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Narcissistic leaders like Steve Jobs are more successful: Study

Assistant professor Bradley Owens said that just by practicing and displaying elements of humility, one can help disarm, counterbalance, or buffer the more toxic aspects of narcissism.

twitter-logo ANI   Washington     Last Updated: March 26, 2015  | 22:14 IST
Late Apple founder and CEO Steve Jobs
Late Apple founder and CEO Steve Jobs

If you are bit vain in nature, you may just posses one of the qualities that most celebrated leaders in the business world have, as a new study has said claimed that narcissistic leaders happen to be the most successful ones.

New research from Brigham Young University's Marriott School of Management finds those strong characteristics are not such a bad thing, as long as those leaders temper their narcissism with a little humility now and then.

Assistant professor Bradley Owens said that just by practicing and displaying elements of humility, one can help disarm, counterbalance, or buffer the more toxic aspects of narcissism.

Giving example of former Apple CEO Steve Jobs, the study mentions "Although Jobs was still seen as narcissistic, his narcissism appeared to be counterbalanced or tempered with a measure of humility, and it was this tempered narcissist who led Apple to be the most valuable company in the world..."

The study supported the softer portrayal of Jobs that appears in the new biography, 'Becoming Steve Jobs'. Specifically, the research finds when leaders self-regulate their narcissism with humility, employees are more engaged, perform better and perceive their boss to be more effective.

To show a little humility, the leaders should admit their mistakes and limitations, spotlight the strengths and contributions of others and model teachability. This allows the less toxic, potentially beneficial aspects of leader narcissism to yield positive outcomes.

For the study, Owens and colleagues from Arizona State University and SUNY-Buffalo surveyed 876 employees at a large Fortune 100 health insurance company. Employees rated 138 leaders in the organization on their humility and effectiveness, and then answered questions about their own engagement.

Study results show leaders with high narcissism and high humility were perceived as more effective leaders with more engaged followers. Fortunately, Owens said, humility can be developed.

The study is published in the Journal of Applied Psychology.

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