A few weeks ago, I found out that my presence on Facebook can indicate just how narcissistic I am, thanks to a study in the October issue of Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. But the results were far from definitive, and I am just too interested (in myself) to rest without a better answer.

So I was delighted to find out that there was another study on the matter in the same journal that took a different tack. In this study, psychologists tried to explain a paradox: "If the behaviors associated with narcissism are also associated with ineffective leadership, why then do narcissists so often rise to positions of leadership and power?"

This study, too, was clearly aimed at me. I lead a team of talented writers and editors, and my power is -- well, enough about my impressive credentials. In the study, researchers had subjects act out different scenarios: Picking a student union director, surviving a shipwreck, and allocating a corporate donation. They measured participants' narcissistic traits, and watched who emerged as leaders of given groups.

Surveys of the participants and outside observers measured leadership. I was intrigued by a footnote: One participant failed to complete all of the questions on "self-rated leadership." I mean, if you can't describe your own leadership, who's going to do it for you?

The results were not good news for me and other, um, potential narcissists: "The key practical implication of this study is that narcissism, a trait that is linked to a range of potential leadership problems, from risky decision making to white-collar crime actually predicts leader emergence. In other words, the same characteristic that facilitates an individual’s emergence as a leader can also make this person a potentially destructive leader."


There are solutions to narcissistic managers, though: Anthropologist and psychoanalyst Michael Maccoby recommends psychoanalysis, perhaps unsurprisingly. But he also suggests that having a sense of humor is adaptive.

I guess that means I should subject my staff to more of my brilliant jokes.

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