Narcissistic leadership
Narcissistic leadership is a common form of leadership
Leadership has been described as the “process of social influence in which one person can enlist the aid and support of others in the accomplishment of a common task". Other in-depth definitions of leadership have also emerged.-Theories:...

. The narcissism
Narcissism is a term with a wide range of meanings, depending on whether it is used to describe a central concept of psychoanalytic theory, a mental illness, a social or cultural problem, or simply a personality trait...

 may be healthy or destructive although there is a continuum between the two. To critics, "narcissistic leadership(preferably destructive) is driven by unyielding arrogance, self-absorption, and a personal egotistic need for power and admiration
Narcissistic supply
Narcissistic supply is a concept in some psychoanalytic theories which describes a type of admiration, interpersonal support or sustenance drawn by an individual from his or her environment ....


Narcissism and groups

A study published in the journal Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin suggests that when a group is without a leader
A leader is one who influences or leads others.Leader may also refer to:- Newspapers :* Leading article, a piece of writing intended to promote an opinion, also called an editorial* The Leader , published 1909–1967...

, you can often count on a narcissist to take charge. Researchers 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 person's 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."

There are four basic types of leader with narcissists most commonly in type 3 although they may be in type 1:
  1. authoritarian with task orientated decision making
  2. democratic with task orientated decision making
  3. authoritarian with emotional decision making
  4. democratic with emotional decision making

Michael Maccoby
Michael Maccoby
Michael Maccoby is a psychoanalyst and anthropologist globally recognized as an expert on leadership for his research, writing and projects to improve organizations and work...

 stated that "psychoanalysts don't usually get close enough to [narcissistic leaders], especially in the workplace, to write about them."

Corporate narcissism

Corporate narcissism occurs when a narcissist becomes the leader (CEO) or a member of the senior management team and gathers an adequate mix of codependents around him (or her) to support his narcissistic behavior. Narcissists profess company loyalty but are only really committed to their own agendas, thus organizational decisions are founded on the narcissist's 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."

Psychoanalysts have 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."

Productive narcissists

Maccoby has distinguished what he calls "productive narcissists" from "unproductive narcissists". Maccoby acknowledged that "productive narcissists still tend to be over-sensitive to criticism, over-competitive, isolated, and grandiose," but considered that "what draws them out is that they have a sense of freedom to do whatever they want rather than feeling constantly constrained by circumstances," and that through their charisma they are able to "draw people into their vision, and produce a cohort of disciples who will pursue the dream for all it's worth."

Others have questioned the concept, considering that "the dramatic collapse of Wall Street and the financial system in 2009 must give us pause. Is the collapse due to business leaders who have developed narcissistic styles"—even if ostensibly productive? Certainly one may conclude that at best "there can be quite a fine line between narcissists who perform badly in the workplace because of their traits, and those who achieve outrageous success because of them."

Impact of healthy v destructive narcissistic managers

Lubit compared healthily narcissistic managers versus destructively narcissistic managers for their long-term impact on organizations.
Characteristic Healthy narcissism Destructive narcissism
Self-confidence High outward self-confidence
The socio-psychological concept of self-confidence relates to self-assuredness in one's personal judgment, ability, power, etc., sometimes manifested excessively.Being confident in yourself is infectious if you present yourself well, others will want to follow in your foot steps towards...

 in line with reality
Desire for power, wealth and admiration May enjoy power Pursues power at all costs, lacks normal inhibitions in its pursuit
Relationships Real concern for others and their ideas; does not exploit or devalue others Concerns limited to expressing socially appropriate response when convenient; devalues and exploits others without remorse
Remorse is an emotional expression of personal regret felt by a person after he or she has committed an act which they deem to be shameful, hurtful, or violent. Remorse is closely allied to guilt and self-directed resentment...

Ability to follow a consistent path Has values; follows through on plans Lacks values; easily bored; often changes course
Foundation Healthy childhood with support for self-esteem
Self-esteem is a term in psychology to reflect a person's overall evaluation or appraisal of his or her own worth. Self-esteem encompasses beliefs and emotions such as triumph, despair, pride and shame: some would distinguish how 'the self-concept is what we think about the self; self-esteem, the...

 and appropriate limits on behaviour towards others
Traumatic childhood undercutting true sense of self-esteem and/or learning that he/she doesn't need to be considerate of others

See also

Further reading

  • Conrad E Petty tyranny, dogmatism, narcissistic leadership: what effects do authoritarian leadership styles have on employee morale and performance? (2004)
  • Maccoby M Narcissistic leaders: who succeeds and who fails (2007)
  • McFarlin DB & Sweeney PD House of mirrors: House of Mirrors: The Untold Truth About Narcissistic Leaders and How to Survive Them (2000)
  • McFarlin DB & Sweeney PD Where Egos Dare: The Untold Truth about Narcissistic Leaders - And How to Survive Them (2002)
  • Vaknin S
    Sam Vaknin
    Shmuel Ben David "Sam" Vaknin is an Israeli writer. He is the author and publisher of Malignant Self Love: Narcissism Revisited , editor-in-chief of the website Global Politician, and runs a website about narcissistic personality disorder .Race, Tim. , The New York Times, July 29, 2002, p...

    Narcissistic and Psychopathic Leaders (2009)

Academic papers
  • Brown B Narcissistic Leaders: Effectiveness and the Role of Followers - Otago Management Graduate Review Volume 3 2005 Pages 69–87
  • Horowitz MJ & Arthur RJ Narcissistic Rage in Leaders: the Intersection of Individual Dynamics and Group Process - International Journal of Social Psychiatry 1988 Summer;34(2) Pages 135-41
  • Horwitz L Narcissistic leadership in psychotherapy groups - International Journal of Group Psychotherapy 2000 Apr;50(2) Pages 219-35.
  • Jones R, Lasky B, Russell-Gale H & le Fevre M Leadership and the development of dominant and countercultures: A narcissistic perspective - Leadership & Organization Development Journal, Vol. 25 Issue 2, Pages 216-233 (2004)
  • Kearney KS Grappling with the gods: Reflections for coaches of the narcissistic leader - International Journal of Evidence Based Coaching and Mentoring Vol 8 No 1 February 2010 Pages 1-13
  • Kets de Vries MFR & Miller D Narcissism and leadership: An object relations perspective - Human Relations (1985) 38(6) Pages 583-601.
  • Ouimet G Dynamics of narcissistic leadership in organizations: Towards an integrated research model - Journal of Managerial Psychology, Vol. 25 Issue 7, Pages 713-726 (2010)
  • Rosenthal SA & Pittinsky TL Narcissistic leadership - The Leadership Quarterly Volume 17, Issue 6, December 2006, Pages 617-633
  • Volkan VD & Fowler C Large-group Narcissism and Political Leaders with Narcissistic Personality Organization - Psychiatric Annals 39:4 April 2009
  • Yang L Narcissistic leadership in organizations - University of Guelph (2009)
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