7 Reasons Managers Move to the Dark Side

Darth Vader wasn’t always a mysterious meanie, the Grinch’s heart didn’t start out two sizes too small, and as legend has it, Mr. Scrooge was once a charming and likable fellow.

Chances are that jerk in your office didn’t start out as a horse’s behind either. So why do so many managers move to the dark side–putting their Winning Well common sense aside and becoming a destructive force for their teams?

7 Reasons Managers Move to the Dark Side

It doesn’t happen all at once. The gradual unravelling happens for a variety of reasons. You can help prevent this tragic demise by recognizing these signs.

  1. Fear: The move to the dark side often begins with a fear of speaking up for what’s right. Managers figure it’s safer to lay low and let it go. Failure to stop the wrong behaviors, condones them and feeds the dark force.
  2. Insecurity: “If I act tough, no one will see how scared I am.” It’s impossible to manage well if you’re wrestling with your own self-doubt.
  3. Incompetence: “Fake it till you make it,” is a terrible approach to management. Far better to play to your strengths and get the support you need in other arenas.
  4. Greed: If it’s all about you, your team will see right through.
  5. Scarcity Mindset: “There’s not enough _______ (resources, bonus money, promotions) to go around.” The behaviors that mindset drives are self-fulfilling. When you don’t invest…in training, tools, relationships…you stifle the growth you could have achieved with a more generous spirit.
  6. Drunk on Power: Relying on position to get things done may be efficient, but drains the life-force out of otherwise effective employees.
  7. Misunderstood Role Models: A lot of times leaders get to their positions DESPITE a bad habit or two. Don’t emulate poor behavior because you think it will help you get ahead.

To gain a better understanding of these dark side behaviors, I’m was delighted to grab a few minutes with this Sith Lord, when he was in town promoting his latest flick.

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Posted in Winning Well and tagged , , .

Karin Hurt

Karin Hurt, is CEO of Let’s Grow Leaders and a former Verizon Wireless executive. Karin was named on Inc.’s list of 100 Great Leadership Speakers for Your Next Conference, the American Management Association List of 50 Leaders to Watch, and as a Trust Across America Top Thought Leader in Trust. She’s the award-winning author of two books, Winning Well: A Manager’s Guide to Getting Results— Without Losing Your Soul, and Overcoming an Imperfect Boss. She’s regularly featured in business publications including Fast Company, Entrepreneur, and Inc.


  1. I love your movie-jacking article Karin, timely and yet very relevant to some serious concerns in the leadership world. You never know where inspiration can come from. On that note, you would definitely enjoy the recent podcast from Imaginary Worlds titled “Empire vs Rebels” where the host talks about the prevalence of the term “evil empire” ever since the Star Wars movies came out (mostly in the world of sports and politics). Here’s the link to it: http://www.imaginaryworldspodcast.org/empire-vs-rebels.html (very well produced, not a waste of time, I promise).

    The misunderstood role model bullet spoke to me and I’ve talked about that more than once with Steve Jobs as an example. He did a lot of stuff right, but I think he did many things wrong too, or at least questionable. Since we can’t go back and test which part was really critical to Apple’s financial success, many fans don’t like to question his tactics, no matter how draconian they seem. But is it ever worth losing the soul of your organization to achieve financial success? And will that culture be healthy and continue to strive when you move on?

    • James,
      Thanks so much for the great link! I think Steve Jobs is a perfect example of winning huge despite some leadership flaws. There is certainly much to look to emulate, but not all of it.

  2. Oh my gosh I love the video!! Also, what came to mind for me what the intense pressure some managers feel to create results – especially early on after accepting the role. However, it’s probably a number of the other things you’ve listed here (fear etc.) that’s truly leading the way.

    ~ Alli

    • Alli,
      Thanks, we had so much fun making it 😉 I’m with you the pressure for results can be a huge trigger for some.

  3. From my experience of 30 y ears in industry, it is selfishness & greed to come up in life by pushing down others. Another point is inferiority complex due to background of the person.

  4. Love the video Karin and you are quite the actress too!

    I have found that managers turn to the dark side when they don’t surround themselves with the best talent and technology. To build a high performing team it is so important to have the right leaders working alongside of you. Managers who fear hiring someone with more talent and hire mediocre members, are doomed.

    Thanks Karin and kudos to you and David!

    • Terri, LOL, I wouldn’t go that far… I think I’ll keep my day job.

      Oh that’s a great addition… yes!

  5. Sometimes it’s not the Manager’s doing but the person they report to.

    I’ve seen people do unnatural acts because they were pressured several layers up.

    With all the cost cutting that’s gone over the past decade, human capital is being forced to doing more with less. Wearing multiple hats, working long hours, being asked to exceed performance goals from previous years finally takes it’s toll.

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