The Problem With Narcissistic Leaders

Post image for The Problem With Narcissistic Leaders
Narcissistic leaders reduce information sharing in groups, leading to poor task performance.

Narcissistic leaders are everywhere. Just think of Steve Jobs, Nicolas Sarkozy or Bill Clinton.

Normally we don’t share narcissists’ self-inflated opinions of themselves, but for leadership it’s different. Narcissists know how to radiate all the qualities of a good leader: they have high self-esteem, they are confident and they display authority. Research has shown they seem to automatically take over leaderless groups (Brunell et al., 2008).

But how does a narcissistic leader affect group performance? That’s the question Nevicka et al. (2011) ask in a new study published in Psychological Science.

One job of a leader is to help the members of a group communicate with each other. If information is flowing between group members, then better decisions can be made. So, what do narcissists do to information flow amongst group members?

What Nevicka et al.’s study found was that narcissistic leaders actually reduced information sharing among groups, which led to worse group performance.

Crucially, though, this wasn’t the perception of the group. The groups thought the narcissists were doing a good job, when actually they weren’t (as measured by task performance). This perception is probably dynamic:

“It is possible that over time, group members’ positive impressions of narcissistic leaders decrease. Indeed, previous research has shown that although people’s impressions of narcissists are positive at first, they decline over time (Paulhus, 1998).”

But by then we’re stuck with them.

Image credit: Marquette LaForest



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About the author


Dr Jeremy Dean is a psychologist and the author of PsyBlog. His latest book is "Making Habits, Breaking Habits: How to Make Changes That Stick". You can follow PsyBlog by email, by RSS feed, on Twitter and Google+.

Published: 26 September 2011

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Images: Creative Commons License