Brain power

Why do narcissists love leadership theories?

Originally posted on The Horizons Tracker.

There is no shortage of leadership theories out there, with new books leaving the printing presses seemingly every day.  New research1 from the University of Queensland comes to the interesting conclusion that these theories are most readily enjoyed by those with more narcissistic tendencies.

The researchers explored the extent to which endorsement of, and indeed the motivation to learn about, leadership theories was linked to the level of narcissism within a leader.  The study attempts to build on the notion that leadership is often an activity that appeals to our desire to inflate our sense of self.

“The more narcissistic individuals are, the more they endorse various theories of leadership and the more they want to learn about them,” the researchers explain.  “This in turn suggests that what motivates some people to engage with leadership theory is more a personal concern for the self than a social concern for the greater good.”

Center of attention

The researchers found that narcissists have a strong desire to be the center of attention, which results in them often striving for positions of power and responsibility.  As such, this encourages narcissistic individuals to learn about the latest theories in leadership.

“Theories of leadership tend to celebrate what makes individuals superior to others and propose that it is this superiority that allows organizations and societies to flourish,” the researchers explain.

“One consequence of this is that most prevailing leadership theories appeal directly to leaders’ narcissism. In a time where there are low levels of public trust in corporate and political leaders this is an arresting finding, as it suggests that rather than leadership and leadership theory being the solution to our current woes, they may actually be their cause. If the people who are drawn to the study of leadership are primarily interested in looking after themselves, we should not be surprised if they use their learning to do precisely this.”

Article source: Why Do Narcissists Love Leadership Theories?

Header image source: Adapted from Gerd Altman on Pixabay, Public Domain.


  1. Steffens, N. K., & Haslam, S. A. (2020). The narcissistic appeal of leadership theories. American Psychologist.
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Adi Gaskell

I'm an old school liberal with a love of self organizing systems. I hold a masters degree in IT, specializing in artificial intelligence and enjoy exploring the edge of organizational behavior. I specialize in finding the many great things that are happening in the world, and helping organizations apply these changes to their own environments. I also blog for some of the biggest sites in the industry, including Forbes, Social Business News, Social Media Today and, whilst also covering the latest trends in the social business world on my own website. I have also delivered talks on the subject for the likes of the NUJ, the Guardian, Stevenage Bioscience and CMI, whilst also appearing on shows such as BBC Radio 5 Live and Calgary Today.

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