Narcissistic people most likely to emerge as leaders

October 8th, 2008 - 4:12 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Oct 8 (IANS) Highly self-centred and overconfident people, who exaggerate their talents and abilities and lack empathy for others, also tend to take control of leaderless groups. Collectively these traits have been described as narcissism.”Not only did narcissists rate themselves as leaders, which you would expect, but other group members also saw them as the people who really run the group,” said Amy Brunell, co-author of the study and assistant professor of psychology at Ohio State University at Newark.

The researchers found similar results in two separate studies involving college students, and one involving business managers in an MBA programme, according to an Ohio State University press release.

And while narcissists are more likely to become leaders, results of one of the studies suggests that, once in power, narcissists don’t perform any better than others in that leadership role. “It’s not surprising that narcissists become leaders,” Brunell said.

“They like power, they are egotistical, and they are usually charming and extroverted. But the problem is, they don’t necessarily make better leaders,” said Brunell.

The first study involved 432 undergraduate students. They all completed assessments which measured various personality traits, including narcissism. They were then put in groups of four, and told to assume they were a committee of senior officers of the student union, and their task was to elect next year’s director.

Each person in a group was given a profile of a different candidate for the position, and each was to argue for their particular candidate. Following the discussion, they voted on the director, and then completed a questionnaire evaluating the leadership of themselves and the other group members.

Results showed that students who scored higher on one dimension of narcissism - the desire for power - were more likely to say they wanted to lead the group, were more likely to say they did lead the group discussion, and were more likely to be viewed as leaders by the other group members.

The other dimension of narcissism - the desire for attention - was not as strongly related to leadership roles in the groups. “It’s not surprising, but the desire for power is what really drives narcissists to seek leadership positions,” Brunell said.

The study will appear in a forthcoming issue of Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.

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