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Are narcissistic leaders more effective?



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Narcissism has always been perceived as a notorious trait – but looks like it might just be a key trait to have in the corporate world.

A new study from the Brigham Young University’s Marriott School of Management found that being a “self-promoting narcissist” could help leaders become more effective.

But, here’s the catch – it occasionally has to be balanced with a little humility.

Surveying 876 employees at a large Fortune 100 health insurance company, the report highlighted leaders with high narcissism and high humility were perceived as more effective leaders with more engaged followers.

Being typically self-centered, self-confident and believing that they posses superior ideas, narcissistic leaders often have “bold visions and grand plans, and often swing for the fences”.

They also tend to set their sights further, looking more towards changes that shape industries, shift paradigms as well as disruptive-technology-types of changes as opposed to incremental changes.

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However, Bradley Owens,  lead author on the study, warned that along with narcissism, it is also important for  leaders to display some elements of humility.

“The very traits that enable a leader to successfully launch a startup or enable a leader to emerge, can be the very traits—if not tempered—that cause a leader to derail,” Owens explained.

The study cited the example of the former Apple CEO, Steve Jobs. 

Although Jobs was still seen as narcissistic, his narcissism appeared to be counterbalanced or tempered with a measure of humility, and it was this tempered narcissist who led Apple to be the most valuable company in the world.”

Owens explained that by just by practicing and displaying elements of humility, one could help disarm, counterbalance, or buffer the more toxic aspects of narcissism

The study added some simple ways to balance narcissism with humility would be to admit to mistakes and limitations, highlight the strengths and contributions of others and model teachability.

“Humility is not meant to replace strong or typical leadership characteristics, but rather complement them in an important way,” Owens said.

“The outcome is that narcissism can possibly be a net positive.”

Image: Shutterstock



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