Narcissistic leadership

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Narcissistic leadership is a leadership style in which the leader is only interested in him/herself. Their priority is themselves – at the expense of their people/group members. This leader exhibits the characteristics of a narcissist: arrogance, dominance and hostility. It is a sufficiently common leadership style that it has acquired its own name.[1] Narcissism is most often described as unhealthy and destructive. It has been described as "driven by unyielding arrogance, self-absorption, and a personal egotistic need for power and admiration".[2]

Narcissism and groups[edit]

A study published in the journal Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin suggests that when a group is without a leader, a narcissist is likely to take charge. Researchers have found that people who score high in narcissism tend to take control of leaderless groups.[3] 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'.":[4] 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."[5]

According to the book Narcissism: Behind the Mask, there are four basic types of leader with narcissists most commonly in type 3 although they may be in type 1:[6]

  1. authoritarian with task oriented decision making
  2. democratic with task oriented decision making
  3. authoritarian with emotional decision making
  4. democratic with emotional decision making

Michael Maccoby stated that "psychoanalysts don't usually get close enough to [narcissistic leaders], especially in the workplace, to write about them."[7]


Women CEOs with narcissistic personalities are more likely than high-risk taking male narcissists to stabilize an organization, follow regulations, and implement them.[8]

Corporate narcissism[edit]

According to Alan Downs, corporate narcissism occurs when a narcissist becomes the chief executive officer (CEO) or other leadership roles within the senior management team and gathers an adequate mix of codependents around him (or her) to support the 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.[9] 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".[10]

Neville Symington has 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."[11]

Impact of healthy v. destructive narcissistic managers[edit]

Lubit compared healthily narcissistic managers versus destructively narcissistic managers for their long-term impact on organizations.[12]

Characteristic Healthy narcissism Destructive narcissism
Self-confidence High outward self-confidence in line with reality Grandiose
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
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 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[edit]


  1. ^ Neider, Linda L. (2010). The Dark Side of Management. Charlotte, North Carolina: Information Age Publishing. p. 29. ISBN 978-1607522645.
  2. ^ Linda L. Neider/Chester A. Schriesheim, The Dark Side of Management (2010) p. 29
  3. ^ Narcissistic People Most Likely to Emerge as Leaders Newswise, Retrieved on October 7, 2008.
  4. ^ Sigmund Freud, On Sexuality (PFL 7) pp. 362–63
  5. ^ Sigmund Freud, On Metapsychology (PFL 11) pp. 82–83
  6. ^ David Thomas, Narcissism: Behind the Mask (2010) – Chapter 4 Leadership
  7. ^ Maccoby M Narcissistic leaders: The incredible pros, the inevitable cons. Harvard Business Review, (January–February), pp. 69–77, p. 75 (2000)
  8. ^ "Narcissistic Leaders: A Review of Astonishing Success and Remarkable Failure". Journal of Leadership, Accountability and Ethics. 15 (3). 2018-09-01. doi:10.33423/jlae.v15i3.1244. ISSN 1913-8059.
  9. ^ Downs, Alan: Beyond The Looking Glass: Overcoming the Seductive Culture of Corporate Narcissism, 1997
  10. ^ Robin Skynner/John Cleese, Life and how to survive it (London 1994) p. 101
  11. ^ Neville Symington, Narcissism: A New Theory (London 2004) p. 10
  12. ^ Lubit, R. (2002). The long-term organizational impact of destructively narcissistic managers. Academy of Management Executive, 16(1), 127–38.

Further reading[edit]


  • 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 Narcissistic and Psychopathic Leaders (2009)

Academic papers[edit]

  • Brown B Narcissistic Leaders: Effectiveness and the Role of Followers – Otago Management Graduate Review Volume 3, 2005 pp. 69–87
  • Horowitz, Mardi J.; Arthur, Ransom J. (1988). "Narcissistic Rage in Leaders: The Intersection of Individual Dynamics and Group Process". International Journal of Social Psychiatry. 34 (2): 135–141. doi:10.1177/002076408803400208. PMID 3410659. S2CID 23942080.
  • Horwitz, Leonard (2000). "Narcissistic Leadership in Psychotherapy Groups". International Journal of Group Psychotherapy. 50 (2): 219–235. doi:10.1080/00207284.2000.11490999. PMID 10778013. S2CID 32878727.
  • Jones, Robert; Lasky, Barbara; Russell‐Gale, Heather; Le Fevre, Mia (2004). "Leadership and the development of dominant and countercultures". Leadership & Organization Development Journal. 25 (2): 216–233. doi:10.1108/01437730410521868.
  • 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 pp. 1-13
  • De Vries, Manfred F. R. Kets; Miller, Danny (1985). "Narcissism and Leadership: An Object Relations Perspective". Human Relations. 38 (6): 583–601. doi:10.1177/001872678503800606. S2CID 145195507.
  • Ouimet, Gérard (2010). "Dynamics of narcissistic leadership in organizations". Journal of Managerial Psychology. 25 (7): 713–726. doi:10.1108/02683941011075265.
  • Padilla, A.; Hogan, R. (2007). "The toxic triangle: Destructive leaders, susceptible followers, and conducive environments". The Leadership Quarterly. 18 (3): 176–194. doi:10.1016/j.leaqua.2007.03.001.
  • Rosenthal, Seth A.; Pittinsky, Todd L. (2006). "Narcissistic leadership". The Leadership Quarterly. 17 (6): 617–633. doi:10.1016/j.leaqua.2006.10.005.
  • Volkan, Vamik D.; Fowler, J. Christopher (2009). "Large-Group Narcissism and Political Leaders with Narcissistic Personality Organization". Psychiatric Annals. 39 (4): 214–223. doi:10.3928/00485713-20090401-09.

External links[edit]