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Narcissists Become Leaders, But Should They?


Do you think you’re a special person, or that the world would be a better place if you were in charge? You may or may not be right, but a recent study says you’re more likely to ascend to a leadership position, if you have a little dash of narcissism in your makeup.


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The study is called Narcissism and Leadership: A Meta-Analytic Review of Linear and Nonlinear Relationships. Soon to be published in Personnel Psychology, the research evaluates 54 prior studies to determine whether narcissists were more likely to be given position of leadership roles, and how effective they were in those roles once they attained them.

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In part, the study found that narcissists were more likely to emerge as leaders.

“Narcissists tend to be extraverted, and that is leading to the positive relationship between narcissism and leader emergence,” says Dr. Emily Grijalva, study co-author and University of Illinois psychology professor, in an interview with Psych Central. “But you have to keep in mind that although narcissists are likely to emerge as the group leader, over time, the more negative aspects of narcissism tend to emerge.”

Those negative qualities include “being exploitative, arrogant and even tyrannical,” — none of which are “really prototypical of effective leadership,” Grijalva says.

The goal, in short, is a moderate amount of narcissism.

“It’s helpful to think of narcissism as distributed along a spectrum,” writes Rachel Feintzeig in The Wall Street Journal. “On one end, self-doubt isn’t a useful characteristic in a leader — they can look weak or have trouble making decisions, according to Peter Harms, one of the study’s authors and a management professor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. But individuals on the other end don’t take feedback well and can make reckless choices, he says.”

To be a good leader, you’ll need to balance that self-regard with a touch of humility.

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Do you think a little well-placed narcissism helps people get ahead? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the conversation on Twitter.

Jen Hubley Luckwaldt
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