Skip to main content

Chess board, focussing on the largest chess piece

Susanne Braun, Professor in Leadership, discusses narcissistic leadership in a post-pandemic world: COVID-19 has put our working lives under the microscope: Does my job make a difference? Does it bring me joy?

Being confined at home, lacking opportunity for social connections, we’ve started to question the well-worn patterns of our work. But people have also discovered some new freedoms in working remotely.

A quick run in the park next door instead of lunch in a dark office canteen seems like a better deal. And your dog’s separation anxiety is no longer an issue.

Is this the start of a ‘new world’ of work? As a leadership scholar, I would argue it very much depends on the leaders who create and shape our workplaces. Giving others freedom means that leaders need to take a step back. That doesn’t come easy to all.

Enter – the narcissistic leader. We know from decades of research that narcissists seek the limelight. That’s why more often than not we find them in leadership positions. Sadly, they fail to support others at the best of times. Narcissism is a personality trait. It shapes how we think, feel and act. And narcissists typically act in their own best interests.

Their charm and ambitiousness can pay off for businesses, but not their lack of care and consideration. Narcissists crave attention and control, features that aren’t abundant in remote work.

Our research showed that UK employees who were working remotely during the Covid-19 pandemic wanted to feel trusted. These feelings were hampered when their leaders tried to monitor them. And even worse, the lack of trust triggered exhaustion at the end of the workday.

If we are serious about new ways of working, narcissistic leaders will have to scale back on control. Are you concerned about being a narcissistic leader? Next time when things don’t go your way, ask what it would take for you to trust others to do their job? Can you rely a little more on their skills and competencies? The benefit of this is that you will give others the space to enjoy their work and feel that they make a difference in the post-pandemic world.

More information

View the full whitepaper, Work: A Paradigm Shift, produced by Hudson RPO in partnership with Future Talent Learning.

For more information on Professor Susanne Braun and the research discussed

To read more articles on leadership and society, visit our Impact Hub.