Narcissistic leadership is a new term for an old idea. The traditional view of leadership is of charismatic, even heroic individuals who save the day. This is called The Great Man Theory of Leadership. In our more democratic times, we’ve largely abandoned this theory for more managerial or coaching models. We reject this old view as authoritarian, grandiose, narcissistic.

But a form of the old Great Man theory remains. How else do you begin to explain the behaviour and success of a Henry Ford or a Steve Jobs? So business psychologists have made a distinction between productive or healthy narcissists on one side, and leaders who are destructive narcissists on the other.

Michael Maccoby is an academic and coach who has particularly focused on this idea as it applies to the business realm. I’ve written about it for some time, and find it a fascinating, contemporary take on the old idea of heroic leadership. So here’s a collection of links to quality resources about narcissistic leadership. And, since the topic is narcissism, I’ll start with my own!

My Articles on Narcissistic Leadership

Narcissism is Good for Business – Here I suggest some ways in which you could develop your ‘inner narcissist’ in positive ways, and take a test to rate your current score!

Book Review of ‘The Productive Narcissist: The Promise and Peril of Visionary Leadership’ – This is my short review of Maccoby’s main book on the topic.

Political Issues at Work – Political Intelligence (PI) doesn’t require you to think like Machiavelli but it does mean you have to think strategically, something at which Maccoby argues narcissists can excel.

Book Review of ‘All About Me: Loving a Narcissist’ – This is my review of another, more practical book on the phenomenon of narcissism and how to deal with those who have it.

I Have the Power – This is the summary of a talk I gave at a business event in which I argue that narcissism is one of the ways entrepreneurs can use to build their charisma and their brand.

Key Research Papers on Narcissistic Leadership

These are both by Michael Maccoby. The first is the article in which he first put forward his theory. The second serves as nice summary of it, in his own words.

Narcissistic Leaders: The Incredible Pros, the Inevitable Cons (The Harvard Business Review, January-February, 2000)

We Still Need Visionary Leaders (The Washington Post, August, 2009 )

Useful Reviews, Summaries and Applications

Narcissistic Leaders: Who Succeeds and Who Fails by Donald L. Nathanson, MD (Psychiatric Times)

4 reasons narcissists can be highly effective leaders by Shana Lebowitz (Business Insider UK)

Business leaders and narcissism by Alexander Burgemeester (The Narcissistic Life)

How to Work for a Narcissistic Boss by Rebecca Knight (Harvard Business Review)

Do you work for a narcissist? Here’s how to keep your sanity by Anna Hensel (Inc. Magazine)

Lots of the coaching work we do overlaps with developing a healthy narcissism or sense of self-esteem. We’ve worked with entrepreneurs, managers and leaders of other types on this topic…as well as those who have to work with them! Contact us to find out more.

Photo by Masaaki Komori on Unsplash