ⓘ Narcissistic leadership


ⓘ Narcissistic leadership

Narcissistic leadership is a leadership style in which the leader is only interested in him/herself. Their priority is themselves – at the expense of their people/group members. This leader exhibits the characteristics of a narcissist: arrogance, dominance and hostility. It is a sufficiently common leadership style that it has acquired its own name. Narcissism is most often described as unhealthy and destructive. It has been described as "driven by unyielding arrogance, self-absorption, and a personal egotistic need for power and admiration".


1. Narcissism and groups

A study published in the journal Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin suggests that when a group is without a leader, a narcissist is likely to take charge. Researchers have found that people who score high in narcissism tend to take control of leaderless groups. Freud considered "the narcissistic type. especially suited to act as a support for others, to take on the role of leaders and to. impress others as being personalities.": one reason may be that "another persons narcissism has a great attraction for those who have renounced part of their own. as if we envied them for maintaining a blissful state of mind - an unassailable libidinal position which we ourselves have since abandoned."

According to the book Narcissism: Behind the Mask, there are four basic types of leader with narcissists most commonly in type 3 although they may be in type 1:

  • democratic with emotional decision making
  • democratic with task oriented decision making
  • authoritarian with emotional decision making
  • authoritarian with task oriented decision making

Michael Maccoby stated that "psychoanalysts dont usually get close enough to, especially in the workplace, to write about them."


2. Corporate narcissism

According to Alan Downs, corporate narcissism occurs when a narcissist becomes the chief executive officer CEO or other leadership roles within the senior management team and gathers an adequate mix of codependents around him or her to support the narcissistic behavior. Narcissists profess company loyalty but are only really committed to their own agendas, thus organizational decisions are founded on the narcissists own interests rather than the interests of the organization as a whole, the various stakeholders, or the society in which the organization operates. As a result, "a certain kind of charismatic leader can run a financially successful company on thoroughly unhealthy principles for a time. But. the chickens always come home to roost".

Neville Symington has suggested that "one of the ways of differentiating a good-enough organisation from one that is pathological is through its ability to exclude narcissistic characters from key posts."