Challenges in Leadership: Part 1 of 3

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narcissus

Is a narcissistic boss good or bad for the company? (Narcissus, via Wikipedia)

Editor’s note: This week, we are pleased to present a three-part series highlighting current research on key challenges facing leaders in the workplace.

“The challenge of leadership is to be strong, but not rude; be kind, but not weak; be bold, but not bully; be thoughtful, but not lazy; be humble, but not timid; be proud, but not arrogant; have humor, but without folly.” —Jim Rohn (American entrepreneur, author and motivational speaker)

Leaders are only human–and some of the most successful bosses out there can be arrogant, egotistical, and manipulative. Just how does this self-serving behavior positively or negatively affect employees, managers, and organizations?

asqIn their award-winning article “Executive Personality, Capability Cues, and Risk Taking: How Narcissistic CEOs React to Their Successes and Stumbles”  (Administrative Science Quarterly, June 2011), Arijit Chatterjee and Donald C. Hambrick find that narcissistic bosses may be more effective risk-takers:

At the core of an executive’s subjective assessment of risk is his or her sense of confidence. Compared with gamblers, who cannot influence whether their bets will work out, business executives may believe that their personal talents, as well as the capabilities of their organizations, can greatly affect whether their risky initiatives will bear fruit. [Read more]

Update: Wolf-Christian Gerstner, Andreas König, Albrecht Enders, and Donald C. Hambrick have a brand-new article in ASQ, “CEO Narcissism, Audience Engagement, and Organizational Adoption of Technological Discontinuities,” which highlights “the role of narcissism in the context of radical organizational change, the influence of audience engagement on executive behavior, and the effect of executive personality on managerial attention.” Click here to read the article in ASQ’s OnlineFirst section.

humOn the other hand, Wayne A. Hochwarter and Katina W. Thompson in their article  “Mirror, mirror on my boss’s wall: Engaged enactment’s moderating role on the relationship between perceived narcissistic supervision and work outcomes” (Human Relations, March 2012) document the threats that selfish bosses pose to employee well-being:

Defined as an ego-defensive response to interruptions in goal attainment (Rosenzweig, 1944), frustration has been identified as an outcome of threatening social cues including perceived politics (Rosen et al., 2009), injustice (Lillis et al., 2007), and coworker counterproductive work behaviors (Fox and Spector, 1999). Supervisor ego-nurturing behavior, when persistent and focused, provokes frustration because it introduces bias that affects subsequent interactions and reward decisions (Emmons, 1984). [Read more]

jomAnd an article published this month in the Journal of Management’s OnlineFirst section by Frank D. Belschak, Deanne N. Den Hartog, and Karianne Kalshoven, “Leading Machiavellians: How to Translate Machiavellians’ Selfishness Into Pro-Organizational Behavior,” finds manipulative leaders may offer desirable results for organizations:

Machiavellians are said to be manipulative people who reduce the social capital of the organization. Yet some authors note that Machiavellians are also highly adaptive individuals who are able to contribute, cooperate, and use pro-social strategies when it is advantageous to them. Here we study whether transformational leader behavior can stimulate Machiavellian followers to engage in organizationally desirable behaviors such as challenging organizational citizenship behavior. [Read more]

Do you know a leader who is particularly self-interested or overly demanding? Does this serve to increase their leadership effectiveness, or does it do more harm than good?

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