Narcissists do not make good bosses

Despite their dominance and confidence suggesting otherwise, narcissists do not always make good bosses. This is the finding of new research to be published in an upcoming issue of Psychological Science - a journal of the Association for Psychological Science - which found these 'qualities' can hinder their role as manager.

Barbora Nevicka, a PhD candidate in organisational psychology at the University of Amsterdam - founded in 1632 - undertook the study with colleagues from the institute and discovered such a person's preoccupation with their self can inhibit other qualities.

These include the free and creative exchange of information and ideas - a vital part of group performance and decision-making.

Ms Nevicka said: "The narcissistic leaders had a very negative effect on their performance. They inhibited the communication because of self-centeredness and authoritarianism."

She added such attributes can be useful in a leader at certain times - such as in a crisis - but are less desirable in everyday situations.

Dr Marilyn Aitkenhead, Chartered Occupational Psychologist and Leadership Coach, commented: "Many of us have narcissistic tendencies, such as the need to be the focus of attention at times and to be seen to be powerful and successful. 

"In order to meet these needs, we might seek the limelight, emphasise how well things we are involved in are going, actively seek to make a contribution in meetings and sprinkle all of this with an outgoing sense of humour which others can find quite fun to be around.

"This interesting new research by Barbora Nevicka highlights some of the more problematic aspects of narcissism for organisational functioning. When people in leadership roles have such a hunger for self-validation that it becomes a major organising principle for how they lead their lives, it can over-ride or contaminate their values and their concern for others. This severely limits a person's capacity to successfully relate to other people in the more in-depth ways that are required of good leadership.

"How might a narcissistic leader reduce engagement? Nevicka's research points to some answers. Someone who is very narcissistic is more likely to be self-centred and authoritarian, wanting decisions to be made their way or not at all - their desire to be the centre of attention might make it harder for other people to speak up in meetings which could mean their contributions are dismissed or limited and hence the organisation cannot benefit from their ideas.

"In times of big change, organisations need those ideas. The narcissistic leader's desire to appear successful can lead them to take credit for success and minimise the role of other people in the creation of that success. And their desire to appear successful could even tempt them into some unsavoury behaviours such as massaging statistics, manipulating other people into covering things up, and bullying people - and we know how dysfunctional to an organisation that set of processes can be."