Narcissists' Self-Interest Makes Them Bad Leaders

office coworkers
Narcissists' self-centeredness ultimately prevents them from partaking in the creative exchange of information and ideas, according to the study.

Narcissists may think they'd make for good bosses, but a new study shows that their preoccupation with themselves hinders their performance in teamwork situations.

Although narcissists have leadership-related qualities, such as confidence, authority and high self-esteem, their self-centeredness ultimately prevents them from partaking in the creative exchange of information and ideas, which is crucial in group decision-making situations, the researchers at the University of Amsterdam said.

The team divided 150 participants into groups of three, with one person in each group randomly assigned to be the group's leader. The groups then had to choose a job candidate. Researchers shared 45 items of information about the candidates, with some of the tidbits disclosed to everyone in the group, and with each participant receiving one piece of information not shared with other group members.

All the subjects were told they could contribute advice, but that the leader was responsible for making the final decision. Researchers designed the experiment so that if each person shared the candidate information shared exclusively with them, the group would make the best choice. If the group made the decision based only on the information shared with everyone, they would be more likely to select a lesser candidate.

After the experiment, participants completed questionnaires, with the leaders receiving questions designed to measure narcissism. The other group members answered questions designed to assess the group leader's authority and effectiveness.

Participants also indicated how much information they knew, indicating the level of sharing that went on in the group.

The groups led by the greatest egotists chose the worst candidate for the job.

"The narcissistic leaders had a very negative effect on their performance," study researcher Barbora Nevicka said in a statement. "They inhibited the communication because of self-centeredness and authoritarianism."

But despite their poor performance, group members rated the most narcissistic leaders as the most effective. "Narcissists are very convincing," Nevicka said.

She added, "Communication — sharing of information, perspectives, and knowledge — is essential to making good decisions. In brainstorming groups, project teams, government committees, each person brings something new. That's the benefit of teams. That's what creates a good outcome."

The findings will be published in an upcoming issue of the journal Psychological Science.

You can follow LiveScience writer Remy Melina on Twitter @remymelina. Follow LiveScience for the latest in science news and discoveries on Twitter @livescience  and on Facebook.

Remy Melina was a staff writer for Live Science from 2010 to 2012. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Communication from Hofstra University where she graduated with honors.