Alternative theory: The dark triad makes you a worse leader, all else being equal (but a great figurehead for puppetmasters)

I’ve been flirting with this idea since I tried to foster dark triad traits in myself back in the day, believing the orthodox social science line on the subject at the time. Anecdotally at least, it doesn’t work. Maybe I didn’t go far enough to pass through the uncanny valley from Alpha mimicry to Alpha memery, or maybe I was doing it all wrong, etc. However, I’ve been ruminating on that failed attempt for a few years now. But I’ve also noticed a considerable increase in social influence (i.e. charisma) by going back in the opposite direction and treating social affect and social intelligence as a performative service (which retains the realistic view of follower’s as primarily a passive, essentially feminine audience). Probably this mindset shift comes from a bit of experience in sales. Here’s my new theory:

  • Dark triad figureheads are easier and more predictable to control. In intelligence work, they generally rank assets on a spectrum from idealistic to materialistic motivations, where the materialists are the ones you just give a bag of money and they’ll do what you say no matter how distasteful. That’s your dark triad personality.
  • The people who actually make things happen and influence events aren’t psychos themselves, they’re talented ideological and ethnocentric fanatics who are often also superbureaucrats. These people often find it useful to use a psycho as a cat’s paw.
  • Dark triad leaders will ruin whatever they lead as easily as breathing, and if you want to turn life into a nightmare for a bunch of people you hate then putting them under a nightmarish boss or overseer is a time-tested, traditional way of doing this.
  • Insofar as it’s true that dark triad traits are indeed charismatic, this mostly applies to attracting and impressing effeminate and incompetent people who aren’t likely to get good results from team efforts. We should refer to such successes as individual success rather than leadership success, since the leader benefits at the team’s expense.
  • Dark triad leaders are ranked higher in historical studies of leadership not because they actually got better results, but rather as part of the gaslighting campaign. Winston Churchill serves as an excellent example: He burned the world for the Jews because they were bankrolling his vices, then afterward he was lauded as a hero of Holocaustianity. I.e. there’s a systemic bias in the measurement that produces the opposite result from the thing being measured.

In my mind, the archetypal contrast is between Churchill and that clip of Saul Alinsky that Devon Stack showed, where he’s castigating the American Indians for engaging in self-delusion instead of real activism. Paraphrasing: “If you actually cared about improving your people’s situation instead of living in a fantasy, you would care to learn what it takes to actually get political results instead of just whining all the time.” I see Alinsky as not so much a psychopath as a highly ethnocentric person who sees himself as engaged in a war.

The thing that inspired me to write this theory down is this section from Cal Newport’s book Deep Work:

What About Jack Dorsey?

I’ve now made my argument for why deep work supports abilities that are becoming increasingly important in our economy. Before we accept this conclusion, however, we must face a type of question that often arises when I discuss this topic: What about Jack Dorsey?

 Jack Dorsey helped found Twitter. After stepping down as CEO, he then launched the payment-processing company Square. To quote a Forbes profile: “He is a disrupter on a massive scale and a repeat offender.” He is also someone who does not spend a lot of time in a state of deep work. Dorsey doesn’t have the luxury of long periods of uninterrupted thinking because, at the time when the Forbes profile was written, he maintained management duties at both Twitter (where he remained chairman) and Square, leading to a tightly calibrated schedule that ensures that the companies have a predictable “weekly cadence” (and that also ensures that Dorsey’s time and attention are severely fractured).

Dorsey reports, for example, that he ends the average day with thirty to forty sets of meeting notes that he reviews and filters at night. In the small spaces between all these meetings, he believes in serendipitous availability. “I do a lot of my work at stand-up tables, which anyone can come up to,” Dorsey said. “I get to hear all these conversations around the company.”

This style of work is not deep. To use a term from our previous section, Dorsey’s attention residue is likely slathered on thick as he darts from one meeting to another, letting people interrupt him freely in the brief interludes in between. And yet, we cannot say that Dorsey’s work is shallow, because shallow work, as defined in the introduction, is low value and easily replicable, while what Jack Dorsey does is incredibly valuable and highly rewarded in our economy (as of this writing he was among the top one thousand richest people in the world, with a net worth over $1.1 billion).

Jack Dorsey is important to our discussion because he’s an exemplar of a group we cannot ignore: individuals who thrive without depth. When I titled the motivating question of this section “What About Jack Dorsey?,” I was providing a specific example of a more general query: If deep work is so important, why are there distracted people who do well? To conclude this chapter, I want to address this question so it doesn’t nag at your attention as we dive deeper into the topic of depth in the pages ahead.

To start, we must first note that Jack Dorsey is a high-level executive of a large company (two companies, in fact). Individuals with such positions play a major role in the category of those who thrive without depth, because the lifestyle of such executives is famously and unavoidably distracted. Here’s Kerry Trainor, CEO of Vimeo, trying to answer the question of how long he can go without e-mail: “I can go a good solid Saturday without, without… well, most of the daytime without it… I mean, I’ll check it, but I won’t necessarily respond.”

At the same time, of course, these executives are better compensated and more important in the American economy today than in any other time in history. Jack Dorsey’s success without depth is common at this elite level of management. Once we’ve stipulated this reality, we must then step back to remind ourselves that it doesn’t undermine the general value of depth. Why? Because the necessity of distraction in these executives’ work lives is highly specific to their particular jobs. A good chief executive is essentially a hard-to-automate decision engine, not unlike IBM’s Jeopardy!-playing Watson system. They have built up a hard-won repository of experience and have honed and proved an instinct for their market. They’re then presented inputs throughout the day—in the form of e-mails, meetings, site visits, and the like—that they must process and act on. To ask a CEO to spend four hours thinking deeply about a single problem is a waste of what makes him or her valuable. It’s better to hire three smart subordinates to think deeply about the problem and then bring their solutions to the executive for a final decision.

This specificity is important because it tells us that if you’re a high-level executive at a major company, you probably don’t need the advice in the pages that follow. On the other hand, it also tells us that you cannot extrapolate the approach of these executives to other jobs. The fact that Dorsey encourages interruption or Kerry Trainor checks his e-mail constantly doesn’t mean that you’ll share their success if you follow suit: Their behaviors are characteristic of their specific roles as corporate officers.

This rule of specificity should be applied to similar counterexamples that come to mind while reading the rest of this book. There are, we must continually remember, certain corners of our economy where depth is not valued. In addition to executives, we can also include, for example, certain types of salesmen and lobbyists, for whom constant connection is their most valued currency. There are even those who manage to grind out distracted success in fields where depth would help.

But at the same time, don’t be too hasty to label your job as necessarily non-deep. Just because your current habits make deep work difficult doesn’t mean that this lack of depth is fundamental to doing your job well.

-Cal Newport, Deep Work, near the end of chapter 1

Jack Dorsey is a great example for my theory because his interview with Joe Rogan revealed that he’s actually a thoroughly unimpressive person, lacking both charisma and technical competence. I think he’s just one of these niggers in an old suit and straw hat who’s always walking around the block talking to people about his new business ideas and never accomplishing anything. But like Joe “I don’t know what I’m signing” Biden, that’s exactly why he’d be selected to be the cat’s paw for an intelligence operation.

About Aeoli Pera

Maybe do this later?
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