Personality, of course, is a multi-dimension affair, and there are as many personality spectra as there are personality dimensions. But one possible spectrum I've been wondering about goes something like this:
At both ends you see varieties of extreme self-absorption. In autistic spectrum disorders, the source, and the essence, are cognitive: core to autism is severe difficulty in calculating the perspectives of others. In narcissism, the source and essence are emotional: self-love interferes both with gut-level empathy and with the desire to consider others' perspectives. Source and essence aside, perspective taking deficits obviously impair pro-social behavior, including, for example, the ability to lead others.
But because narcissists are better at hiding their disorder, it tends to be only those on the autistic side of the spectrum who strike us as bad candidates for leadership positions. Indeed, because narcissists also exude confidence and charm, many of us consider them leadership whizzes. Wouldn't it be nice if a study cited in last week's weekend Wall Street Journal could make us think twice:
When narcissists get assigned to leadership roles, they impress their charges with authority and confidence. They also underperform, a new study finds.At some level, this explains a lot of what's wrong in the world. But why does it not surprise me that many people who ace job interviews are "unlikely to live up to expectations"?
Workers assigned to narcissistic leaders tended to report that they were authoritative and effective. But, in fact, narcissists-led groups shared information less effectively than the others and picked the wrong candidate more often.
The study offers a cautionary tale to businesses, the authors said: Narcissists are equipped to ace job interviews, for example, but are unlikely to live up to expectations.