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Do Narcissists Make the Most Effective Leaders?


It’s an age-old paradox: we say we value humility and selflessness, but the most successful members of society seem to tend toward narcissism. Are we just snowed by all that charm, or can it be that a certain amount of self-centeredness is essential for success?

Psychiatrist Martha Stout, author of “The Sociopath Next Door,” tells Forbes contributor Rob Asghar that a leader with more narcissistic qualities might be better for an organization than one with fewer.

“You can have too little,” she says.

Narcissists are, by definition, self-centered, which means they’re not as likely to experience the kind of crippling self-doubt that can waylay a more thoughtful leader. Of course, it’s possible to go too far in that direction, and become reckless, to the detriment of the leader and his company. Stout makes the distinction between people with narcissistic qualities, which might make them more steadfast in the pursuit of their dreams, and people who suffer from narcissistic personality disorder, which makes it difficult for them to appreciate someone else’s point of view or set realistic goals.

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It’s all about seeking what Asghar terms “the Goldilocks Zone” of ego — a place where we have enough self-regard to be confident and determined, without having such an inflated image of our own importance that we crash and burn. (For folks who are interested in finding out how to stay in that zone, Asghar promises to revisit it in upcoming posts over the next few weeks, so watch his Twitter feed for more info.)

Tell Us What You Think

Do you think narcissism is an essential leadership quality? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

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(Photo Credit: One Way Stock/Flickr)

Jen Hubley Luckwaldt
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