Research, Opinion and Practice
New Horizons in Management series
Chapter 6: Narcissism and Dysfunctional Leadership
Few people who become leaders in organizations begin their career as dysfunctional narcissists and, despite their behavior, receive a series of promotions until they occupy an executive position. The situation of a dysfunctional narcissist in a high-level leadership position is more likely that of a productive narcissist whose narcissism later intensified when given considerable power. The opportunity suddenly to have control over others and spend large sums of money without being closely scrutinized, triggers the person into such behaviors as sexually harassing subordinates and vendors, and purchasing an elaborate residence used more for personal than business purposes. As analyzed by Seth A. Rosenthal and Todd L. Pittinsky, dysfunctional narcissistic leadership occurs when leaders’ actions are principally motivated by their own egomaniacal needs and beliefs. Furthermore, these needs and beliefs supersede the needs and interests of the constituents and institutions they lead.1 When narcissism is carried to its pathological extreme, narcissistic leaders can do a lot of damage. They might leave damaged systems and relationships in their wake, and spearhead activities that bring them glory but damage the organization. An example would be a narcissistic leader of an industrial products company encouraging the investment in a consumer products company for the real purpose of extending his power and scope. The charm and other persuasive skills of the narcissist convince the board that the thrust into consumer products is a good idea. The expansion into consumer products proves to be a dud, draining off precious resources. In this chapter we describe various...
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