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Durham University

Research & business

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Publication details for Professor Susanne Braun

Braun, S., Kark, R. & Wisse, B. (2018). Editorial: Fifty Shades of Grey: Exploring the Dark Sides of Leadership and Followership. Frontiers in Psychology 9: 1877.

Author(s) from Durham


“I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose any voters. Okay. It’s like incredible!” Donald J. Trump, President of the United States, in January 2016 at a campaign rally in Iowa.
In light of corporate and political turmoil and subsequent questions raised about leaders’ dark sides, this Research Topic is particularly timely. We set out to contribute to theoretical, empirical and methodological advancements, focusing on dark sides of personality, processes, and perceptions, and how they relate to leader-follower relationships. Studies of the dark side of leadership follow a long-standing tradition (Conger, 1990), and initially focused mainly on negative leader traits such as narcissism (Braun, 2017) and leader behaviors such as abusive supervision (Schyns & Schilling, 2013; Tepper, 2007; Tepper, Simon, & Park, 2017; Hogan & Kaiser, 2005). The particular potential for toxicity to unfold at the intersections of leadership and followership has been noted (Padilla, Hogan, & Kaiser, 2007), yet research into this domain remains largely underdeveloped. While followership theories receive increasing attention (Uhl-Bien, Riggio, Lowe, & Carsten, 2014), the potential dark sides of followership or followers’ impact on dark-side leaders remain unclear. Deviating from the unidimensional view that leaders are omnipotent and to be blamed for negative outcomes, we seek to place emphasis on the different ‘shades’ of dark leadership by focusing on how dark leadership can be explained by taking leaders, followers, and their interaction in specific contexts into account.

In line with the purpose to explore the intersections between dark-side leadership and followership, we saw three main themes emerging from the articles published in this Research Topic. The first theme revolves around leader traits and behaviors. It focuses on questions such as what makes a ‘dark-side’ leader and what ‘dark-side’ leaders do. The second theme accounts for the interaction between leaders’ and followers’ characteristics, and zooms in on the extent to which this interaction may affect the negative impact of ‘dark-side’ leadership or followership. Finally, the articles also reflect novel ideas, extensions and integration of current theories at the interface between leadership and followership.