People Innovation Excellence

Does it work to be a jerk

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Meta-analysis shows narcissism must come in just the right doses

A review of current and past research suggests that the level of narcissism necessary for good leadership has to be “just right”. A study, “Narcissism and Leadership: A Meta-Analytic Review of Linear and Nonlinear Relationships,” was published in the journal Personnel Psychology.

“Our findings are pretty clear that the answer to the question as to whether narcissism is good or bad is that it is neither. It’s best in moderation,” said Emily Grijalva of the University of Illinois, the lead author of the study. Too little narcissism, a leader can be viewed as insecure or hesitant, otherwise can be exploitative or tyrannical.

Narcissists were likely to reach the leadership posts, but it has no correlation between that and their success. “Narcissists are usually very good in short-term situations when meeting people for the first time. But the impression they create quickly falls apart. And they are nowhere as good or as smart as they say they are,” Peter Harms, the co-author, said.

Those in charge of hiring or promoting leaders for their organization should proceed with cautions. They are great interviews, but they become way more annoying because leadership requires more than sound bites and pat answers.

“At personal level, they can be jerks. At strategic level, they can take huge gambles because they’re so confident they’re right and it’s either making a fortune or going to broke,” Harms said.

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