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Narcissism and Leadership



Close your eyes and imagine an ideal leader. What would that image look like? What kind of characteristics come to mind? Dominance, confidence, high self-esteem, and extraversion are characteristics that are most commonly associated with people’s image of a leader. Interestingly, narcissistic individuals fit this leader image fairly well, which might explain why they tend to emerge as leaders in groups. However, merely rising to a leadership position is not enough – it matters whether narcissists are effective as leaders. Importantly, in addition to their leader-like characteristics, narcissists possess a host of negative characteristics, such as lack of empathy, exploitativeness, arrogance, inability to deal with criticism, and aggressive tendencies. It is because of these characteristics that the behavior of narcissistic leaders can have negative ramifications for their subordinates, their organizations, or even society at large. In this chapter, we argue that in order to determine whether and when narcissistic leaders are a positive or negative force for those they lead it is imperative to consider contextual factors such as time in leadership position, contextual uncertainty, type of industry, leader’s visibility and ethical climate in the organization, and characteristics of the followers.
Narcissism and Leadership
Anna Z. Czarna
and Barbara Nevicka
Institute of Applied Psychology, Faculty of
Management and Social Communication,
Jagiellonian University, Krakow, Poland
Department of Psychology, Faculty of Social and
Behavioural Sciences, University of Amsterdam,
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Dark triad and leadership;Destructive leadership;
Narcissism and power;Narcissistic leaders
Close your eyes and imagine an ideal leader. What
would that image look like? What kind of charac-
teristics come to mind? Dominance, condence,
high self-esteem, and extraversion are character-
istics that are most commonly associated with
peoples image of a leader. Interestingly, narcis-
sistic individuals t this leader image fairly well,
which might explain why they tend to emerge as
leaders in groups. However, merely rising to a
leadership position is not enough it matters
whether narcissists are effective as leaders. Impor-
tantly, in addition to their leader-like characteris-
tics, narcissists possess a host of negative
characteristics, such as lack of empathy,
exploitativeness, arrogance, inability to deal with
criticism, and aggressive tendencies. It is because
of these characteristics that the behavior of narcis-
sistic leaders can have negative ramications for
their subordinates, their organizations, or even
society at large. In this chapter, we argue that in
order to determine whether and when narcissistic
leaders are a positive or negative force for those
they lead it is imperative to consider contextual
factors such as time in leadership position, con-
textual uncertainty, type of industry, leaders vis-
ibility and ethical climate in the organization, and
characteristics of the followers.
Narcissism as a personality trait constitutes a self-
centered, self-aggrandizing, dominant, and
manipulative interpersonal orientation (Sedikides
et al. 2004). It is characterized by a grandiose, yet
fragile, sense of self, a preoccupation with suc-
cess, a demand for admiration, and engagement in
self-enhancement and by difculties in
maintaining interpersonal relationships due to a
lack of empathy, trust, and care for others (Morf
and Rhodewalt 2001). Narcissistic individuals
perceive themselves to be special and unique.
They tend to overestimate their abilities in the
agentic domain, for example, by believing that
they are more intelligent, more creative, and
more attractive and have better leadership poten-
tial than others. In their quest for power, attention,
© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019
V. Zeigler-Hill, T. K. Shackelford (eds.), Encyclopedia of Personality and Individual Differences,
and a desire to show-off their abilities, narcissistic
individuals have a natural propensity to seek out
leadership positions (Morf and Rhodewalt 2001).
In fact, they dislike being followers unless they
are condent that they can rise through the ranks
(Zitek and Jordan 2016). Research shows that
they succeed in emerging as leaders in groups
(Grijalva et al. 2015), particularly in times of
uncertainty (Nevicka et al. 2013). The question
is what prompts people to choose narcissists as
leaders and what kind of leaders are they once
they have attained a leadership position.
We should note that this chapter will focus on
the grandiose rather than vulnerable dimension of
narcissism. Grandiose narcissism is identied by
externalizing features such as condence, domi-
nance, and extraversion. In contrast, vulnerable
narcissism is identied by internalizing features
such as introversion, low self-esteem, and high
emotional distress (Miller et al. 2017). Given the
commonality between characteristics related to
grandiose narcissism and those associated with
prototypical leaders, grandiose narcissism is
more relevant for leadership. For example, prior
research found that past US presidents had above
average grandiose but not vulnerable narcissism
in comparison to the general population (Watts
et al. 2013). Additionally, grandiose but not vul-
nerable narcissism was related to leadership effec-
tiveness indicators.
Narcissism and Leadership Emergence
Theory on the leadership outcomes of narcissism
(e.g., Campbell et al. 2011; Padilla et al. 2007;
Sedikides and Campbell 2017) has clearly differ-
entiated between narcissistic leadership emer-
gence and narcissistic leadership effectiveness.
One reason why narcissistic individuals might
often be chosen as leaders is because they appear
to personify peoples implicit ideas of what con-
stitutes a leader. The implicit leadership theory
(Lord and Maher 1991) posits that the greater
the overlap between someones characteristics
and peoples implicit leadership schemas (i.e.,
leader prototypes), the more likely that person
will be perceived as a leader. In other words,
because narcissistic characteristics such as domi-
nance, condence, extraversion, and high self-
esteem match well onto prototypical leadership
schemas, narcissists are perceived as having
leader-like qualities and thus emerge as leaders
(Sedikides and Campbell 2017).
Another reason that could explain why people
prefer narcissists in leadership positions is that
narcissists tend to make positive rst impressions
(Ong et al. 2016), which may be especially helpful
in short-term evaluative contexts such as inter-
views. Narcissistspositive initial impressions
may be driven by othersperceptions that they
have high self-esteem (Giacomin and Jordan
2018). This can happen because of the self-
broadcasting function of self-esteem: others tend
to accept the self-evaluations expressed in peo-
ples social behavior as valid and reliable sources
of information. Thus, increases in self-esteem lead
to increases in a persons popularity as judged by
others (Zeigler-Hill et al. 2013). These positive
initial impressions could enable narcissists to
obtain overly favorable hireability ratings despite
lacking adequate qualications and despite their
many negative characteristics. Indeed, prior
research found that at the time of being hired as
managers, narcissistic individuals had less orga-
nizational experience, an important criterion for
that job (Nevicka et al. 2018b). Therefore, what
seems to spur narcissistsrise to leadership posi-
tions is their own determination to attain such
positions of power, the overlap between their
own and prototypical leader characteristics, and
the positive impressions that they tend to engen-
der in the short term.
Whereas the rise of narcissists as leaders has
been well documented and understood, research
on the impact of narcissists in leadership positions
on those they lead has shown mixed ndings. In
the next section, we focus on what kind of leaders
narcissists are, once they attain positions of
Narcissism and Leadership Effectiveness
Narcissistic individuals have both potentially pos-
itive (e.g., charisma, bold vision, motivation to
2 Narcissism and Leadership
perform, risk-taking) and potentially negative
characteristics (e.g., lack of empathy, exploita-
tiveness, egocentrism, hostility, unethical tenden-
cies, risk-taking), and this mixed palette of
characteristics might differentially determine
whether they are effective or ineffective as
leaders. Researchers argue that narcissism can,
in some cases, benet not only the narcissistic
person themselves but the organization as a
whole (Chatterjee and Hambrick 2007; Sedikides
and Campbell 2017). For instance, if narcissists
are satised with their job and feel secure in their
position of authority, they are capable of excelling
in job performance (Campbell et al. 2011), espe-
cially when they perceive the context as an oppor-
tunity to show off their superior skills (Wallace
and Baumeister 2002). Such contexts need to
encompass pressure, challenge, and an evaluative
audience in order to motivate narcissistic individ-
uals to perform, and these are exactly the ingredi-
ents that can be found in leadership positions.
Additionally, there is some evidence that follow-
ing an ego threat (e.g., being told that one is
average rather than unique) narcissism can actu-
ally fuel performance because narcissists want to
demonstrate their superior qualities as a means of
countering the ego threat (Nevicka et al. 2016).
Therefore, narcissists need to showcase their
uniqueness, and their superior abilities might
actually motivate them to perform well. In turn
this achievement focus could help galvanize their
employees in their performance.
Another potential advantage to having narcis-
sistic leaders lies in narcissistssocial network
centrality and penchant for social media use. Nar-
cissistic leaders seem to amass social capital (Liu
et al. 2016) and may, thus, be well suited for the
creation and expansion of social network oppor-
tunities that are likely to benet the organization
(e.g., linking organizational interests to those of
other organizations, introducing key staff to peers
from other organizations). Their networking abil-
ity may help revitalize the organization and set the
stage for showcasing transformational leadership.
Narcissists have been found to project bold
visions and are perceived as charismatic
(Nevicka et al. 2018b), which could inspire sub-
ordinates and motivate them to work toward
common goals. Narcissistscharisma and enthu-
siasm may even help advocate successful organi-
zational change by allowing them to act as change
agents and idea champions (Campbell et al. 2011).
There is some empirical support for these
For instance, CEO narcissism was positively
related to strategic dynamism and to the number
or size of acquisitions (Chatterjee and Hambrick
2007), which is indicative of narcissistsbold and
risky decision-making and early successes
(Sedikides and Campbell 2017). While risk-
taking could be advantageous in terms of pre-
venting organizational stagnation and promoting
innovation, it can also lead to more volatility.
Indeed, Chatterjee and Hambrick (2007) found
that CEO narcissism was also positively related
to unpredictable and irregular company perfor-
mance (i.e., big wins, big losses) as measured by
nancial outcomes, such as return on investment
and shareholder returns. Due to the extreme uc-
tuations in performance, overall, companies under
narcissistic CEOs did not do better than compa-
nies under less narcissistic CEOs. In terms of
innovation, companies led by narcissistic CEOs
exhibited a higher rate of new product introduc-
tions and a greater proportion of radical innova-
tions in their new product portfolios, but they
were also more likely to encounter product harm
crises, such as product recall (Kashmiri et al.
2017). The impact of CEO narcissism on these
innovation outcomes was partially explained by
rmshigher competitive aggressiveness.
In terms of the potential negative impact of
narcissistic leaders, narcissistsparticular weak
point is their difculty in maintaining positive
interpersonal relationships over time. For exam-
ple, supervisors of narcissistic employees rated
them negatively on the interpersonal components
of leadership but not on task-specic aspects of
leadership (Blair et al. 2008). Given that the most
toxic characteristics of narcissistic individuals
pertain to the interpersonal domain, the manifes-
tation of these characteristics will probably dis-
proportionately affect those they lead. Narcissistic
leaders can cause employee distress because they
lack empathy (e.g., Böckler et al. 2017), expect
others to strive for perfection and be perfect, and
Narcissism and Leadership 3
are highly critical of others (but not of themselves;
Stoeber et al. 2015). Further, narcissists derogate
others and may react with rage when insulted or
threatened (Bushman and Baumeister 1998),
while also lashing out at innocent others (i.e.,
displaced aggression) when rejected (Twenge
and Campbell 2003, Study 4). Consistent with
this, narcissists show a preference for using an
autocratic leadership style particularly in ego-
threatening circumstances (Schoel et al. 2015)
by means of which they attempt to solidify their
power and control over others. Remarkably, nar-
cissists disparage others even in the absence of
self-threat (Park and Colvin 2015). Such mistreat-
ment may lead to employee feelings of humilia-
tion or hopelessness (Herschcovis and Barling
2010), stress or job dissatisfaction, job burnout
(Fox and Stallworth 2010), and turnover inten-
tions (Tepper et al. 2009; Sedikides and Campbell
2017). Indeed, narcissists have been found to con-
stitute poor mentors, with protégés opting for
shorter-term relationships with them and
reporting less psychosocial or career support as
well as more negative mentoring experiences
(Allen et al. 2009).
In addition to affecting the well-being of fol-
lowers, narcissistspattern of resisting and
devaluing othersinput and advice and shutting
down employee voice can have direct negative
consequences on organizational performance
(Kausel et al. 2015; Maccoby 2000; Rosenthal
and Pittinsky 2006). For example, in a decision-
making task, narcissistic leaders were found to
inhibit group-level information exchange, which
in turn reduced the quality of team decision-
making (Nevicka et al. 2011).
Another negative aspect of narcissistic individ-
uals includes their propensity to behave
unethically. Prior research has linked narcissistic
leaders to unethical behavior (Amernic and Craig
2010; Blickle et al. 2006; Sedikides and Campbell
2017; Watts et al. 2013). Furthermore, their
unethical behavior has a demoralizing effect on
other employees. Narcissists rely on unfair ineq-
uitable exchanges to achieve desired outcomes,
and because in an organizational context they are
embedded in a network and interconnected with
other employees, their unethical tendencies can
have a ripple effect on others (OBoyle et al.
2012). Therefore, their low ethics might have
extended detrimental inuence: it can contami-
nate others if left unchecked. Unethical
employees tend to create an organizational culture
where unethical behavior becomes the norm,
especially when leaders or authority gures are
misbehaving (Kish-Gephart et al. 2010).
Indeed, narcissists often seem to derail in terms
of ethics when in position of authority (Judge et al.
2009;OBoyle et al. 2012). Results of a meta-
analysis show that for individuals in positions of
authority, such as managers, leaders, police, and
correctional ofcers, the higher their level of nar-
cissism, the worse their job performance
(OBoyle et al. 2012), and researchers argue that
this is because of narcissistsunethical, self-
serving, arrogant, and impulsive behaviors.
Thus, this relationship might be explained by
poor quality of interpersonal relationships and
poor decision-making. The functioning of subor-
dinates might also suffer due to narcissistic
leadersunethical tendencies. As leaders, narcis-
sists seem to direct interpersonal deviance toward
their subordinates as means to achieving their
goals: they regularly belittled their subordinates
and exploited their insecurities in an attempt to
minimize negative feedback and create dependen-
cies (Grijalva and Harms 2014; House and Howell
1992). For instance, using a sample of athletes and
accredited coaches, Matosic et al. (2016) showed
that coach narcissism was directly and positively
associated with athletesperceptions of control-
ling behaviors and more positive attitudes toward
doping and was indirectly and positively associ-
ated with athletesreports of frustration of needs
for autonomy, competence, and relatedness.
Moreover, leadersnarcissism was associated
with the frustration of followerspsychological
needs such as needs for autonomy, competence,
and relatedness (Matosic et al. 2016).
Narcissistic Leaders and the Importance
of Context
Given the aforementioned mixture of potentially
positive as well as potentially negative
4 Narcissism and Leadership
characteristics inherent in narcissistic leaders, in
order to determine whether and when narcissistic
leaders are a positive or negative force for those
they lead, it is important to consider contextual
factors. One such factor is the progression of time.
According to the contextual reinforcement model
(Campbell et al. 2011), leader narcissism is bene-
cial in the emerging zone(i.e., in new leadership
positions, short-term contexts) and harmful in the
enduring zone(i.e., long-held leadership posi-
tions, long-term contexts). The problem, however,
is that emerging situations become enduring, and
over time the more toxic aspects of narcissistic
leaders may overshadow their charisma and con-
example, narcissistsovercondence can lead to
reckless risk-taking, which in the long term could
have negative nancial ramications for the
The more recent Sedikides and Campbell
(2017) Energy Clash Model (ECM) further renes
the dynamics of interplay between narcissistic
leaders and organizations. It outlines the narcis-
sistic organizational trajectory using phase/state
physics metaphor. Narcissism is conceptualized
as a force that enters into or emerges in a stable
system (i.e., organization) as a leader, destabilizes
it through waves of excitement, proposed reforms,
and an inspiring vision for organizations future
(perturbation). Next, with the passage of time, as
organizational costs in terms of human
resources and monetary losses due to their risky
nancial and unethical decisions accrue and
systemic awareness and alertness intensify, it
meets resistance and clashes directly with the
organization (conict) and stabilizes it at a differ-
ent state (when the leader is accommodated) or is
expelled (resolution). Thus, the idea is that over
time those who are led by the narcissistic leader as
well as other members of the organization become
aware of narcissistic leaders toxic characteristics,
such as their lack of empathy, hostility, dismissal
of expert advice, and inability to deal with criti-
cism and their unethical inclinations. Research
has indeed shown that while narcissists make
positive rst impressions because of their charm
and humor, these evaluations deteriorate over time
as others become aware of narcissistsnegative
characteristics. Consequently, narcissistspopu-
larity as well as leadership status decreases
(Czarna et al. 2016; Leckelt et al. 2015; Ong
et al. 2016). In turn the organization is then
required to deal with such a leader and can either
try to accommodate their presence (e.g., enhanc-
ing accountability measures, trying to ensure
goal-congruency between the leaders and orga-
nizational interests) or get rid of the narcissistic
leader altogether. Narcissistsimpulsivity might
even mean that they leave of their own accord
when they get bored.
In both of these theoretical models, time played
a crucial role in the typical trajectoryof a nar-
cissistic leader, initially accompanying him/her to
heights of popularity and effectiveness and then
back to the bottom. Research examining other
contextual factors has further distilled the circum-
stances that are most favorable (or unfavorable) to
the effectiveness of narcissistic leaders. In partic-
ular, times of uncertainty appeared to be conve-
nient to narcissistic individuals, serving as a
catalyst in their emergence to leadership positions
and as a reinforcement of their effectiveness. Nar-
cissistic leaders bring condence, toughness,
boldness, vision, and innovation into the
decision-making process, which might be espe-
cially valued in times of organizational uncer-
tainty, i.e., lost market share, unpredictable work
environment, and high employee stress (Campbell
et al. 2011; Nevicka et al. 2013; Sedikides and
Campbell 2017). In times of uncertainty or crises,
narcissists might be perceived as suitable leaders
because they seem capable of reducing the
It is also possible that narcissistic leaders are
more effective in specic types of industries but
ineffective in others. For example, they may be
effective in dynamic, high-discretion industries as
fashion, media, or entertainment but may be inef-
fective in stable, low-discretion industries such as
insurance or utilities (Chatterjee and Hambrick
2007). They may likewise be effective in domains
where condence, persuasiveness, extraversion,
and self-absorption are highly relevant (e.g.,
sales and academia; Sedikides and Campbell
2017) but ineffective in domains that require rela-
tionship building and trust (e.g., life-saving,
Narcissism and Leadership 5
nursing; Rosenthal and Pittinsky 2006). Finally,
they may be effective in domains that reward self-
promotion and manipulativeness (e.g., politics;
Watts et al. 2013).
Ethical climate of an organization is another
contextual factor crucial for the effectiveness of
narcissistic leaders. As mentioned before, narcis-
sistic leadersunethical behavior might have an
extended detrimental inuence on the organiza-
tion via role modeling. By setting a poor example,
narcissistic leaders may negatively impact the
culture of an organization by changing its ethical
climate. Thus, unsurprisingly, organizations with
a lower ethical climate become more hospitable
for narcissistic leaders. Research found that the
deleterious effects of narcissism on ethical leader-
ship became more pronounced and salient in
highly ethical contexts but remained undetectable
in unethical contexts (Hoffman et al. 2013).
Although the presence of an ethical climate does
not prevent unscrupulous behaviors of narcissistic
leaders from occurring, it does make them more
visible and, therefore, detectable to other group
members. With regard to visibility of narcissistic
leadersbehavior, prior research similarly found
that leader distance inuenced the perceived
effectiveness of narcissistic leaders (Nevicka
et al. 2018b). When followers had fewer opportu-
nities to observe their leaders behavior and thus
had less exposure to their toxic characteristics, for
example, due to a greater number of hierarchical
levels between the leader and the follower, they
perceived narcissistic leaders as effective and
reported positive job attitudes. However, this pos-
itive relationship disappeared when the leader was
more visible to the followers. Related to this,
organizations with narcissistic CEOs have been
found to have a higher manager turnover (Resick
et al. 2009). This again could stem from the fact
that narcissiststoxic characteristics would be
especially potent for those who are most proximal
to them in the workplace, namely, their direct
Interestingly, recent research suggests that
despite these toxic behaviors, leadersnarcissism
might actually benet the objective and subjective
career success of certain subordinates and might
have no adverse effects on their well-being
(Volmer et al. 2016). It is plausible that by pro-
moting their subordinatescareers narcissistic
leaders attempt to retain loyal subordinates in
order to obtain continuing admiration and grati-
tude from them, essentially using them as narcis-
sistic supplies.These followers would then
benet indirectly from the narcissistic leaders
insatiable desire for constant adoration and ego
boosts. Nevertheless, these benets would be
reserved exclusively for the most loyal and suf-
ciently submissive, admiring subordinates whose
devotion to the leader might at the same time leave
them defenseless and vulnerable to his/her whims
and changing moods (Czarna et al. 2018). In a
similar vein, Grijalva and Harms (2014) devel-
oped their Narcissistic Leaders and Dominance
Complementarity Model to better understand
what kind of followers would work most effec-
tively with narcissistic leaders. They predicted
that submissive (rather than dominant) followers
would work more harmoniously with narcissistic
leaders and that the leader-follower relationship
would be more satisfying and productive for both
parties. However, other scholars (Padilla et al.
2007) suggested that these submissive individuals
might be vulnerable to narcissistsexploitative
tendencies. Recent research showed that fol-
lowers low on self-esteem or low on core self-
evaluations suffered most from narcissistic
leaders as they perceived them to be abusive
and, in turn, these followers showed reduced per-
formance and more burnout symptoms when
working for such leaders. Followers low on self-
esteem are more insecure and more in need of
approval from their supervisor and thus also
make for easier targets(Nevicka et al. 2018a).
Thus, despite the fact that collaboration with more
submissive followers might be preferable for nar-
cissistic leaders as they do not need to experience
power conict with dominant subordinates, this
may come at a cost to the followers themselves.
Thus, how follower characteristics t with those
of a narcissistic leader might require further inves-
tigation: when and under what circumstances
6 Narcissism and Leadership
followers loyalty and submission to a leader
work synergistically with the leaders narcissism
to bring benets to both parties and when it
becomes a hindrance and a hazard to the well-
being of the followers.
So how can we best harness the positive side of
narcissistic leaders, while curbing their negative
side? In the above we have provided some exam-
ples of contextual factors that could serve as a
switch between the adaptive and maladaptive
inuence of narcissistic leaders. Additionally,
organizational safeguards such as checks and bal-
ances and executive training can be used to keep
narcissistic leaders under control (Grijalva and
Harms 2014). According to the Energy Clash
Model, narcissistic energy, when managed and
directed properly either at structural or systemic
level (through implementing systemic checks and
balances via accountability, instituting synergistic
leadership, increasing leader-organization identi-
cation) or at an individual or interpersonal level
(introducing micro-interventions, initiating per-
sonal development through coaching, strengthen-
ing the leader-employee t) may contribute to
organizational innovation and evolution
(Sedikides and Campbell 2017). Under these con-
ditions, with checks and balances securing the
ethical culture, mutual respect, and civility in the
workplace, narcissistic leaders could achieve an
optimal level of functioning and signicantly con-
tribute to their organizations. Thus, in a well-
controlled environment and in the right context a
leader characterized by this apparently aversive
trait can become an asset rather than a liability to
the organization.
Dark Personality Features and Employment
Narcissistic Personality Inventory
Personality and Leadership
Personality, Personnel Selection, and Job
Political Leadership
Acknowledgments The present work was supported by
grant no. 2015/19/B/HS6/02214 from the National Science
Center, Poland, awarded to the rst author.
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Narcissism and Leadership 9
The effectiveness of a leader is determined by their leadership skills. Although each leader has their own distinct style, there are a few commonly known forms of leadership, including transformational, transactional, democratic, servant, and charismatic authority leadership. Contrarily, the dark triad, which includes the personality traits of narcissism, psychopathy, and Machiavellianism, is a dark personality trait. Even though these characteristics of dark triad can cause personality disorders, they somehow improve a leader's ability in a crisis. Secondary data have been gathered through a variety of techniques to support the former mentioned statement. According to the findings, dark traits are positively correlated with effective leadership outcomes and crisis management and decision making, in whole or in part.
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Narcissism is imbued with emotional dynamism and there is a strong need to assess the linkages with outcomes by analyzing their fusion. The present study examined the relationship between grandiose narcissism and performance through analyzing the mediating role of subjective wellbeing (positive affect, negative affect and life satisfaction). The wholesome assessment of performance was done by considering task performance, team-work and cognitive motivational effectiveness among 293 senior-level Indian employees of a big public sector organization. Data were analyzed by using SPSS 22 and Smart PLS 2.0. The correlation results showed that grandiose narcissism was negatively related to performance, life satisfaction and positively related to negative affect. The indirect pathways (through mediation analyses) revealed that negative affect and life satisfaction mediated the relationship between grandiose narcissism and performance. The study effectively contributes to the narcissism and performance literature by presenting clearer pathways of grandiose narcissism (through self-regulated emotions and subjective wellbeing). Practical implications were also highlighted beside the theoretical concerns.
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Emotional processes are of key importance for the understanding of narcissism, in both its grandiose and its vulnerable forms. The current chapter provides an overview on the links between narcissism and emotionality. The two forms of narcissism differ distinctly in their hedonic tone, with vulnerable narcissism being characterized by negative emotionality and low well-being and grandiose narcissism being linked to positive emotionality and high well-being. Both forms are related to strong mood variability that is thought to stem from contingent self-esteem. Both forms are related to hubristic pride, but only vulnerable narcissism is linked to shame-proneness, envy and schadenfreude. Both forms are characterized by outbursts of anger, but the underlying causes and the expression of anger differ between the two forms. Specifically, narcissistic vulnerable is linked to uncontrollable narcissistic rage that stems from a fragile sense of self, and results in disproportionate and dysfunctional aggression. Grandiose narcissism, in contrast, goes along with instrumental aggression that serves the purpose of asserting one’s dominance in the face of strong direct status threats. Vulnerable narcissism is related to deficits in emotion regulation, yet research has just begun to shed light on the regulation processes of grandiose narcissists.The chapter concludes with reflections on how recent theoretical and methodological developments might be employed to gain a fuller understanding of narcissists’ emotional lives.
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Narcissistic leaders are self-absorbed and hold beliefs of entitlement and superiority. Their aggressive tendencies in the face of criticism and inclinations to validate their self-worth by derogating others may lead others to perceive them as being abusive. Here, we test the relationship between leader narcissism and followers’ perceptions of abusive supervision. Drawing upon research related to the behavioral plasticity hypothesis, we propose that followers with low self-esteem will perceive narcissistic leaders as more abusive than those with high self-esteem. Followers low on self-esteem are more insecure, more in need of approval from their supervisor and are more likely to interpret the haughty, derogatory attitude of narcissistic leaders as abusive. Such followers also make for ‘easier targets’ and thus may actually suffer more abusive behavior from their narcissistic leaders. In a first multi-source study of 85 leaders and 128 followers, we found support for the moderating role of follower self-esteem in the relationship between leader narcissism and perceived abusive supervision: Narcissistic leaders were rated as more abusive by followers who were low on self-esteem, but not those higher on self-esteem. In a second multi-source field study among 177 leader-follower dyads, we tested a moderated mediation model and showed that this finding also holds for the broader concept of follower core self-evaluations as a moderator. Abusive supervision, in turn, was related to lower follower performance and followers experiencing more burnout symptoms. Thus, followers low on self-esteem or low on core self-evaluations seem to suffer most from narcissistic leaders as they perceive them to be abusive and, in turn, these followers show reduced performance and more burnout symptoms when working for such leaders. This research thus identifies an important moderator that might help reconcile previous inconsistent findings regarding perceptions of narcissistic leaders.
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There has been a surge in interest in and research on narcissism and narcissistic personality disorder (NPD). Despite or because of this increased attention, there are several areas of substantial debate that surround the construct, including descriptions of grandiose and vulnerable dimensions or variants, questions regarding the existence of a consensual description, central versus peripheral features of narcissism, distinctions between normal and pathological narcissism, possible etiological factors, the role of self-esteem narcissism, where narcissism should be studied, how it can be assessed, and its representation in diagnostic nosologies. We suggest that a failure to distinguish between grandiose (i.e., overtly immodest, self-centered, entitled, domineering) and vulnerable (e.g., self-centered, distrustful, neurotic, introverted) presentations of narcissism has led to a less cohesive and coherent literature and that trait-based models of personality and personality disorder can bring greater clarity to many of these important debates. Expected final online publication date for the Annual Review of Clinical Psychology Volume 13 is May 7, 2017. Please see for revised estimates.
Multidimensional perfectionism is related to grandiose narcissism, with other-oriented perfectionism showing the strongest, most consistent relationships. The relationships with vulnerable narcissism, however , are unclear. Our study investigated how three forms of perfectionism-self-oriented, other-oriented, and socially prescribed perfectionism (Hewitt & Flett, 1991)-are related to narcissistic grandiosity and vulnerability. A sample of 375 university students completed the Narcissistic Personality Inventory (various facets of narcissistic grandiosity and vulnerability. Multiple regressions were conducted controlling for the overlap between the three forms of perfectionism and gender. Other-oriented perfectionism showed unique positive relationships with key facets of grandiose narcissism. In contrast, socially prescribed perfectionism showed positive relationships with all facets of vulnerable narcissism. Self-and other-oriented perfectionism showed positive relationships with individual facets only. Other-oriented perfectionism appears to represent a form of perfectionism predominantly related to narcissistic grandiosity, whereas socially prescribed perfection-ism is predominantly related to narcissistic vulnerability. As the first study to examine perfectionism in relation to narcissistic grandiosity and vulnerability, our research both extends and clarifies the nomological network of the perfectionism construct in important ways.
Objective We examine why people form positive first impressions of grandiose narcissists, even though they can identify others’ narcissism. We test whether this occurs because narcissists are perceived to have especially high self‐esteem, which is socially valued. Method Across four studies, undergraduate perceivers viewed photographs of targets (for whom narcissism and self‐esteem were known) and rated perceptions of their narcissism, self‐esteem, and how much they liked them. Results Perceivers rated more narcissistic targets to be higher in self‐esteem (even compared to targets with equally high self‐esteem) and liked them more. Perceptions of self‐esteem, moreover, mediated the effect of target narcissism on liking (Study 1). This effect disappeared when targets’ narcissism was made salient, suggesting that trait narcissism is not inherently attractive (Study 2). Finally, path models reveal a negative effect of perceptions of narcissism on liking that is suppressed by a positive effect of perceptions of self‐esteem on liking (Study 3a), even for ratings of people's online dating profiles (Study 3b). Conclusion Positive initial impressions of narcissists may be driven by inflated perceptions that they have high self‐esteem. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
Although narcissists often emerge as leaders, research has thus far shown inconsistent results on the relationship between leader narcissism and effectiveness in the eyes of followers. Here we draw on leader distance theory (Shamir, 1995) and implicit leader theory (Lord & Maher, 1991) to propose that followers’ assessment of a narcissistic leader and followers’ overall job attitudes depend on the leader’s visibility to the followers. The more opportunities followers have to observe narcissistic leaders the more they will experience these leaders’ toxic behavior (e.g., exploitativeness) and the less they will perceive the leader as effective. To test our hypotheses we collected multisource, longitudinal data from 175 retail stores and obtained subjective (followers’ perceptions of leader effectiveness and their overall job attitudes) as well as objective (leaders’ organizational experience at time of hire, employee absenteeism trends) indices of leader functionality. Results showed that narcissistic leaders had less organizational experience at the time they were hired. Moreover, when followers had fewer opportunities to observe their leader, leader narcissism was positively related to perceived leadership effectiveness and job attitudes. However, when followers had more opportunity to observe their leader, the positive relationship disappeared. Finally, leader narcissism was neither positively nor negatively associated with absenteeism, whereas absenteeism declined over time under non-narcissistic leaders. These findings advance our knowledge of how followers respond to narcissistic leaders and how these leaders function in organizational settings where they have legitimate positions of power.
This research examines the relationship between narcissistic personality characteristics in Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) and firms’ innovation outcomes. The authors argue that firms led by narcissistic CEOs are likely to exhibit a higher rate of new product introductions and a greater proportion of radical innovations in their new product portfolios, but they are also more likely to encounter product-harm crises. The impact of CEO narcissism on these innovation outcomes is partially mediated by firms’ higher competitive aggressiveness. High power of the marketing department in the top management team, however, increases firms’ customer orientation, which in turn weakens the relationship between CEO narcissism and product-harm crises. A longitudinal analysis of a sample of 395 publicly listed U.S. firms in the period 2006–2010 provides considerable support for the authors’ hypotheses. This research underscores the importance of studying CEOs’ personality traits as antecedents of firms’ innovation outcomes, highlights the positive and negative impact of CEO narcissism on firms’ innovation-related behavior, and delineates the process through which this impact takes place.
This article focuses on the interplay between narcissistic leaders and organizations. It attempts to capture the gist of this interplay with a model outlining the narcissistic organizational trajectory. The Energy Clash Model borrows and adapts a phase/state physics metaphor to conceptualize narcissism as a force that enters or emerges in a stable system (i.e., organization) as a leader, destabilizes it, and stabilizes it at a different state or is expelled. The model consists of three time-contingent phases: perturbation, conflict, and resolution. Narcissists create instability through waves of excitement, proposed reforms, and an inspiring vision for organization’s future (perturbation). With the passage of time, though, systemic awareness and alertness intensify, as organizational costs—in terms of human resources and monetary losses—accrue. Narcissistic energy clashes directly with the organization (conflict), a clash likely to restabilize the system eventually. The conflict may provoke the exit of the narcissistic leader or his or her accommodation, that is, steps or controls negotiated between the system and the leader (resolution). Although narcissism is subject to organizational liability, narcissistic energy, when managed and directed properly, may contribute to organizational innovation and evolution. Thus, several interventions for working with narcissistic leaders are discussed.