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The Psychology of Power: Dark Triad Traits in Fast-Growth Companies

When it comes to leadership positions in rapid growth companies, it's important to have individuals who are not only capable of making strategic decisions but also willing to accept the burden that comes with the power they hold. In the words of University College London professor Brian Klaas, "if you think that power is easy and fun, you're the wrong person for the job" because being in a position of power means that your decisions will affect people's lives for better or worse. Therefore, leaders need to have a sense of responsibility and empathy towards those affected by their decisions.


The "Dark Triad" traits - Machiavellianism, Narcissism, and Psychopathy - are personality traits that are often associated with individuals in leadership positions. According to research, individuals with high levels of Machiavellianism tend to be strategic thinkers, making them more likely to obtain power. On the other hand, individuals with high levels of narcissism are good at making people like them, which can lead to increased salaries but may not always result in the best decision-making. Finally, individuals with high levels of psychopathy tend to be impulsive and willing to take risks, but they also lack the empathy needed to make good decisions.


Problematic combinations


While each of these traits can occur in isolation, they often correlate with each other. Individuals who score high in psychopathy are typically high in narcissism and Machiavellianism as well. However, it's important to note that being high in Machiavellianism or narcissism alone isn't necessarily bad for leadership positions, as it can lead to strategic thinking or an ability to connect with others. It's only when individuals score high in all three traits that it can become problematic.


Rapid growth companies need leaders who are not only strategic and charismatic but also empathetic and responsible. The burden of power should weigh heavily on these individuals, making them aware of the consequences of their decisions. While individuals with dark triad traits may be able to obtain power, they may not be the best fit for leadership positions in rapid growth companies. Instead, companies should focus on finding individuals who possess traits such as emotional intelligence, empathy, and a willingness to take responsibility.


Preventative steps


Language-psychology based assessments coupled with well designed behavioural interviews can assist with identifying individuals who may not possess the necessary traits for leadership positions, helping companies can avoid potential catastrophes that could arise from poor decision-making.


The psychology of power is an important consideration for companies at all stages and of all sizes. While individuals with dark triad traits may be able to obtain power, they may not always be the best fit for leadership positions. Companies should focus on finding individuals who possess the necessary traits for leadership positions, including empathy, responsibility, and emotional intelligence. By doing so, they can ensure that their leaders are capable of making strategic decisions while also understanding the impact that those decisions have on others.


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