When good leaders turn bad: the dual face of narcissistic leadership

Posted by ap507 at May 28, 2014 11:17 AM |
University management expert Professor Mark Stein gives keynote address at 25th Greek Leadership Congress

Academics have often suggested that there are two kinds of narcissistic leader: those whose self-belief serves to benefit the organisation, and those whose arrogance is actually destructive.

But new research by the University's Professor Mark Stein (pictured) suggests that a self-centred leader can actually possess both of these characteristics at different times – and can change from a good boss to a bad one when things are getting tough for the organisation.

Professor Stein, Chair of Leadership and Management at the University’s School of Management, presented his research findings on 9 May at the 25th Greek Leadership Congress in Athens.

The talk follows the publication of Professor Stein’s paper When Does Narcissistic Leadership Become Problematic? in the Journal of Management Inquiry.

Focusing especially on the implications for leadership, Professor Stein’s research examines the issue of narcissism, a concept from psychoanalysis which refers to those with an exaggerated admiration of one’s own attributes and skills.

He notes it has long been held that those with strong narcissistic tendencies are frequently drawn to leadership positions out of a need for power and prestige. Interestingly, this trait can be both beneficial and destructive for companies.

Researchers have identified leaders whose narcissism is helpful to their organisation as being “constructive” narcissistic leaders, while those who are unhelpful have been described as “reactive”.

A constructive leader might use their narcissism for positive effect – as their unwavering belief and ability to work with others can lead to great success for organisations.

But a reactive leader can be damaging for an organisation’s performance – as they are consumed by feelings of envy and a desire for revenge, and obsess over short term victories over rivals rather than focusing on the larger picture.

But while in the past, academics have tended to view both of these traits as belonging to different kinds of leader, Professor Stein has put forward the view that someone can be both.

Since his arrival at the University of Leicester in 2010, Professor Stein has given keynote addresses at conferences in Oxford, London, Roskilde, Limerick, Milan and Turin, and now in Athens.

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