Donald Trump, a Republican candidate in the 2016 US presidential election, is doing quite well on the campaign trail. A Jan 14 NBC/Wall Street Journal poll found that Trump was the top choice for 33 percent of Republican primary voters. That gave him a 13-point lead over his closest Republican rival, Ted Cruz. Trump is the indisputable frontrunner in the race.
As a recent New York Times column indicated, Trump didn’t lay claim to leadership through high-minded ideals or encouraging words to voters. Instead, he is “unreservedly smug” and “unabashedly mean”. He told voters that if they are not with him, then they are losers. He attacked other candidates with personal remarks and trolled social media with highly controversial comments. But all this is not surprising: Trump was never famous for his kindness or his gentleness. One might even say it is precisely his ruthlessness and nastiness that have helped him become a successful businessman and propelled him to where he is today.
So, is there anything to learn from Trump? Does ruthlessness help us get ahead in a cutthroat world? The answer is not a definite “yes” or “no”, according to a new study recently published in the journal Social Psychology and Personality Science.
Psychologists have previously identified three traits that might describe ruthless people, says a BBC article. These traits are:
Machiavellianism: characterized by calculation and manipulation.
Narcissism: how self-centered you are.
Psychopathy: a combination of risky impulsivity and callous insensitivity.
In other words, there are three types of ruthlessness. Some people have one of these traits, while others possess all three.
According to the new study, conducted by Daniel Spurk at the University of Bern in Switzerland, it turns out that psychopaths are the least successful people. They earned less than their peers and have lower positions on the career ladder.
This is because psychopaths are too impulsive, says Spurk. Although their willingness to take risks might help them in some industries, their impulsiveness may mean that they are less productive in the long run. But the determining factor here may be intelligence. Smarter psychopaths might be able to temper their impulses, allowing them to win in the long run.
The people with a Machiavellian streak in Spurk’s study group enjoyed high degrees of career success. This may not be surprising, as manipulative people have the ability to mold social situations to their advantage and play on other people’s weaknesses.
But overall, as Spurk’s study showed, it was the narcissists who stole the show when it came to financial earnings. This may be because narcissists have a strong sense of self-worth. “Individuals high in narcissism have good impression management, so they can convince their colleagues or supervisors that they are worth special advantages,” Spurk says.
But people with dark personalities may lose in the long run. Narcissists may be big earners, but they may suffer socially and have fewer friends.
“Although people who don’t know narcissists very well think they are charismatic, in the mid-to-long term there might be situations where people are no longer fascinated by their behavior,” says Spurk. As for Machiavellians, they may come undone once their ruthless manipulations are exposed.