Want To Lead Effectively? Embrace Your Inner Narcissist

Just a little!

Just a touch of narcissism can take you far in the boardroom, according to a new study in Personnel Psychology.

The meta-analysis of 50 studies led by University of Illinois psychologist Emily Grijalva examined past research on the way narcissism affects whether people become leaders and how effective they are. On the one hand, past studies have shown narcissists--who at the clinical level exhibit an oversized sense of self-importance, a sense of entitlement and a lack of empathy--are more likely to become leaders, and U.S. presidents and CEOs often exhibit narcissistic qualities. However, other studies have found narcissism to be detrimental to leadership roles, because, well, who wants to work with a self-obsessed jerk?

Image: Narcissus, Caravaggio via Wikipedia

According to Grijalva and her team, the true answer lies somewhere in between. Moderate levels of narcissism can provide the self-confidence and extraversion necessary to propel a person into a leadership position, but in excess, narcissists' anti-social qualities, including "being exploitative, arrogant, and even tyrannical," as Grijalva puts it, renders them less effective to their organization.

"These results could really shift the focus of the discussion, because instead of asking whether or not narcissists make good leaders, we are asking how much narcissism it takes to be the ideal leader," Grijalva said in a press statement. Self-confidence? Good business! Sociopathic desire for admiration at the expense of everyone else's feelings? Not so much.

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  • Thinking about it, one boss I had early in my career was very narcissistic, however was smart enough to appreciate others at critical times. His narcissism certainly helped him project himself confidently and even aggressively at meetings and helped him gain an edge over the rest. This quality also helped him bounce back quickly after setbacks as he believed in himself so highly