John Hackston, Head of Thought Leadership at The Myers-Briggs Company

New report reveals the fall of ‘great man’ style of leadership and how narcissistic leaders can damage organisations - The Myers-Briggs Company advises businesses to examine the threat of narcissistic leaders.

Modern leaders need to demonstrate flexibility to be successful, rather than project an outdated ‘great man’ persona. This is according to The Myers-Briggs Company’s global trends report, ‘People First for Organizational Fitness’ which drew on the responses of 1.3 million respondents to the Myers-Briggs personality assessment to show that a more inclusive style of leadership is sadly under-represented in business leaders.”

Psychological research tells us that the experts who sound most confident and authoritative are generally listened to more and believed wholeheartedly. This is because humans instinctively respond to confidence in a positive way. However, those who sound most self-assured in their pronouncements aren’t necessarily the most accurate or truthful. In fact, research has revealed that experts who sound the most confident are also more likely to get things wrong. Therefore, overzealous and over-confident leaders can mean potential dangers for both the political scene and the workplace. Instead, leaders should confess to their own weaknesses and build teams that help address their shortcomings.

Furthermore, by promoting the ‘great man’ style of leadership, organisations can threaten opportunities for women and harm diversity. Additional research from The Myers-Briggs Company on narcissism and leadership has demonstrated that this kind of behaviour can lead to women being less likely to seek out leadership roles, even when they are as well or better qualified than men.

The negative effects of overconfidence are often exacerbated by ‘group think’, where in the rush to make decisions, information that is inconvenient to the story constructed by the leader is ignored. The research also demonstrated that overconfident and dominant leaders can actively inhibit the exchange of information between members of a group, worsening the negative effects of group think. 

John Hackston, Head of Thought Leadership at The Myers-Briggs Company, one of the world’s largest business psychology providers commented:

“One way to overcome these challenges, in both the political and workplace spheres, is to build self-awareness. By becoming more aware of their personality and biases, individuals can make more informed decisions, helping them to overcome the pressure to follow ‘group think’ and narcissistic leaders.”

Hackston continued: “Personality questionnaires like the MBTI® assessment provide a framework for helping people work effectively as part of a team, and can be extremely useful in facilitating balanced problem solving. If we are aware of how we take in information, if we tend to concentrate on facts or past experiences rather than look at future possibilities (Sensing rather than Intuition in MBTI terms), then we can force ourselves to spend time outside of our comfort zone. The same goes for making decisions – do we tend to rely more on logic (Thinking) or pay more attention to values (Feeling)?”

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Narcissism is fundamentally a rejection of others’ input. It is the role of leaders to consider how to be flexible in their leadership and management, as well as recognise how to build a dynamic team that possesses different skills. However, it is also the role of employees to ensure they don’t blindly follow leaders, and work on building self-awareness that allows them to focus on the facts.

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