When ‘Me’ Trumps ‘We’: Narcissistic Leaders and the Cultures They Create

Charles A O’Reilly, Jennifer A Chatman and Bernadette Doerr:

Research has shown that a leader’s personality can affect organizational culture. We focus on leader narcissism and examine how it affects two specific organizational culture dimensions – collaboration and integrity. In two field studies and three laboratory studies, our results reveal that people who are more narcissistic are less likely to demonstrate collaboration and integrity in their behavior, and when we examine leaders specifically, we find that those higher in narcissism prefer and lead organizational cultures that are less collaborative and place less emphasis on integrity. In our laboratory studies, we show that narcissists endorse policies and procedures that are associated with cultures with less collaboration and integrity, and that employees follow the culture in determining their own level of collaboration and integrity, suggesting that narcissistic leaders’ behavior is amplified through culture. We discuss the potentially enduring impact that narcissistic leaders have in engendering cultures lower in collaboration and integrity to enable future theory-building connecting leader personality to organizational culture.