Machiavelli famously argued that it is best to be both loved and feared, which is all good and well for a hypothetical prince, but what about for modern-day employees? Companies have long avoided employees who embody Machiavellian principles, labeling such behavior as selfish and manipulative. In their paper, “Leading Machiavellians: How to Translate Machiavellians’ Selfishness Into Pro-Organizational Behavior,” published in the November 2015 issue of Journal of Management, Frank D. Belschak of University of Amsterdam, Deanne N. Den Hartog of University of Amsterdam, and Karianne Kalshoven of Tilburg University challenge the notion that Machiavellian behavior should be discouraged and avoided. Rather, they argue that with the proper leader behavior, managers can transform Machiavellian behavior into proactive and productive organizational citizenship behavior.
Machiavellians are said to be manipulative people who reduce the social capital of the organization. Yet some authors note that Machiavellians are also highly adaptive individuals who are able to contribute, cooperate, and use pro-social strategies when it is advantageous to them. Here we study whether transformational leader behavior can stimulate Machiavellian followers to engage in organizationally desirable behaviors such as challenging organizational citizenship behavior. We hypothesized and found in two multi-source field studies that transformational leadership moderates the relationship between Machiavellianism and challenging organizational citizenship behavior. In Study 2, we hypothesized a moderated mediation model and found that enhanced job autonomy and accompanying intrinsic motivation relating to transformational leadership explain (part of) the relationship between transformational leader behavior and challenging citizenship behavior of Machiavellian followers.
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