Machiavellian leadership in organisations: a review of theory and research

Publication Name

Leadership and Organization Development Journal


Purpose: During the past decade, there has been a steep increase in the scholarly literature on Machiavellian leadership. However, no systematic literature review has been conducted to synthesise, analyse and identify the trends, tensions and gaps in Machiavellian leadership. Therefore, the authors examine empirical studies published in peer-reviewed journals since 2000, with an impact factor of Q2 or above in the SCImago ranking list. This paper aims to discuss the aforementioned objective. Design/methodology/approach: Using the systematic literature review approach, a review protocol was developed to define the focus of the study, the search strategy and the criteria for inclusion and exclusion of studies in the review process. The authors developed a keyword search query using terms “Machiavellian” OR “Dark Triads” and “leadership”. The authors’ search was limited to publications in the English language and with the search terms in either the abstract or keywords of the publication. The review consisted of 576 peer-reviewed scholarly journal articles, out of which 53 articles were selected for the final analysis. Findings: The analysis reveals how the unidimensional nature of most studies and limited contextual and ontological orientations curtail the development of the relational perspective of Machiavellian leadership. The authors propose a way forward, new insights and opportunities for future research in the field. Originality/value: This is the first systematic literature review on Machiavellian leadership. Although the research in Machiavellian leadership is reaching a stage of maturity, this review exposes limitations and gaps in research.

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