Narcissistic Leaders–Promise or Peril? The Patterns of Narcissistic Leaders’ Behaviors and Their Relation to Team Performance

Ellen A. Schmid, Kristin Knipfer, Claudia V. Peus

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations

Abstract

Leader narcissism has attracted substantial attention in leadership research and organizational practice. Yet, the exact relationship between leader narcissism and performance remains unclear. In this paper, we set out to illuminate the narcissism-leadership-performance puzzle. We build on research that points to a curvilinear relationship between leader narcissism and performance and open the black box behind this curvilinear relationship. Thereby, we take into consideration the context, in which narcissistic leaders act, and explore their leadership behaviors in a compelling context: entrepreneurial teams. In a quantitative study, we found that a moderate level of leader narcissism was associated with the best team performance as assessed by the quality of a business plan. In a qualitative follow-up interview study, we explored the patterns of leadership behaviors shown by narcissists to better understand how different behaviors combine into effective versus destructive leadership, shaping team performance eventually. Finally, in an experimental online study using the scenario technique, we investigated the relevance of these leadership patterns associated with different levels of narcissism across contexts. The results of our multi-method and multi-source studies suggest that the most promising avenue to understand the narcissism-leadership-performance puzzle is that it depends on the levels of narcissism and more specifically that it depends on the patterns of behaviors narcissistic leaders show—the context seems to play a less important role.

Original languageEnglish
Article number660452
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Volume12
DOIs
StatePublished - 28 Jun 2021

Keywords

  • curvilinear relationships
  • entrepreneurship
  • leader narcissism
  • mixed methods
  • narcissism
  • pre-founding teams
  • qualitative interviews
  • team performance

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