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Saturday, 12 August 2017 | MYT 11:34 PM

Why a little bit of narcissism can be a good thing

SOMETIMES it seems like the whole upper echelon is crowded with narcist leaders. 

It’s as if being a psycho boss is a prerequisite for climbing the corporate ladder. 

But perhaps there is something to it and you would do well to mimic some of their traits in order to rise quicker yourself!

How do you discover whether you have a narcissist boss? If (s)he feels entitled, likes to be the centre of attention, is preoccupied with himself or herself and believes (s)he is much better than others, you might be looking at one. 
If your boss is also exploitative, manipulative and seems to have a low level of empathy, (s)he might even be a psychopath!

CEO’s with a high degree of narcissist tendencies have less respect for the rules, do not tolerate contradiction and surround themselves with followers, which can stifle innovation. 

They are also more likely to commit managerial fraud in order to retain their status and project strong performance. 

Narcissist CEO’s are also more likely to make acquisitions (and pay a higher premium for them), spend more on advertising, spend more on research and take bigger risks, resulting in more volatile financial performance. 

Politicians can create havoc at an even much larger scale.

Narcissism is obviously not limited to CEO’s: many politicians also have a strong dose of it, otherwise you wouldn’t hear them say they things like “I have the best words”, “My IQ is one of the highest”, “I’m very highly educated”, “I’m really smart” “I am by far the most humble person on the face of the Earth” (my favourite) and “I’m really rich!”.

The dilemma though is, that narcissism is not all bad: it is a double-edged sword that can be very useful, even essential – in moderation. 

Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos the late Steve Jobs and Elon Musk are all credited with being ‘productive narcissists’ even though they are or were jerks some off the time (or most of the time). 

Research across 953 CEO’s has shown that S&P 500 companies whose CEO’s are narcissists actually outperform CEO’s whose level of narcissism is either quite low or very high.

The trick, of course, is to keep your narcissism in check. 

Narcissism and psychopathy are not binary: it’s a sliding scale on which everyone sits somewhere. 

If you score low on the scale, research shows that it wouldn’t hurt to let the narcissist out a bit more: people love confident, courageous people that can make hard calls.

So, how can you let the narcissist in you shine? Focus on these items:

Have a heightened ability to block out emotions and empathy. Make the ‘rational’, tough decisions prescribed by economic theory and logic, without feeling guilt or regret for how it upsets the lives of customers, employees and other stakeholders. If you think that is hard or cruel, therein lies perhaps the reason why we recruit and elect narcist bosses and politicians, as we are unwilling or unable to make those tough calls ourselves.

Have less concern over consequences. Many entrepreneurs are slightly narcissistic because they are better able to handle the high risks of entrepreneurship and make big bets which can pay off (or fail) spectacularly.

Project more self-confidence. As confidence is often seen as a proxy for competence, this trait will surely help you during recruitment and explains why narcists get promoted and climb the corporate ladder!

Just make sure you don’t turn into a self-important megalomaniac and complete psychopath!

Mark Reijman is co-founder and managing director of to increasing financial literacy and to help you save time and money by comparing all credit cards, personal loans and broadband plans in Malaysia.