The bright and dark sides of leader traits: a review and theoretical extension

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The Leadership Quarterly 20 (2009) 855–875

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The Leadership Quarterly
j o u r n a l h o m e p a g e : w w w. e l s ev i e r. c o m / l o c a t e / l e a q u a

The bright and dark sides of leader traits: A review and theoretical extension of the leader trait paradigm
Timothy A. Judge a,⁎, Ronald F. Piccolo b, Tomek Kosalka c
a b c

Universityof Florida, United States Rollins College, United States University of Central Florida, United States

a r t i c l e
Keywords: Leadership Personality Leader trait

i n f o

a b s t r a c t
The leader trait perspective is perhaps the most venerable intellectual tradition in leadership research. Despite its early prominence in leadership research, it quickly fell out of favor among leadershipscholars. Thus, despite recent empirical support for the perspective, conceptual work in the area lags behind other theoretical perspectives. Accordingly, the present review attempts to place the leader trait perspective in the context of supporting intellectual traditions, including evolutionary psychology and behavioral genetics. We present a conceptual model that considers the source of leadertraits, mediators and moderators of their effects on leader emergence and leadership effectiveness, and distinguish between perceived and actual leadership effectiveness. We consider both the positive and negative effects of specific “bright side” personality traits: the Big Five traits, core self-evaluations, intelligence, and charisma. We also consider the positive and negative effects of “darkside” leader traits: Narcissism, hubris, dominance, and Machiavellianism. © 2009 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

If one sought to find singular conditions that existed across species, one might find few universals. One universal that does exist, at least those species that have brains and nervous systems, is leadership. From insects to reptiles to mammals, leadership exists as surely ascollective activity exists. There is the queen bee, and there is the alpha male. Though the centrality of leadership may vary by species (it seems more important to mammals than, say, to avians and reptiles), it is fair to surmise that whenever there is social activity, a social structure develops, and one (perhaps the) defining characteristic of that structure is the emergence of a leader or leaders.The universality of leadership, however, does not deny the importance of individual differences — indeed the emergence of leadership itself is proof of individual differences. Moreover, even casual observation of animal (including human) collective behavior shows the existence of a leader. Among a herd of 100 cattle or a pride of 20 lions, one is able to detect a leadership structure (especially attimes of eating, mating, and attack). One quickly wonders: What has caused this leadership structure to emerge? Why has one animal (the alpha) emerged to lead the collective? And how does this leadership cause this collective to flourish — or founder? Given these questions, it is of no surprise that the earliest conceptions of leadership focused on individual differences. The most famous of theseis Thomas Carlyle's “great man” theory, which argued, “For, as I take it, Universal History, the history of what man has accomplished in this world, is at bottom the History of the Great Men who have worked here” (Carlyle, 1840/2008, p. 1). Despite its intuitive and presumably historical appeal, until recently, this “great man” (or woman) approach, and the trait perspective in general, fell on hardtimes. Reviewers of the literature commented that the approach was “too simplistic” (Conger & Kanungo, 1998, p. 38), “futile” (House & Aditya, 1997, p. 410), and even “dangerous” and a product of “self-delusion” (see Andersen, 2006, p. 1083).1

⁎ Corresponding author. E-mail addresses: (T.A. Judge), (R.F. Piccolo), (T....
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