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Friday, September 03, 2010

What Can You Expect from a Leader with a Big Ego?

What can you expect from a leader with a narcissistic personality? 

This study of 75 CEOs of Major League Baseball organisations in the USA over a 100 year period examined how positive and negative personality characteristics affected the individual’s leadership style and ultimately important outcomes for the organisation.

Terms like confident, determined, optimistic, stable, persistent, and positive were associated with the bright-side of leadership, while terms like arrogant, boastful, conceited, egotistical, self-centred, show-off and temperamental were associated with the narcissistic dark-side of leadership. 

The authors of the study suggest the following five things based on their findings (pp. 1373-1374):

The Bright-side of personality

1. Leaders who have an overall positive self-concept are better able to articulate a vision in a manner that builds commitment to the organisation’s goals.

2. Positive leaders may role model the efforts needed for the organisation to be successful and are comfortable empowering others because they have a realistic sense of their own and their organisation’s capabilities

3. Positive leaders are more comfortable with the focus being on the good of the organisation rather than on their individual success.

The Dark-side of personality

1. Narcissistic leaders are unlikely to be concerned about developing equitable exchange relationships with members of their organisation. When followers meet objectives, narcissistic leaders do a poor job of allocating recognition and rewards to reinforce desired behaviour.

2. Narcissistic leaders are very unlikely to offer a compelling vision for the organisation and inspire others to higher levels of morale and motivation.

Narcissistic leadership in this study eventually lead to more manager turnover, while positive leadership lead to higher attendance, a better winning percentage, and greater external influence in the industry (Major League Baseball).

Just like the advice to avoid hiring narcissistic employees, you should likewise avoid hiring and promoting narcissistic individuals into positions of management and leadership. It’s impossible for narcissists to see the best in others when they are so laser-focused on spotlighting the best they see in themselves. They won’t treat people fairly because it simply is not a concern for them, and their vision of individual greatness is unlikely to inspire others and may even expose the organisation to competitive peril.

There is no guarantee that simply hiring and promoting positive people is a recipe for organisational success. However, the research is pretty clear that narcissistic individuals, especially in positions of power and influence, are more likely to do harm than to do lasting good.


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