What is Jekyll and Hyde Leadership?

In their article published in the Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies, researchers Jessie Lee, Gang Wang, and Ronald F. Piccolo introduced the concept of Jekyll and Hyde Leadership in a multilevel and multi-sample examination of charisma and abuse on follower and team outcomes.

Take note that “Jekyll” and “Hyde” are two fictional characters from the 1886 gothic novella “Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” authored by Robert Louis Stevenson.

In the story, lawyer Gabriel John Utterson investigated the odd occurrences between his old friend Dr. Henry Jekyll and the madman named Edward Hyde. The story later revealed that these two persons are one and the same.

Dr. Jekyll has a split personality, and his Mr. Hyde character is his evil persona. Nonetheless, the phrase “Jekyll and Hyde” has been used to describe individuals with erratic dual nature: one that is very good and another one that is surprisingly evil.

Thus, when applied to leadership, Jekyll and Hyde Leadership describes a leader that demonstrates positive and negative behaviors, albeit with a different frequency. Lee and colleagues specifically mention that this concept represents an individual who demonstrates both charismatic leadership and abusive supervision.

An example of a Jekyll and Hyde leader is someone who tends to have positive allure toward his or her greater pool of followers but would become rude to smaller teams or vicious during times of extreme pressure.

He or she seems to have a natural charm and endearing personality that draws people toward him or her but would become abhorrent in certain situations.

In another example, this leader can erratically switch between transformational leadership and transactional leadership even if the situation does not call for a change in a leadership style. The style he or she uses is essentially unfit for the existing circumstances.

Subordinates who have realized that their leader seems to be different people end up walking on a figurative eggshell. Because the extremely contradicting behaviors of their leaders change abruptly, they tend to become cautious, less participative, and more mechanical.

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