Research, Opinion and Practice
Chapter 5: Narcissism and Leadership Effectiveness
To better understand narcissism in the workplace it is essential to delve into the potential benefits of narcissism despite the many problems this personality trait and its associated behavior create. An analogy can be drawn to the potential advantages of red wine. The problems associated with drinking too much wine are well known. Yet many studies have emerged suggesting that moderate intake of red wine has many health benefits including warding off cardiac disease, lowering cholesterol levels, and even living longer. Similarly the right amount and type of narcissism can contribute to leadership effectiveness as will be described in this chapter. The idea that narcissists can be effective in leadership positions was proposed a while back by Manfred F.R. Kets de Vries and Danny Miller. They differentiated among three types of narcissistic leaders: reactive; self-deceptive; and constructive. The authors contended that the reactive narcissist does not listen to advisors or subordinates, whereas the self-deceptive narcissist will try to make a show of appearing interested in or sympathetic to the opinion of subordinates. Leaders who are constructive narcissists will listen more carefully to group members, partly because they know intuitively that listening to others often results in being liked.1 Two scholars at the Center for Public Leadership at Harvard University, Seth A. Rosenthal and Todd L. Pittinsky, reason that the prevalence of narcissistic leaders in all sectors of society suggests that there must be some positive aspects to narcissistic leaders. The air of total confidence and dominance so characteristic of narcissism...
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