Study shows narcissism could actually help leaders

Just how much confidence is too much for a business leader?

After years of research attempts failed to discover an answer to this question, academics from the University of Illinois set out to try and tackle the problem themselves. While a high level of self-confidence has always been essential to leadership success, is there a point where the line is crossed and it becomes toxic to the organisation?

Using data derived from Hogan Assessment Systems, the researchers found that, as with anything in life, striking the right balance is key.

“Our findings are pretty clear that the answer to the question as to whether narcissism is good or bad is that it is neither. It's best in moderation,” says Professor Emily Grijalva of the University of Illinois, who led the study.

“With too little, a leader can be viewed as insecure or hesitant, but if you're too high on narcissism, you can be exploitative or tyrannical.”

The University of Nebraska-Lincoln's Peter Harms, who co-authored the study, agreed that narcissism is “a double-edged sword” and that while it is important for leaders to possess a high level of self-confidence, they should not do so at the expense of others in the organisation.

They also need to make sure they maintain this balance over time and not sway in either direction.

“Those in charge of hiring or promoting leaders for their organisation should proceed with caution,” he concluded.

Self-esteem, confidence – and even a healthy dose of narcissism – can therefore prove to be vital ingredients for business leadership, but how do you make sure you choose leaders with the right balance?

Personality assessment tests that tap into your employees' mentalities and what makes them click could be the tool you need to uncover the talent to lead your organisation into the future.