Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Thesis Format



Master of Science




Benson, Alex J.


Individuals higher in grandiose narcissism are motivated to maintain a grandiose self-view, which can be accomplished through self-promotion and self-defence (Back et al., 2013). Drawing from the dual-process model of narcissistic admiration and rivalry, the current study examined how these forms of narcissism differentially relate to changes in perceived leader effectiveness. As well, I tested whether trust mediated these relationships. The final sample included 165 participants in 42 teams followed from team formation to dissolution, gathering data at four time points. During their lifecycle, the teams worked on a design project. Support was found for narcissistic rivalry corresponding to a decrease in perceived leader effectiveness, through being viewed as increasingly self-maximizing, over time. The results demonstrate how narcissistic rivalry (but not admiration) is the source of narcissism in relation to ineffective leadership.

Keywords: Leader Effectiveness, Narcissism, Trust, Self- and Other- Interest

Summary for Lay Audience

While not commonly thought of as desirable leaders, narcissistic individuals tend to rise to positions of authority. As a result, previous research largely focused on how and why these individuals gain leadership positions. Consequently, the fall from leadership has been neglected in the literature. The current study examines this process, investigating the why and how of the fall of narcissistic leaders. Narcissism is characterized by a self-focused nature and a preoccupation with maintaining a grandiose self-view. Going beyond the unidimensional view of narcissism, this research focuses on two distinct forms of narcissism, admiration and rivalry. Admiration represents the agentic side of narcissism, focusing on building themselves up to maintain their grandiose self-views. In contrast, rivalry encompasses the antagonistic qualities of narcissism, focusing on tearing others down to maintain their grandiose self-views. Recognizing that something must be changing in the relationship between narcissistic leaders and team members to cause the fall, this study examined whether trust explains why narcissistic individuals lose leadership over time.

To assess whether trust influences narcissists’ hold on leadership positions, I collected data from student teams at Western University that worked together on a project for four months. While working on this project, students met with their teams a minimum of once per week. During this time, I collected data at three-time points. At each time point, participants rated their teammates on leader effectiveness and trust. Trust was assessed through ratings of prosociality (i.e., trust) and selfishness (i.e., distrust). As personality is unlikely to change in a short period of time, admiration and rivalry were assessed before team formation.

Overall, team members responded negatively to individuals higher in narcissistic rivalry, rating them lower on leader effectiveness and higher on distrust over time. Team members viewing these individuals as more untrustworthy helped explain why individuals higher in narcissistic rivalry were viewed as less effective leaders over time. In contrast, individuals higher in admiration were not viewed as particularly high or low on leader effectiveness, trust, or distrust. This research contributes to explaining why narcissists tend to lose leadership when they so easily gain such positions.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.