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in: A Man's Life, Leadership, Podcast

• Last updated: January 15, 2021

Podcast #675: The Humble, Narcissistic Leader

Research, not to mention anecdotal observation, shows that a lot of narcissists end up in leadership positions. That’s because the qualities narcissism enlarges into extremes — confidence, assertiveness, a sense of destiny — help people rise to the top.

Unfortunately, the same qualities of narcissism that help an individual obtain a leadership position, can prevent them from being effective in that position, and from holding onto it.

My guest’s research has uncovered what can be a solution to this dilemma: the timeless virtue of humility. His name is Brad Owens, he’s a professor of business ethics, and we begin our discussion today by digging into the fact that studies done on the effect of narcissism on leadership have been inconsistent, with some showing it to have a positive effect, and others a negative one. Brad explains that the reason these studies may have been inconclusive, is that while narcissism can get someone into a leadership role, it then gets in the way of them succeeding in that role. We then turn to the idea that cultivating humility can temper the negative effects of narcissism, and the three aspects of humility every leader, whether narcissistic or not, should cultivate. We discuss whether there are situations where you do want to be more narcissistic than humble, what a humble, narcissistic leader looks like, and how Steve Jobs and George Washington serve as examples of this combination of qualities.

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Show Highlights

  • Defining narcissism 
  • What are the positive outcomes of narcissism?
  • What Steve Jobs can tell us about narcissism — both the positives and negatives 
  • How narcissism can you get you into leadership positions, but then also seed your downfall 
  • What does it mean to be humble?
  • When to be humble, and when to be narcissistic in leadership scenarios 
  • How George Washington displayed both narcissism and humility 
  • What could overtly humble leaders learn about being more assertive and confident?

Resources/Articles/People Mentioned in Podcast

Connect With Brad 

Brad’s email for scheduling leadership consults: [email protected] 

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