In #PSYCH485 this week, the focus was on the trait approach to leadership. When people hear the word “leadership”, there mind automatically thinks of a person, an experience, or a definition. Individuals all have their own thoughts on what it takes to be a leader, how a leader acts, and why leaders are needed. Let’s be honest in how the common person views a leader: intelligent, understanding, trustworthy, determined, and self-assured. They have all the five main traits that Peter G. Northouse lists in Chapter 2 of his book “Leadership Theory and Practice”. It seems like a leader has it all together. After all, if they have made it to the point in life where they are able to direct others in to doing something that they have already mastered, they must be successful. Wouldn’t we all rather be leaders than followers?
There is something about the word “follower” that simply sounds like it is a bad thing. It’s a labeling name that you don’t want to be called in your social circle. I can hear it in my head now, the judgments that one pass to the person who would be considered a follower. When is she going to stop being a follower and start thinking for her own mind. Or the one thing that we have all heard or said ourselves, He is following in his father’s footsteps. Even if it’s NOT a bad idea for that person to be a follower, there will always be at least one person who says it with negativity, as though the only way to success is through leadership.
I could sit for hours and discuss how being a follower can still be a leader per se, but my focus is on the leader right now: that individual who can do no wrong because their traits are of high honor. Let me show assurance that I have not a cold heart towards leaders. I have many great leaders in my life, and feel that I am one for others as well. I find this topic of leadership intriguing, in that there are always positive traits that leaders are known for and praised on. There is a dark side of personality traits that people seem to forget about. Thankfully, the Penn State World Campus course ‘PSYCH 485’ in the Lesson 2 commentary addresses these six negative traits that leaders can have.
As based on the commentary, the six personality traits that are viewed dark-sided are: “argumentative; interpersonal insensitivity; narcissism; fear of failure; perfectionism; impulsivity.” The bad personality traits can be viewed as opposite effects that occur when the main five positive traits are taken too far, or not far enough. Intelligence can become argumentative. Self-confidence can lead to narcissism. Determination can show a fear of failure and strive for perfectionism. Interpersonal insensitivity replaces integrity. Sociability has the extreme opposite skills as that of impulsivity. If a leader has a handful of great traits, but even one dark-side trait, are they really a great leader?
It interests me to study the dark-side of leadership traits, mainly because exposing the hidden layers of any individual can lead to a better understanding of society. We don’t actually know all that we think we know from what we see when we first see it. Being a follower is generally associated with a negative perception, but at least those individuals keep it real with their strengths and weaknesses. Leaders can move mountains, which is needed in the world, but that does not mean they will have a happy and successful life. A successful leader needs to stay clear of the dark-side leadership traits, because they will ruin all that they have worked hard to become. My advice to all leaders is to stay passionate about your field of work, and don’t let the increasing demands and stress take over your mind and soul.
For additional reading, check out this link: https://www.psychologytoday.com/files/attachments/157670/leader-development-and-dark-side-personality.pdf. It offers a great perspective on dark-side leader traits, including a study that took place involving statistics, strategies, and analysis.
Northouse, Peter G. (Ed.). (2015). Leadership: Theory and Practice (7th Ed.).Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Pennsylvania State University (2016). Leadership in Work Settings—PSYCH 485. Online course lesson. Penn State World Campus. The Pennsylvania State University. Retrieved January 21, 2016 from https://courses.worldcampus.psu.edu/sp16/psych485/002/content/02_lesson/06_page.html