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The Elephant in the Boardroom

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The Elephant in the Boardroom

The Causes of Leadership Derailment

Palgrave Macmillan,

15 min read
10 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

Some bosses are downright evil. Learn to recognize and repel them.

Editorial Rating



  • Applicable
  • Eye Opening
  • Concrete Examples


Psychology professor Adrian Furnham dissects bad leaders’ negative characteristics and reports on why many crash and burn, taking their employees and firms down with them. Furnham reports on the findings of hundreds of researchers who have examined maladjusted, incompetent, tyrannical, Machiavellian, narcissistic, sadistic, predatory and other dangerous leaders, including some who are just plain evil. getAbstract recommends this comprehensive – if at times academic – rundown to those who would prefer not to recruit malevolent managers and to anyone who must coexist with a decidedly bad boss.


“Bad, Sad and Mad” Leaders

Poor leaders are ubiquitous. They take many forms: destructive, twisted, malevolent, compulsive, incompetent, egocentric, psychopathic, vindictive, and more. Such leaders often fail, and when they do, they cost their organizations millions. As they go down, they cripple or even destroy the companies they’re supposed to lead. How do such bad leaders get hired? Why can’t corporate boards, CEOs or senior executives spot these candidates’ destructive tendencies before putting them in positions of power?

The reason is simple: Most leaders who derail possess superlative résumés. Often they are charismatic, confidence-inspiring and impressive people with strong records of success. Some executives with personality disorders move up because of – not in spite of – their problems. As a result, selectors don’t spot their psychological, moral or behavioral problems. Indeed, selectors do not usually seek out negative aspects of a candidate’s personality, much less psychological disorders. Rather, they focus on experience, competencies and accomplishments.

Leaders who derail often exhibit “too much of a good thing” as candidates. Their positive attributes...

About the Author

Adrian Furnham teaches psychology at University College London. An adjunct professor at the Norwegian School of Management, he has written more than 50 books and 800 journal articles.

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