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Narcissistic leadership is a common form of leadership. The narcissism may be healthy or destructive although there is a continuum between the two. A study published in the journal Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin suggests that when a group is without a leader, you can often count on a narcissist to take charge. Researchers found that people who score high in narcissism tend to take control of leaderless groups.[1]

There are four basic types of leader with narcissists most commonly in type 3 although they may be in type 1:[2]

  1. authoritarian with task orientated decision making
  2. democratic with task orientated decision making
  3. authoritarian with emotional decision making
  4. democratic with emotional decision making

Michael Maccoby stated about narcissistic leaders "psychoanalysts dont usually get close enough to them, especially in the workplace, to write about them".[3]

Impact of healthily narcissistic v destructively narcissistic managers

Lubit compared healthily narcissistic managers versus destructively narcissistic managers for their long-term impact on organizations.[4]

Characteristic Healthy Narcissism Destructive Narcissism
Self-confidence High outward self-confidence in line with reality Grandiose
Desire for power, wealth and admiration May enjoy power Pursues power at all costs, lacks normal inhibitions in its pursuit
Relationships Real concern for others and their ideas; does not exploit or devalue others Concerns limited to expressing socially appropriate response when convenient; devalues and exploits others without remorse
Ability to follow a consistent path Has values; follows through on plans Lacks values; easily bored; often changes course
Foundation Healthy childhood with support for self-esteem and appropriate limits on behaviour towards others Traumatic childhood undercutting true sense of self-esteem and/or learning that he/she doesn't need to be considerate of others

Corporate narcissism

Corporate narcissism occurs when a narcissist becomes the leader (CEO) or a member of the senior management team and gathers an adequate mix of codependents around him (or her) to support his narcissistic behavior. This leads almost inevitably to a deterioration in the organization's performance. Narcissists profess company loyalty but are only really committed to their own agendas, thus organization decisions are founded on the narcissists' own interests rather than the interests of the organization as a whole, the various stakeholders, or the environment in which the organization operates.[5]

See also


  1. Narcissistic People Most Likely to Emerge as Leaders Newswise, Retrieved on October 7, 2008.
  2. Thomas D Narcissism: Behind the Mask (2010) - Chapter 4 Leadership
  3. Maccoby M Narcissistic leaders: The incredible pros, the inevitable cons. Harvard Business Review, (January-February), Pages 69-77 (2000) p75
  4. Lubit, R. (2002). The long-term organizational impact of destructively narcissistic managers. Academy of Management Executive, 16(1), 127-138.
  5. Downs, Alan: Beyond The Looking Glass: Overcoming the Seductive Culture of Corporate Narcissism, 1997

Further reading


  • Conrad E Petty tyranny, dogmatism, narcissistic leadership: what effects do authoritarian leadership styles have on employee morale and performance? (2004)
  • Maccoby M Narcissistic leaders: who succeeds and who fails (2007)
  • McFarlin DB & Sweeney PD House of mirrors: House of Mirrors: The Untold Truth About Narcissistic Leaders and How to Survive Them (2000)
  • McFarlin DB & Sweeney PD Where Egos Dare: The Untold Truth about Narcissistic Leaders - And How to Survive Them (2002)
  • Vaknin S Narcissistic and Psychopathic Leaders (2009)

Academic papers

  • Brown B Narcissistic Leaders: Effectiveness and the Role of Followers - Otago Management Graduate Review Volume 3 2005 Pages 69-87
  • Horowitz MJ & Arthur RJ Narcissistic Rage in Leaders: the Intersection of Individual Dynamics and Group Process - International Journal of Social Psychiatry 1988 Summer;34(2) Pages 135-41
  • Horwitz L Narcissistic leadership in psychotherapy groups - International Journal of Group Psychotherapy 2000 Apr;50(2) Pages 219-35.
  • Jones R, Lasky B, Russell-Gale H & le Fevre M Leadership and the development of dominant and countercultures: A narcissistic perspective - Leadership & Organization Development Journal, Vol. 25 Issue 2, Pages 216-233 (2004)
  • Kearney KS Grappling with the gods: Reflections for coaches of the narcissistic leader - International Journal of Evidence Based Coaching and Mentoring Vol 8 No 1 February 2010 Pages 1-13
  • Kets de Vries MFR & Miller D Narcissism and leadership: An object relations perspective - Human Relations (1985) 38(6) Pages 583-601.
  • Ouimet G Dynamics of narcissistic leadership in organizations: Towards an integrated research model - Journal of Managerial Psychology, Vol. 25 Issue 7, Pages 713-726 (2010)
  • Rosenthal SA & Pittinsky TL Narcissistic leadership - The Leadership Quarterly Volume 17, Issue 6, December 2006, Pages 617-633
  • Volkan VD & Fowler C Large-group Narcissism and Political Leaders with Narcissistic Personality Organization - Psychiatric Annals 39:4 April 2009
  • Yang L Narcissistic leadership in organizations - University of Guelph (2009)
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