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Can personality disorders really lead to professional success?


Organisational psychologists from Binghamton University School of Management have found that three unpleasant personality traits – narcissism, manipulation and psychopathy – can help leaders achieve better professional success, writes Minda Zetlin for Inc.com.

The team, led by Assistant Professor Seth Spain, have dubbed these behaviours the “Dark Triad”. They believe their research shows how – when used in moderation – the three traits can help leaders excel.

And moderation is key. Display too much of one or more of these traits and “you will eventually alienate your co-workers, employees, and customers", Spain warns.

Zetlin outlines what can be learned from the Dark Triad and how we can apply it to our professional lives:


Narcissists are high achievers. They will do anything to achieve their goals, and always put their own needs above everything else. They are also great inspirers – narcissists are great at pitching ideas that are important to them.

A little bit of narcissism can inspire a lot of enthusiasm in those around you.

Before every pitch, Spain advises you get a little narcissistic and repeat to yourself: “I am awesome and this is the best idea you are ever going to hear.”


Manipulators can teach us how to influence others. They use a variety of tactics – praise, flattery, horse trading, threats and forming alliances with others – to get what they want.

Most of us feel awkward using these methods. But, argues Zetlin, being a good leader is all about manipulating people toward certain goals.

She advises trying out all of these influencing tactics (again, in moderation) if the end goal is worth it.


Psychopaths are the “darkest of the Dark Triad”, says Spain. But it is from sub-clinical psychopaths that we can learn the valuable lessons, he insists.

Psychopaths put themselves first and show little remorse for wrongdoing – characteristics that are clearly detrimental within social relationships.

But used moderately within a professional context, these traits can help us to bounce back from failure, take more risks and learn to move on from our mistakes.

Source Article: What Leaders Can Learn From Narcissists, Manipulators And Psychopaths
Author(s): Minda Zetlin
Publisher: Inc.com