When you imagine your ideal boss, you probably don’t picture someone who puts his own interests above all else.
Yet a growing body of research suggests that narcissists — or those who act self-centered, crave attention, and have difficulty showing empathy — can make highly effective leaders.
We dug into some of the studies to find out exactly why narcissists can be manager material — and when their self-absorption can work to their detriment.
1. They demonstrate vision.
According to Michael Maccoby, Ph.D., author of “The Productive Narcissist,” there are two types of narcissism: productive and unproductive. Productive narcissists make good leaders largely because they can see the big picture. It isn’t hard for them to envision the road ahead for their company.
Productive narcissists also have an advantage over other personality types because they aim to leave behind a legacy. In other words, Maccoby writes, they don’t “extrapolate to understand the future — they attempt to create it.”
On the other hand, unproductive narcissists have lost all sense of self-awareness and try to fulfil unrealistic dreams for themselves and their organisation.
2. They attract followers easily.
Because narcissists are so focused on making a good impression, they often come off as highly charismatic and their arrogance seems like confidence.
Maccoby writes that narcissists usually demonstrate this charisma through powerful, inspiring language. They can excite an entire crowd of people with their energy and enthusiasm.
The problem is that narcissists who receive such adulation can become even more self-assured, ignoring meaningful advice from other people.
3. They’re highly persuasive.
Research suggests that narcissists can convince pretty much anyone that their ideas are swell — a quality that’s especially useful in entrepreneurs. They present their thoughts with tremendous enthusiasm, so much so that it’s hard to disagree with them.
But trouble may arise when narcissists are working with other narcissists. Each one may be convinced that their ideas are the only ones worth pursuing, and they may end up accomplishing nothing.
4. They’re not afraid to take risks.
Multiple studies suggest that highly narcissistic CEOs are more inclined to take risks with their companies than less narcissistic leaders, and are more likely to deviate from the status quo. In situations where radical changes are needed to save a company, narcissistic leaders have the confidence that other personality types wouldn’t.
At the same time, narcissistic CEOs can also lead their companies to disaster by taking unnecessary risks just for the sake of gaining attention.
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