Disruption is a business term that was initially coined by Clayton Christensen to mean the process of a takeover by an underrated brand, service or product within the market to the point of replacing or displacing the incumbent products or brands within this market. In a disruptive market environment, the inferior product takes advantage of low pricing, higher accessibility and so forth to gain their momentum to become more appealing than the incumbents. On the other hand, business re-evaluation is considering changing or re-invention certain aspects of a business, whether it is in the wake of competition or something else. During these times, businesses require the best leadership that they can get to propel them towards their goals. In the past, narcissistic leadership has been criticized for a couple of credible reasons. However, this does not mean that the traits that narcissists possess cannot be an asset to a business that faces disruption or re-evaluation of purpose. Narcissistic leadership is more suitable than non-narcissistic leadership when a business faces a challenging situation with significant disruption and re-evaluating its purpose because of narcissists’ characteristics and personal charisma. They are shown in various aspects, including persuasiveness, lacking trust, refusing to concede defeat, making innovation, strong ability of decision-making.
Narcissism is a term that refers to a personality disorder that is characterized by a sense of superiority, entitlement, grandiosity, the desire for power and esteem, selfishness, exploitation of others, vanity and risk-taking (Fatfouta, 2019, p.3). This is a term that was derived from the Greek mythology of a god called Narcissus, who was quite obsessed with his own looks and image (Fatfouta, 2019, p.2). In most times, narcissists seek leadership positions due to their desire for superiority and control of others (O’Reilly & Chatman, 2020, p.10). A good example of this is Donald Trump, who after his acceptance of the nomination of 2016 claimed that he is the only one that understands how the system works so he alone can fix it(O’Reilly & Chatman, 2020, p.10).
All the above is true as most people tend to gravitate towards narcissistic leaders as they associate narcissistic traits with leadership qualities.
Argument 1: The Dark side of narcissism
To understand why narcissists, make great leaders in times of crisis in a business, it is better, to begin with, narcissism’s dark side. In many research, there is a demonstration of the “dark side” of the narcissist (Fatfouta, 2019, p.2). Narcissists have been linked to the cause of the fall of business due to their destructive traits. For one, the narcissistic leader is one that is closed to communication. This means that their ideas matter most than those of others. In most cases, such a leader assumes that they are better than or have superior knowledge than others. This is something that prevents the subordinates from bringing forth ideas needed in the wake of disruption. A great example is the current U.S President Donald Trump, who is associated with the caricature character. According to Fast Company reports (2020), Donald Trump has a “screw them” attitude when it comes to considering others’ input. On the other hand, Joe Biden seems to be a leader that displays concern for what others feel (Petriglieri, 2020). The lack of trust from the narcissist to their subordinates or any other person leads them to treat others rigidly.
Akin to the non-communication trait, the narcissist is also jealous of others as well as progress if it does not come from them. This is a clear pathway to stagnation when it comes to making progress, especially when it is needed most during disruptions.
Additionally, the narcissist lacks empathy, which is a trait that encourages these leaders to exploit others without remorse. Moreover, they have the need to have absolute power, which is threatening in any business environment. In this case, the narcissistic leader would be quite patient to the point of attaining their selfish interests is a clear sign of their risky behaviors.
The above has clearly demonstrated that a narcissistic leader possesses some destructive traits and is a sure bet when it comes to bringing an organization down. However, looking at the bright side of narcissism, one would note that the narcissistic kind of leadership is one that proves to be an asset to a business in times of disruption (Fatfouta, 2019, p.3). The various traits that are known to be “dark” can work to the businesses’ advantage when a narcissist is in control or in a leadership position.
Argument 2: Strong ability of decision-making
For one, the impulsive nature of the narcissists would allow them to make quick decisions. This is triggered by the fact that they have a strong motivation approach as well as a weak avoidance motivation. Coupled with these factors, the narcissist has high insensitivity in considering the negative consequences of their choice (O’Reilly & Chatman, 2020, p.12). This would render them quick at making decisions in times of urgency, like when a business faces disruption unlike non-narcissistic leaders who need the input of others.
The narcissist would make a great leader because given the chance of leading, they would assume all power, minimizing the time needed for consultation with others and therefore paving the way for quick and efficient decisions that may prove to benefit the business.
Argument 3: Risk taking and innovation
It is believed that good entrepreneurs are risk-takers. The narcissist has a risk-taking trait, which leads to the consideration of the narcissistic leadership being one that is open to innovation. Again, these are people that are insensitive to the negative side of whatever outcomes, and therefore, they are considered good for businesses that are looking to re-evaluate their purpose (O’Reilly & Chatman, 2020, p.12). The risk-taking trait is one that allows the narcissistic leader to come up with innovations that would be unique from their rivals in the market. Most non-narcissistic leaders would shy away from making commitments that they think are dangerous as they have assessed both end of the consequences. Akin to this fact is the idea that the narcissistic leader would take risks based on their bold vision, which may just lead an organization to even greater heights in the face of challenges (Fatfouta, 2019, p.4).
They therefore make the best leadership as this character aligns with changing the norm for the better while putting themselves on the line in the wake of the whole process.
Argument 4: Charisma
One of the most interesting traits of a narcissist is that they possess charisma. These are people that have a high and undeniable emotional attraction. Despite the dark side that they bring out from time to time, most people are drawn to their ideas, suggestions and inputs. This they use as a weapon to propel their interests. However, this is a trait that draws not only attention to them but also generates the followers’ interest in them as their leaders. For instance, the past US presidents have been classified as narcissists. This included the current US President Donald Trump (Fatfouta, 2019, p.4). The charismatic trait may be there to serve their self-interests, but it also leads them to success.
This is a character that comes in handy when one needs to command the attention of their followers which is a great leadership ability.
Argument 5: Power to persuade
Furthermore, the narcissistic leader has the power of persuasion, more than non-narcissistic leaders, which means that they are able to gain the support of many. If in leadership, such a person believes that what they have to say would move mountains. This fact points to the grandiose part of narcissism. They get to be skilled orators and therefore bring forth motivation and inspiration to their audience (Fatfouta, 2019, p.3). One of the reasoning behind this power of persuasion through words by the narcissist is due to the fact that they clearly analyze any situation prior to bringing forth their charm through speech. They draw from the audiences’ perspective and mirror what most would like to hear. Therefore, this leads them to better connect with others.
This is a deceptive trait that would work to motivate and inspire in timers of disruption or re-evaluation of a business.
Argument 6: Ambitious
The ambitious trait that the narcissistic leader has is one that is great in times of challenge and urgency. Akin to the need for superiority and recognition comes the narcissist’s ambition. This is a person that would do anything to get the work done. As earlier mentioned, the narcissist has little to no conscience or remorse and therefore lacks the trait of looking at the negative outcomes of their decisions or actions(O’Reilly & Chatman, 2020, p.12). This would then lead the narcissist to try and try after every failed attempt to reaching the goals set.
In business, goal achievement is something that is sought after, and if the narcissist can get the crew there, then why not vouch for such a leader? For instance, assuming a business is facing a replacement within the market, the ambitious part of the narcissist’s personality would command the competitiveness in them. They would not mind stepping on others while on their way up(O’Reilly & Chatman, 2020, p.12). This is the opposite of the non-narcissistic leader who would be empathetic and put others’ needs first. The US past election had proven this point as it is clearly noted that when Biden showed that he cares for the soul rather than the goal, he stayed away from the popularity of crowds. This proves that Biden used empathy rather in his campaigns. On the other hand, Trump used the opposite to trump Biden. Trump tried to bring forth a negative picture of Biden based on his campaigning skills (Petriglieri, 2020). This is indicative that trump had zero empathy or regret when it came to achieving what he set out for.
The ambitious trait shows how manipulative they can be to the point of lacking integrity, which can be good in serving for leadership as this is associated with goal achievement.
It is the view of most that narcissists are bad for business, especially in times of disruption and re-evaluation of purpose. However, in the event of significant disruption coupled with re-evaluation of business purpose, narcissistic leadership is found to be better than non-narcissistic leadership due to the traits possessed by such a leader. Herein is a contribution based on the argument that narcissists can make good leaders in times of challenges. This argument has been based on the various traits which have focused on the brighter side of things with real-time examples of the US presidential elections. At the end of the day, the narcissist might be seen as a destructive human being, but their traits can be used to propel better leadership.
Petriglieri, G. (2020). It’s time to talk about how Joe Biden defeated a dominant model of leadership. Retrieved from https://www.fastcompany.com/90576448/joe-biden-defeated-a-dominant-model-of-leadership
Fatfouta, R. (2019). Facets of narcissism and leadership: A tale of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde?. Human Resource Management Review. Retrieve dfrom https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1053482218302213
O’Reilly, C.A., & Chatman, J. A. (2020). Transformational Leader or Narcissist? How Grandiose Narcissists Can Create and Destroy Organizations and Institutions. California Management Review. Retrieved from https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0008125620914989