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The Dark Triad & Entrepreneurs

This week, Arthur Brooks from the AEI Institute was on CNBC and his appearance caught my attention. He said:

"We've gotten into what we call a dark triad paragon. It's a combination of narcissism, Machiavellianism, and psychopathy. (Political) Parties are dominated by activists and activists tend to be dark triads...We've gotten into this really bad bullying paradigm."

Mr Brooks was using The Dark Triad to frame our awful political discord in this country and how the Dark Triad activists are to blame. 

I had forgotten about The Dark Triad.

It was first presented in the Journal of Research in Personality (2002) (link here; account necessary) over 20 years ago. 

These traits are considered to be on the darker side of human personality because they ​a​re qualities that are socially aversive and linked to various negative outcomes in interpersonal relationships and ​frankly, society.

​Let me breakdown these three traits: 

Narcissism: This trait is characterized by grandiosity, pride, egotism, and a lack of empathy. Individuals high in narcissism often have an inflated sense of their own importance, a deep need for excessive attention and admiration, and a disregard for others' feelings.

Machiavellianism: Named after Niccolò Machiavelli, who wrote "The Prince," this trait is associated with manipulation, deceit, and a cynical disregard for morality. People high in Machiavellianism are often focused on their own interests and will manipulate, deceive, and exploit others to achieve their goals.

Psychopathy: This trait is characterized by persistent antisocial behavior, a lack of empathy and remorse with bold and egotistical traits. 

Individually each of these traits present a challenge in business relationships. 

​When they are combined into the Dark Triad, you are dealing with someone who not only does not care about you, your business or career, they will convince you that they are your friend. 

They will lie, deceive and cheat you without remorse.  

I started using it as a framework to screen out business partners and business associations...

I had a bad habit of falling into the orbits of business associates who possess all three of these traits.

They say 7% of the population are Dark Triads.

I would suggest that number is higher in entrepreneurial ecosystems and financial services based on my personal experiences.


  • If you find yourself in a situation where you are working for a Dark Triad, make sure you understand what you are dealing with and set your expectations accordingly.

  • If you have a business partner who is a Dark Triad...know that they will not change. You have to make the change.

  • Choose your business partners wisely!


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