Thursday, March 15, 2007

Narcissism and leadership: some differences in male and female leaders

Author: Jørstad J.1
Affiliations: Independent Psychoanalyst and Psychotherapist, Sandvika, Norway
Source: Leadership and Organization Development Journal, Volume 17, Number 6, 1996, pp. 17-23(7)
Publisher: Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Develops from the Greek myth about Narcissus and Echo some contemporary aspects of normal and pathological narcissism. Narcissism is part of a normal developmental phase and reflects the universal need during early childhood, and later in life, to be loved and confirmed. However, there are many possibilities of being hurt in the course of this developmental phase and this experience will leave the individual with a narcissistic vulnerability. One way of handling this is to develop a pathological narcissism, the most prominent characteristics of which are: egocentricity, extreme sensitivity to criticism, strong projective tendencies, lack of empathy as well as fantasies of grandiosity, open or concealed. The need for power may be compensatory for inner powerlessness and lack of self-esteem. A leader will be more or less influenced by the role he/ she plays and by group processes in the organization. Today’s leaders are often influenced by criticism from inside and outside and this may foster narcissistic defences. Male leaders show greater tendencies to pathological narcissism, while female leaders are more inclined to renounce their role. Some research indicates that successful female leaders have all had very good relationships with their fathers. The differences between males and females in this area revert to the Greek myth. Also questions whether some of these differences may be the result of different treatment given by mothers to sons and daughters.

(The full text of this article is available for purchase)