A historiometric examination of Machiavellianism and a new taxonomy of leadership.

Author:Bedell, Katrina

Although researchers have extensively examined the relationship between charismatic leadership and Machiavellianism (Deluga, 2001; Gardner & Avolio, 1995; House & Howell, 1992), there has been a lack of investigation of Machiavellianism in relation to alternative forms of outstanding leadership. Thus, the purpose of this investigation was to examine the relationship between Machiavellianism and a new taxonomy of outstanding leadership comprised of charismatic, ideological, and pragmatic leaders. Using an historiometric approach, raters assessed Machiavellianism via the communications of 120 outstanding leaders in organizations across the domains of business, political, military, and religious institutions. Academic biographies were used to assess twelve general performance measures as well as twelve general controls and five communication specific controls. The results indicated that differing levels of Machiavellianism is evidenced across the differing leader types as well as differing leader orientation. Additionally, Machiavellianism appears negatively related to performance, though less so when type and orientation are taken into account.


Although outstanding leaders are characterized by the substantial impact they have on the organizations in which they work and the broader society in which we live (Gardner, 1993), there is relatively little known with regard to their psychological make-up (Deluga, 2001). Given the influence of one's psychological make-up on decision-making and problem-solving effectiveness (Renshon, 1998), it seems relevant to examine the psychological characteristics of outstanding leaders. One such characteristic is that of Machiavellianism, a social influence process emphasizing the use of politics, power, and expressive behavior (Christie & Geis, 1970a). A number of researchers have found Machiavellianism of interest due to its potential predictive power with regard to charismatic leadership (Deluga, 2001; Gardner & Avolio, 1995, 1998; House & Howell, 1992). Because charismatic and transformational leadership can account for many incidents of exceptional leadership, this relationship is of substantial importance (Howell & Avolio, 1992; Lowe, Koreck, & Sivasubramiam, 1996; Yorges, Weiss, & Strickland 1999).

Until recently transformational and charismatic leadership have been the primary typologies of outstanding leadership. However, in light of a series of studies by Mumford and colleagues it appears that 1) there are alternative forms of leadership and 2) these leaders are cognitively, behaviorally, and developmentally different from each other (Mumford, in press). In fact, it appears that charismatic, ideological, and pragmatic leaders use characteristically different methods of influence. Charismatics, for example, use an emotionally evocative, future oriented

vision that provides a sense of shared experience and shared future. In fact, the charismatics commitment to a future oriented vision appears to be the catalyst for Machiavellian behavior. Specifically, charismatics display Machiavellian behaviors with their willingness to opportunistically adapt their strategy for vision attainment (Fiol, Harris, & House, 1999). Ideologues, in contrast, use an emotionally evocative, tradition-oriented vision that places an emphasis on a shared collective past and the values and standards necessary for a just society. Although the ideologues commitment to their vision is no less strong than that of the charismatics, there remains some question as to whether they will engage in Machiavellian behaviors to the same extent. Specifically, it seems possible that the ideologue's sense of values and commitment to justness may preclude them from engaging in Machiavellian behaviors. Pragmatics, on the other hand, do not articulate a vision for their followers. In fact, pragmatics are functional problem solvers that purely focus on the problem and need for solution (Mumford, in press). Even though the pragmatic leader is not committed to a vision, they are committed to problem solution. In fact, the pragmatic's willingness to manipulate situations to bring about efficient practical solutions is the strongest indicator of the pragmatic's engagement in Machiavellian behavior. Although these suppositions are theoretically based, there has been little empirical research regarding these three leader types, and even less investigating the role of Machiavellianism. Thus, it appears relevant to empirically examine the relationship between Machiavellianism and these alternative forms of leadership.

The primary purpose of this investigation was to empirically assess, via the historiometric approach, the relationship between Machiavellianism and a new taxonomy of outstanding leadership comprised of charismatic, ideological, and pragmatic leaders. Secondly, we set out to examine the relationship between Machiavellianism and leader orientation, being socialized or personalized. Finally, an attempt was made to assess the relationship between Machiavellianism and performance.

Types of Outstanding Leaders

Due to the substantial impact outstanding leaders have on the development and maintenance of high performing organizations, researchers have continued to examine the behaviors, skills, and characteristics outstanding leaders exhibit. However, the study of outstanding leaders stands as a difficult task given outstanding leaders' rare occurrence as well as their high-level commitments and busy schedules. Despite the difficulties, researchers have made notable progress with regard to our understanding of outstanding leadership, especially charismatic and transformational leadership (e.g., Conger & Kanungo, 1998; House, 1995). Although theories of charismatic and transformational leadership evidence some noteworthy differences, they are both generally viewed as emerging from a single pathway (Bass, 1985; Conger & Kanungo, 1998; Shamir, House, & Arthur, 1993). Both are based on the proposition that outstanding leadership is dependent on the leader's effective articulation of an emotionally evocative, future oriented vision (Conger & Kanungo, 1988; 1998; Deluga, 2001; House, 1995; Shamir, House, & Arthur, 1993). Although theories of charismatic and transformational leadership have stood as relatively dominant theories of leadership (Hunt, 1999), Mumford, Strange, and Bedell (in press) have recently explored the existence of at least two alternative forms of outstanding leadership (i.e., ideological and pragmatic leadership). Mumford proposed that vision is not, directly, the basis for outstanding leadership but rather that the emergence of outstanding leaders is due to the leader's ability to make sense of a crisis through their prescriptive mental models (Drazin, Glynn, & Kazanjian, 1999; Hunt, Boal, & Dodge, 1999; Weick, 1995). Given that leadership is derived from the ability to help people make sense of and respond to a crisis situation (Drazin et al., 1999), it seems intuitive that different types of outstanding leadership arise from the different situations leaders use in sense-making (Weick, 1995). Using this logic, Mumford, Strange, and Bedell (in press) proposed a new taxonomy indicating at least three distinct, alternative pathways to outstanding leadership. The proposed taxonomy has been supported by a number of empirical investigations (Mumford, in press) examining behavioral and experiential differences. These findings indicate that charismatic, ideological, and pragmatic leaders represent distinct pathways to outstanding leadership.

Charismatic Leadership

Weber (1924) first outlined the theory of charismatic leadership to account for the remarkable impact outstanding leaders have on their followers. According to Weber (1947), charisma is characterized by five components: (a) the leader has extraordinary gifts, (b) there is a social crisis, (c) the leader provides a vision with a solution to the crisis, (d) the leader attracts followers with their vision, and (e) the leader confirms his giftedness with repeated success (Yukl, 2001). More recently, theorists have further defined the concept of charismatic leadership and examined the impact such leadership has on their followers, organizations, and social systems (e.g., Bass, 1985; Bass & Avolio, 1994; House & Howell, 1992; Yukl, 2001). Although "neocharismatic" theorists incorporate some of Weber's ideas, they have, in some ways, departed from his initial conception of charismatic leadership. Despite their differences, however, most theorists agree that the defining characteristic of charismatic leaders is their articulation of a future oriented, emotionally evocative vision (Conger & Kanungo, 1988; 1998; Deluga, 2001; House, 1995; Shamir et al., 1993). A charismatic vision has three attributes that make it a powerful stimulus. First, it provides followers with an understanding of the crisis at hand and establishes a sense of identity (Meindl, 1990; Shamir, Zakay, Breinin, & Popper, 1998). Second, it creates the sense of shared experiences and a shared future (Klein & House, 1998). Third, it provides followers a path to resolution of the crisis and enables followers to make decisions consistent with the vision (Jacobsen & House, 2001). Although a charismatic vision has the potential for substantial impact, Mumford contends that an understanding of leaders' vision is not sufficient for fully understanding outstanding leaders. Rather, he proposes that the articulation of a future-oriented vision is merely one, of several, ways of using a prescriptive mental model to exercise influence (Mumford, Strange, & Hunter, in press).

Ideological Leadership

Weber (1924) also outlined two other pathways to outstanding leadership, the ideological and pragmatic paths. A few scholars (Gerring, 1997; Mills, 1967; Rejai, 1991) have extended Weber's observations regarding the nature and significance of ideological leadership, but the research has been...

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