Organizations can be very hazardous to your well-being. It all depends on the personality of the leader. If the leader has integrity, charisma, a compelling vision of the future, and a devotion to attracting and developing the world's best talent to realize the company's vision, work will be great.

If the leader is an amoral narcissist -- e.g., a self-aggrandizing person who preys on the hopes and fears of others, and will say and do anything to achieve their aims -- your organizational life will be very unpleasant. For an example of how that unpleasantness plays out, you should watch every episode of Hulu's The Dropout.

This show illustrates how Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes gained the trust and confidence of powerful people to engage in unethical behavior that destroyed many lives. Having interviewed some of the players in this drama back in 2015, I got a glimpse at how awful it is to be under the influence of such an amoral narcissist.

But not all narcissistic leaders are a nightmare for those who work for them. A compelling article, which shares the research of Stanford Business School professor Charles O'Reilly, provides insight into how narcissistic leaders gain and use power. Most intriguing, the article suggests that some narcissistic leaders are exceptionally effective while others are completely destructive.  

Boards seek narcissistic leaders during rapid and difficult to navigate change. Such leaders portray themselves as self-confident, charismatic, strong-willed visionaries who challenge accepted wisdom and do not suffer from self-doubt or the criticism of others.

Some narcissistic leaders are better than others. As O'Reilly points out, they could achieve world-transforming greatness -- as have Steve Jobs and Elon Musk. Scarily enough, they can also be -- like Holmes or Jeff Skilling at Enron -- dishonest, shameless, and willing to do anything to destroy those who get in their way while ultimately accomplishing nothing.

If you are a board member, potential employee, customer, or partner, you have a responsibility to identify and block an amoral narcissist from getting power over your life.

Here are three ways to do that.

1. Check whether you are falling for a fake self-presentation.

An amoral narcissist can grab power by exploiting your confirmation bias: The tendency to seek out information that reinforces what you already believe and ignoring what undermines that belief.

But what forms the initial belief that confirmation bias seeks to reinforce? An amoral narcissist excels at getting control of people who can give them something they need by identifying and exploiting their vulnerability.

When Holmes met with George Shultz to recruit him for Theranos's board of directors, she recognized that the aged former secretary of state could add respectability and possibly help Theranos secure government contracts.

In The Dropout, Holmes got Shultz to idolize her by looking him in the eye, flattering him with her knowledge of his accomplishments, and wowing him with her vision for the company.

The power of his belief in Holmes's greatness engendered such powerful confirmation bias that he ignored evidence from Tyler, his grandson who worked there, that Theranos was a sham.

If a leader makes you feel this way, protect yourself by consciously recognizing how they transformed you emotionally. 

2. Investigate the claims.

With a skeptical mindset, look into the amoral narcissist's claims.

For example, soon after The Wall Street Journal reported its first skeptical article about Theranos in October 2015, I started looking into claims Holmes had made about the company.

In a 2014 Fortune cover story, Holmes claimed that Theranos had partnerships with pharmaceutical companies like GSK and Pfizer. After reading that Journal article, I contacted the companies and both claimed that they had no partnerships with Theranos.

3. Talk to former associates.

Finally, amoral narcissists leave bad relationships in their wake. To keep them from gaining power to abuse others, you must talk to their former associates.

It did not take long for me to learn frightening truths about Theranos, I spoke with Stanford professor Phyllis Gardner, who told Holmes that her technology could not work; Richard Fuisz, an inventor and physician, who has known Holmes since childhood; and Rochelle Gibbons, whose husband was Theranos's chief scientist.

By the end of that October, these interviews made me realize that Holmes was a dangerous leader whose efforts would end badly. Here are four insights from these interviews that signal an amoral narcissist whose power grab must be nipped in the bud.

It can be hard to distinguish the hugely constructive leader from the amoral narcissist. Last summer I spoke with an investor who declined to invest in Tesla in its early days, citing Musk's strange personality.

He did provide capital for Better Place, an EV battery charging service that attracted $850 million in capital before flaming out in 2013, selling for $450,000 that November.