Journal of Public Management & Social Policy


Corporate leaders with psychopathic traits are the subject of a growing scientific literature. Recently, scholars have begun to examine such personalities in public agencies. In this article, we relate psychopathic public leaders to research on toxic and destructive leadership, leader personality disorder, and the Dark Triad/Tetrad of psychopathic, narcissistic, Machiavellian, and sadistic personalities. Via a brief scenario, we illustrate how the term “corporate psychopath” might be used by lay employees lacking psychiatric expertise as a catchall term for any one of the four dark types in a leadership role. We argue that dark personalities are found in public agency leadership and could perhaps be increasing in numbers. We highlight their prejudice toward immigrants and implications for public policy affecting minority groups. After outlining organizational responses discussed in the literature, we consider servant leadership as a screening strategy to help select constructive public leaders. Some areas for future research are suggested.



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