The Dark Side of Leadership Part 2

  • Imagin Consulting, LLC

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Blog by Imagin Consulting, LLC

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