One way of looking at the U.S. Constitution was a rejection of how prone monarchies were to domination by people with Dark Triad tendencies. And like today, in the early days of the U.S. the margins between the “tribes” was thin — the drafting of the Constitution itself was contentious and was only ratified by thin margins. We like to believe there was a magical time when a wider majority was more sensible and collaborative, but examining history makes this magical time hard to find.

Monarchies and churches are closed tribes — there is no free press and not anyone can join, or more importantly, report on the tribe. Jefferson was a huge believer in the free press being essential to any notion of democracy or freedom. And as toxic as social media can be, the freedom it grants all of us is to see each other for our best and worst, and to share opinions on the best and worst about our leaders, including thoughtful articles like yours.

“Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.” — Thomas Jefferson

As ugly and toxic as our media can be it’s the only force capable of shedding light on what is really going on, and presenting an opportunity, however slim, for all of us to change our minds about what we believe and who we believe in.

The greatest challenge for us is that to be a great leader requires some of the same personality tendencies found in the dark triad — to believe you should be president, a senator, or even the boss at work, requires extreme confidence, if not narcissism. And to be a successful politician requires the ability, in degrees, to persuade, manipulate and horse trade (Democracy as defined by the Constitution is an intentionally messy, scrappy, ugly process. To succeed in it demands some extreme personalities). Someone deeply committed to a cause or belief, however noble it might be, can be seen as exhibiting obsessive and extreme behavior.

In other words the lines between our greatest and worst leaders are finer than we presume.

Can you think of a light triad to counterbalance the dark? And a test for how to distinguish between the two?

Bestselling Author of The Myths of Innovation, Making things Happen, Confessions of a Public Speaker and other fine books

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