24 Apr 2024

British Journal of Management
Special Issue Call for Papers

Dark Leadership and its Unethical, Unsustainable and Unappreciated
Effects on Employees, Organisations and Society

Extended abstract deadline for online workshop (optional): 12 September 2024
(online workshop: 17 October 2024)

Manuscript submission window: 1 May 2024 to 10 January 2025

Guest Editors


This special issue aims to advance management research by shedding light on dark leadership. Leadership is plagued by the absence of a definitional consensus among scholars. Many theories have emerged about leadership over the years, and it might even be said that there are as many theories of leadership as there are leaders (Harrison, 2018). However, leadership research remains overwhelmingly focused on the positive aspects of leadership (Alvesson, 2020), arguably promoting a ‘heroic bias’ in our understanding of how leadership functions (Tourish, 2013; Higgs, 2009). But though we tend to think of the positive outcomes associated with leaders, certain risks are also entailed. The very behaviours that are sought for effective leadership have the potential to produce problematic or even disastrous outcomes for their organisations and society (Schyns & Schilling, 2013; Fatfouta, 2019).

Studies have focused on exemplary leadership drawing on ethical, servant and authentic leadership perspectives with a relative limited attention to the dark side of leadership (Clark & Harrison, 2018). Nevertheless, numerous corporate scandals and the 2008 banking crisis have created much greater awareness of ‘leadership derailment’ and its consequences (Furnham, 2010) with scholars seeking leadership approaches, which embodies integrity and increases trust within organisations (Harrison, 2018). In recent times, research on this topic has offered diverse definitions of dark side leadership, emphasising negative outcomes, leadership processes independent of outcomes, and both outcomes and processes (Mehraein, et al., 2023). We seek papers that explore all these dimensions, and which utilise critical perspectives to offer new, integrative understanding of the dark side of leadership.

In the literature, dark leadership has been explored through various overlapping and differing conceptualisations, including constructs such as toxic leadership (Goldman, 2011; Milosevic, Maric, & Lončar, 2020), leader toxicity (Pelletier, 2012), exploitative leadership (Schmid et al., 2019), narcissistic leadership (Bernerth, 2022; Hochwarter & Thompson, 2012), psychopathic leadership (Palmen et al., 2007), destructive leadership (Thoroughgood et al., 2012) and so on. However, it is significant to note that these conceptualisations may differ in their emphasis, scope, and underlying theoretical perspectives. Therefore, the current conceptualisations of the term ‘dark leadership’ is still in its early stages, and due to its comprehensiveness, further empirical evidence is required to facilitate a better understanding.

Dark leadership is sometimes practised by narcissistic (Higgs, 2009), hubristic (Sadler-Smith, 2019), Machiavellian and psychopathic leaders (Boddy, 2017; Schepers, 2003) who, although unethical, are adept at scaling the heights of organisational life and at furthering their own self-interested agenda once occupying leadership positions. Leaders with dark personalities are notorious for their destructive workplace influences (Wisse & Rus, 2022) including their deleterious effect on colleagues (Boulter & Boddy, 2021) and on organisational outcomes (Baker, 2013). For example, there exists a significant negative relationship between destructive leadership and measures of employee satisfaction (Boddy & Taplin, 2016; Mathieu & Babiak, 2016; Reed & Bullis, 2009), employee core self-evaluations (Bulkan & Higgs, 2019a); along with positive relationship with employee workplace deviant behaviours (Bulkan & Higgs, 2019b).

Corporations like Theranos which are managed by dark leaders may be run like cults (Tourish and Willmott, 2023) or absolute and tyrannical monarchies where the ruthless leaders cannot be questioned or disobeyed without consequences and retaliation (Boddy, 2020; Fourie, 2023). Therefore, this special issue aims to promote the field of leadership by broadening our knowledge of dark leadership and what it entails in practice. Studies that promote our understanding of the antecedents, development and orientation of dark leaders are encouraged.

Example themes / research questions

Topics of interest in this special issue include, but are not limited to, the following:

  1. Submissions that provide a better conceptual and theoretical understanding of dark leadership via addressing questions such as:
    1. What types of personalities emerge as dark leaders?
    2. What features do the conceptualisations of dark leadership share and how do they differ from each other?
    3. What outcomes are these dark leaders associated with in terms of their influence on:
      I. Employees,
      II. Organisations
      III. Society
    4. Are there gender – or other, diversity-related differences – with regards to dark leadership behaviour?
    5. Which follower behaviours are most strongly affected by dark leadership and if there is a difference in the effects depending on how long a follower is working for a dark leader?
    6. How does dark leadership differ from other theories of leadership, or do such theories facilitate dark leadership?
    7. How do particular forms of corporate governance facilitate the emergence of dark leadership?
    8. How do followers perceive dark leadership and the dysfunctional dynamics?
    9. Do followers’ reactions to dark leadership behaviours differ considering follower gender, or other, diversity-related characteristics?
    10. What is the role of power imbalance in facilitating the emergence of dark leadership?
    11. What is the role of culture in dark leadership behaviour?
    12. What are the new ways of advancing research in dark leadership?
    13. How can we reduce the emergence of dark leadership?

Shape of the Special Issue

Generally, this special issue seeks to attract state-of-the-art manuscripts that draw upon theories and concepts from multiple fields, especially knowledge on dark leadership from a wide range of business, management and related disciplines. We would welcome empirical studies that employ a variety of paradigmatic and methodological approaches, and cross-disciplinary or transdisciplinary conceptualisations to help explain and account for dark leadership and its effects. This includes qualitative, quantitative and mixed-methods approaches. Conceptual and methodology corner articles are also welcome.

Important Dates

Submission opens: 1st May 2024

Extended abstract deadline for online workshop: 12th September 2024

Online workshop to support manuscript preparation: 17th October 2024

Manuscript submission deadline: 10th January 2025 (however, earlier submission is highly encouraged)

Submission guidelines and procedures

All submissions for this special issue should adhere to the journal author guidelines which are available at: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/page/journal/14678551/homepage/forauthors.html

Submissions should be uploaded to the British Journal of Management ScholarOne Manuscripts site at: https://mc.manuscriptcentral.com/bjm

Authors should select ‘special issue paper’ as the paper type, ensure they answer ‘yes’ to the question ‘Is this submission for a special issue?’ and enter the title of the special issue in the box provided.

To help authors prepare their manuscripts for submission, the guest editors will organise a dedicated online workshop with presentations and discussion of selected papers on 17th October 2024. Presentation of a paper at the workshop is not a prerequisite for submission to the special issue.

Authors interested in taking part in the workshop should submit an extended abstract of a maximum 1000 words to any of the guest editors by email by 12th September 2024. The submission should include a title page indicating the title of the manuscript, author names, institutional affiliations and an email address for each author.


Alvesson, M. (2020). Upbeat leadership: a recipe for – or against – “successful” leadership studies. The Leadership Quarterly, 31(6), 1-12.

Baker, M. W. (2013). A multiple case study of the dark side of leadership: an exploration of executives who led their companies to disastrous results versus exemplary CEOs who did not. Regent University, London.

Bernerth, J. B. (2022). Does the narcissist (and those around him/her) pay a price for being narcissistic? An empirical study of leaders’ narcissism and well-being. Journal of Business Ethics, 177(3), 533-546.

Boddy, C. R. (2017). Psychopathic leadership a case study of a corporate psychopath CEO. Journal of Business Ethics, 145(1), 141-156.

Boddy, C. R. (2020). Enron scandal. In D. C. Poff, & A. C. Michalos (Eds.), Encyclopedia of Business and Professional Ethics: 1-3. Cham: Springer International Publishing.

Boddy, C. R., Ladyshewsky, R. & Galvin, P. G. (2010). The influence of Corporate Psychopaths on corporate social responsibility and organizational commitment to employees. Journal of Business Ethics, 97(1), 1-19.

Boddy, C. R. & Taplin, R. (2016). The influence of corporate psychopaths on job satisfaction and its determinants. International Journal of Manpower, 37(6), 965-988.

Boulter, L. & Boddy, C. (2021). Subclinical psychopathy, interpersonal workplace exchanges and moral emotions through the lens of affective events theory (AET). Journal of Organizational Effectiveness: People and Performance, 8(1), 44-58.

Bulkan, S. & Higgs, M. (2019a). The effect of psychopathic manager behaviour on supervisor and organisation-directed deviance: the mediating role of revenge motive and the moderating role of core self-evaluations, In Irish Academy of Management (IAM) 2019 Conference, Dublin, Ireland (Best Paper Award at Leadership & Organisational Behaviour Track).

Bulkan, S. & Higgs, M. (2019b). Psychopathic manager behaviour and workplace deviance: moderated mediation model with revenge motive and attitude importance, In European Academy of Management (EURAM) 2019 Conference, Lisbon, Portugal.

Clark, C. & Harrison, C. (2018). Leadership: the complexities and state of the field. European Business Review, 30(5), 514- 528

Fatfouta, R. (2019). Facets of narcissism and leadership: a tale of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde? Human Resource Management Review, 29(4), 100669.

Fourie, W. (2023). Why Leaders Fail and What it Teaches Us About Leadership. London: Routledge.

Furnham, A. (2010). The Elephant in the Boardroom: The Causes of Leadership Derailment. London: Palgrave MacMillan.

Goldman, A. (2011). Demagogue to dialogue. Organizational Dynamics, 3(40), 235-241.

Harrison, C. (2018). Leadership Theory and Research: A Critical Approach to New and Existing Paradigms, Switzerland, Palgrave MacMillan. http://www.palgrave.com/gb/book/9783319686714#   

Higgs, M. (2009). The good, the bad and the ugly: leadership and narcissism. Journal of Change Management, 9(2), 165-178.

Hochwarter, W. A. & Thompson, K. W. (2012). Mirror, mirror on my boss’s wall: engaged enactment’s moderating role on the relationship between perceived narcissistic supervision and work outcomes. Human Relations, 65(3), 335-366.

Mathieu, C. & Babiak, P. (2016). Corporate psychopathy and abusive supervision: their influence on employees' job satisfaction and turnover intentions. Personality and Individual Differences, 91, 102-106.

Mehraein, V., Visintin, F. & Piuttino, D. (2023). The dark side of leadership: a systematic review of creativity and innovation. International Journal of Management Reviews, 25(4), 740-767. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/ijmr.12334.

Milosevic, I., Maric, S. & Lončar, D. (2020). Defeating the toxic boss: the nature of toxic leadership and the role of followers. Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies, 27(2), 117-137.

Palmen, D. G., Derksen, J. J. & Kolthoff, E. (2020). High self-control may support ‘success’ in psychopathic leadership: self-control versus impulsivity in psychopathic leadership. Aggression and Violent Behavior, 50(2), 101338.

Pelletier, K. L. (2012). Perceptions of and reactions to leader toxicity: Do leader–follower relationships and identification with victim matter? The Leadership Quarterly, 23(3), 412-424.

Reed, G. E. & Bullis, R. C. (2009). The Impact of destructive leadership on senior military officers and civilian employees. Armed Forces & Society, 36(1), 5-18.

Sadler-Smith, E. (2019). Hubristic Leadership. London: Sage.

Schepers, D. H. (2003). Machiavellianism, profit, and the dimensions of ethical judgment: a study of impact. Journal of Business Ethics, 42(4), 339-352.

Schmid, E. A., Pircher Verdorfer, A. & Peus, C. (2019). Shedding light on leaders’ self-interest: theory and measurement of exploitative leadership. Journal of Management, 45(4), 1401-1433.

Schyns, B. & Schilling, J. (2013). How bad are the effects of bad leaders? a meta-analysis of destructive leadership and its outcomes. The Leadership Quarterly, 24(1), 138-158.

Thoroughgood, C. N., Padilla, A., Hunter, S. T. & Tate, B. W. (2012). The susceptible circle: a taxonomy of followers associated with destructive leadership. The Leadership Quarterly23(5), 897-917.

Tourish, D. (2013). The Dark Side of Transformational Leadership. London: Routledge.

Tourish, D. & Willmott, H. (2013). Despotic leadership and ideological manipulation at Theranos: towards a theory of hegemonic totalism in the workplace. Organization Studies, 44(11), 1801-1824.

Wisse, B. & Rus, D. (2022). Shift, suppress, sever: systemic strategies for dealing with dark leadership. Zeitschrift für Psychologie.