The European tradition. In S. Einarsen, H. Hoel, D. Zapf, & C. L. Cooper (Eds.), Bullying and emotional abuse in the workplace. International perspectives in research and practice (pp. 3–30). London: Taylor & Francis.Google Scholar
  19. Einarsen, S., Aasland, M. S., & Skogstad, A. (2007). Destructive leadership behaviour: A definition and conceptual model. The Leadership Quarterly, 18(3), 207–216.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Einarsen, S., Skogstad, A., & Aasland, M. S. (2010). The nature, prevalence, and outcomes of destructive leadership – A behavioral and conglomerate approach. In B. Schyns & T. Hansborough (Eds.), When leadership goes wrong: Destructive leadership, mistakes and ethical failures (pp. 145–171). Chicago: Information Age Publishing.Google Scholar
  21. Ferris, G. R., Zinko, R., Brouer, R. L., Buckley, M. R., & Harvey, M. G. (2007). Strategic bullying as a supplementary, balanced perspective on destructive leadership. The Leadership Quarterly, 18(3), 195–206.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. French, J. R., & Raven, B. (1959). The bases of social power. In D. Cartwright (Ed.), Studies in social power (pp. 150–167). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  23. Furnham, A. (2010). The elephant in the boardroom. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Furnham, A., Richards, S. C., & Paulhus, D. L. (2013). The dark triad of personality: A 10 year review. Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 7(3), 199–216.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Gill, R. (2011). Theory and practice of leadership. Thousand Oaks: Sage.Google Scholar
  26. Herbst, T. (2014). The dark side of leadership. Bloomington: Author House.Google Scholar
  27. Higgs, M. (2009). The good, the bad and the ugly: Leadership and narcissism. Journal of Change Management, 9(2), 165–178.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Hogan, R. (2007). Personality and the fate of organizations. Mahwah: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Publishers.Google Scholar
  29. Hogan, R., & Kaiser, R. B. (2005). What we know about leadership. Review of General Psychology, 9(2), 169–180.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Holten, A. L., & Bøllingtoft, A. (2015). Is it only good? The dark side of leadership for creativity and innovation. Journal of Leadership Studies, 9(3), 50–52.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. House, R. J., & Aditya, R. N. (1997). The social scientific study of leadership: Quo vadis? Journal of Management, 23(3), 409–473.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Howell, J. M., & Shamir, B. (2005). The role of followers in the charismatic leadership process: Relationships and their consequences. Academy of Management Review, 30(1), 96–112.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Johns, H. E., & Moser, H. R. (1989). From trait to transformation: The evolution of leadership theories. Education, 110(1), 115–122.Google Scholar
  34. Jonason, P. K., Slomski, S., & Partyka, J. (2012). The dark triad at work: How toxic employees get their way. Personality and Individual Differences, 52(3), 449–453.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Judge, T. A., Piccolo, R. F., & Kosalka, T. (2009). The bright and dark sides of leader traits: A review and theoretical extension of the leader trait paradigm. The Leadership Quarterly, 20(6), 855–875.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Katz, D., & Kahn, R. L. (1978). The social psychology of organizations. New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
  37. Kellerman, B. (2004). Thinking about... Leadership. Warts and all. Harvard Business Review, 82(1), 40–45.Google Scholar
  38. Krasikova, D. V., Green, S. G., & LeBreton, J. M. (2013). Destructive leadership: A theoretical review, integration, and future research agenda. Journal of Management, 39(5), 1308–1338.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Landis, E. A., Hill, D., & Harvey, M. R. (2014). A synthesis of leadership theories and styles. Journal of Management Policy and Practice, 15(2), 97–100.Google Scholar
  40. Linstead, S., Maréchal, G., & Griffin, R. W. (2014). Theorizing and researching the dark side of organization. Organization Studies, 35(2), 165–188.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Lipman-Blumen, J. (2005). The allure of toxic leaders: Why we follow destructive bosses and corrupt politicians-and how we can survive them. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  42. Liu, D., Liao, H., & Loi, R. (2012). The dark side of leadership: A three-level investigation of the cascading effect of abusive supervision on employee creativity. Academy of Management Journal, 55(5), 1187–1212.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Martin, R., Guillaume, Y., Thomas, G., Lee, A., & Epitropaki, O. (2016). Leader–member exchange (LMX) and performance: A meta-analytic review. Personnel Psychology, 69(1), 67–121.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. McIntosh, G. L., & Samuel Sr., D. (2007). Overcoming the dark side of leadership: The paradox of personal dysfunction. Ada: Baker Books.Google Scholar
  45. Mitchell, M. S., & Ambrose, M. L. (2007). Abusive supervision and workplace deviance and the moderating effects of negative reciprocity beliefs. Journal of Applied Psychology, 92(4), 1159–1168.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Murray, D., & Chua, S. (2015). What is leadership? In I. O’Boyle, D. Murray, & D. Cummins (Eds.), Leadership in sport. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  47. Northouse, P. G. (2004). Leadership: Theory and practice (3rd ed.). London: Sage.Google Scholar
  48. Notelaers, G., Einarsen, S., De Witte, H., & Vermunt, J. K. (2006). Measuring exposure to bullying at work: The validity and advantages of the latent class cluster approach. Work & Stress, 20(4), 289–302.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Padilla, A., Hogan, R., & Kaiser, R. B. (2007). The toxic triangle: Destructive leaders, susceptible followers, and conducive environments. The Leadership Quarterly, 18(3), 176–194.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Paulhus, D. L., & Williams, K. M. (2002). The dark triad of personality: Narcissism, Machiavellianism, and psychopathy. Journal of Research in Personality, 36(6), 556–563.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Paulhus, D. L., Westlake, B. G., Calvez, S. S., & Harms, P. D. (2013). Self-presentation style in job interviews: The role of personality and culture. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 43(10), 2042–2059.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Spain, S. M., Harms, P. D., & Wood, D. (2016). Stress, well-being, and the dark side of leadership. In W. A. Gentry, C. Clerkin, P. L. Perrewé, J. R. B. Halbesleben, & C. C. Rosen (Eds.), The role of leadership in occupational stress (pp. 33–59). Bingley: Emerald Group Publishing Limited.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Tepper, B. J. (2000). Consequences of abusive supervision. Academy of Management Journal, 43(2), 178–190.Google Scholar
  54. Tourish, D. (2013). The dark side of transformational leadership: A critical perspective. London: Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Umphress, E. E., Bingham, J. B., & Mitchell, M. S. (2010). Unethical behavior in the name of the company: The moderating effect of organizational identification and positive reciprocity beliefs on unethical pro-organizational behavior. Journal of Applied Psychology, 95(4), 769–780.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Vecchio, R. (2005). Explorations in employee envy: Feeling envious and feeling envied. Cognition & Emotion, 19(1), 69–81.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Volmer, J., Koch, I. K., & Göritz, A. S. (2016). The bright and dark sides of leaders’ dark triad traits: Effects on subordinates’ career success and well-being. Personality and Individual Differences, 101, 413–418.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Wu, J., & Lebreton, J. M. (2011). Reconsidering the dispositional basis of counterproductive work behavior: The role of aberrant personality. Personnel Psychology, 64(3), 593–626.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Yukl, G. A. (2002). Leadership in organizations (5th ed.). Upper Saddle River: Prentice-Hall.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Bekir Emre Kurtulmuş
    • 1
  1. 1.Istanbul Aydin UniversityIstanbulTurkey

Personalised recommendations