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Is The Top Candidate for Your Leadership Position a Narcissist?

by | 3 minute read

These are confusing times for business leaders. They’re told they need to be sensitive and emphasize their soft skills to increase employee loyalty and engagement. At the same time, in the hyper-competitive, hyper-connected business world, the CEOs who are most admired and perceived as most successful possess narcissistic tendencies.

Narcissists tend to exude confidence. This confidence plays well when it’s time for leaders to raise money for their companies. Narcissists also interview well, and hiring managers often believe they will make strong leaders. But the narcissist trait can only take a leader so far.

The Trouble With Narcissists

New research from Stanford University reveals that narcissist CEOs tends to get their companies in trouble. Jennifer Chatman, a professor of management at the Berkeley Haas School of Business, reports that narcissists “discount negative feedback and are overly confident in their judgment.” In some cases, they don’t like to hear negative comments and have a long memory when a team member challenges them.

To protect themselves from further negative feedback, these leaders will reward the people who are loyal to them. In doing so, they can change a corporate culture. Employees who may have been brave enough to tell the truth will stay silent during the reign of a narcissist leader.

For example, they may know that the leader is lying about the state of the balance sheet. Instead of speaking up, employees will protect their own paychecks. Instead of speaking up, they’ll hope everything will work out or that their unethical boss will self-destruct. While the narcissist may not last long at your company, the negative impact of their style could take a while to correct.

The Potential for Change

Elinor Greenberg, writing for Psychology Today, points out that some individuals with Narcissistic Personality Disorder “actually do want to change.” But the path to developing “a healthier way of functioning” is challenging. When narcissists lose confidence in themselves or feel inadequate, they lash out and overreact. To change that behavior, they must constantly think about their triggers. When they feel rage building, they must consciously delay their usual reaction and substitute a preferred reaction. If you’ve got a narcissist leader on your staff, encourage them to work on changing the way they interact with other team members.

How to Protect Your Organization

If you want to limit your exposure to the damaging effects of a narcissistic manager, screen your candidates for these tendencies. Talk to previous co-workers and employees who’ve worked for this person in the past. They’re the most likely source of truthful information. And, ask your most promising candidates to take an assessment test. These kinds of tests, offered by SalesFuel Coach, can help you understand the basic personality and work styles of a potential new hire.

Kathy Crosett
Kathy is the Vice President of Research for SalesFuel. She holds a Masters in Business Administration from the University of Vermont and oversees a staff of researchers, writers and content providers for SalesFuel. Previously, she was co-owner of several small businesses in the health care services sector.

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