Does Narcissism Lead to Ineffective Leadership? Depends on the Rater

Topic(s): job performance, leadership, personality
Publication: Human Performance

Article: Narcissism in Organizations: A multisource appraisal reflects different perspectives.

Authors: C.A. Blair, B.J. Hoffman, K.R. Helland
Reviewed by: Benjamin Granger

Organizational researchers have identified a personality trait that consistently relates to immoral and ineffective leadership: narcissism. Narcissism involves an exaggerated sense of self-worth (“I’m better than everyone else”), a need for admiration and power (“Everyone should look up to me”), and a tendency to exploit others (“They don’t even know I’m using them”). It is easy to see how such a leader would manage ineffectively.


Despite the fact that there is much research suggesting that narcissism relates to ineffective leadership, researchers (Blair, Hoffman, & Helland, 2008) explored whether narcissism predicts managerial effectiveness in actual organizational settings.

Specifically, the researchers were interested in two managerial outcomes: Interpersonal skills (ability to successfully communicate with and motivate others) and conceptual skills (ability to think analytically and solve problems effectively). The authors were also interested in managerial integrity, which refers to how trustworthy and honest managers are.


So, in actual organizational settings, does narcissism lead to ineffective managerial performance? The researchers suggest that it depends on the criteria used and who is rating the manager (supervisors or employees).

Narcissistic leaders were rated by their supervisors as having low interpersonal skills and a lack of integrity. Interestingly though, narcissism was unrelated to interpersonal performance and integrity when rated by employees. Moreover, narcissism was not related to conceptual performance for employees or supervisors (they might be full of themselves, but they can still solve problems).


Although several of these findings were unexpected, the authors suggest that their study was successful in demonstrating that narcissism is in fact related to ineffective leadership in actual organizational settings. The authors suggest that narcissism measures may eventually become commonly implemented selection and assessment tools.


Blair, C. A., Hoffman, B. J., & Helland, K. R. (2008). Narcissism in Organizations: A multisource appraisal reflects different perspectives. Human Performance, 21, 254-276.