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The University of Southampton

Could self-obsessed managers hinder Britain’s chances of bouncing back after recession?

Published: 14 August 2009

Narcissistic managers can significantly damage the long-term prospects of organisations, says a leading organisational behaviour specialist at the University of Southampton’s School of Management.

In a paper recently published in the ‘Journal of Change Management’, Malcolm Higgs, Professor of HR Management and Organisational Behaviour, suggests that managers who appear to offer ‘heroic’ and ‘visionary’ leadership can eventually have an adverse affect on the morale of their staff. By displaying self-obsessed and domineering behaviour, they can damage their company internally, leading to a drop in long-term performance.

“With the recent collapse of major corporations, the crisis in banking and the global recession; we need to have a greater understanding of leadership. We have to ask how we should manage change and what characteristics managers need to see it through successfully,” says Malcolm.

“It is tempting in difficult times to look for strong, flamboyant leaders to ‘shake up’ companies, but studies suggest they aren’t necessarily good for the longer term health of an organisation.”

“Strong leaders with a tendency for self-centred, controlling behaviour may improve the performance of an organisation over a short or medium period, but can prove to be very damaging in the long-term,” he adds.

Professor Higgs calls for more empirical research to help understand how the actions of narcissistic managers affect companies. He concludes that more information is needed on how the careers of these managers develop, to give companies the chance to spot early signs of ‘bad’ behaviour and take steps to limit its affects.


Notes for editors

  • ‘The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: Leadership and Narcissism’ was published in the June edition of the ‘Journal of Change Management’.

    Any media wishing to speak to Professor Malcolm Higgs, please contact Peter Franklin, Media Relations Officer, University of Southampton

    Tel: 023 8059 5457 Email:

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