The susceptible circle: A taxonomy of followers associated with destructive leadership

Christian N. Thoroughgood, Art Padilla, Samuel T. Hunter, Brian W. Tate

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

110 Scopus citations


While leadership scholars increasingly acknowledge the influence of followers in the leadership process, less attention has been paid to their role in the destructive leadership process. Specifically, the current debate lacks a broad-based understanding of different susceptible follower types that synthesizes related research across academic domains. Expanding on Padilla, Hogan, and Kaiser's (2007) toxic triangle model of destructive leadership, we integrate research and theory across various academic literatures to derive a cohesive taxonomy of vulnerable followers that we call the susceptible circle. We describe the core characteristics of each follower type, drawing on Barbuto's (2000) theory of follower compliance to highlight the psychological processes that motivate each follower to comply with destructive leaders. We then conclude by discussing theoretical and practical implications, as well as avenues for future research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)897-917
Number of pages21
JournalLeadership Quarterly
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 2012

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Business and International Management
  • Applied Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management


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