New research reveals “dark side” behaviors — such as those associated with narcissism, being overly dramatic, being critical of others and being extremely focused on complying with rules — can have a positive effect on leadership development over time.
“Assumptions about how these traits affected performance and development were mistaken. It appears that even negative characteristics can be adaptive in particular settings or job roles,” said Peter Harms, assistant professor of management at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and the study's lead author.
The study found, for example, that being overly skeptical was uniformly bad for performance and development, but being cautious increased performance and developed leadership skills.
The findings could prove useful for employers deciding promotions or looking for ways to tweak executive-training programs or leadership-intervention programs.
Harms warns employers not to take the findings too far, saying while narcissists shine during job interviews , for example, they might incite friction among co-workers.
For three years, Harms and his team of researchers studied more than 900 officer cadets in their second, third and fourth years at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. They concluded it isn’t necessarily bad to be “bad” and that more research is needed to fully understand the role of these traits in the workplace.
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