When ‘Me’ Trumps ‘We’: Narcissistic Leaders and the Cultures They Create

When ‘Me’ Trumps ‘We’: Narcissistic Leaders and the Cultures They Create

By Charles A. O’Reilly, Jennifer Chatman, Bernadette Doerr
August 2019Working Paper No. 3809

Research has shown that organizational culture can affect firm performance and that a leader’s personality can affect organizational culture. We examine how a leader’s level of narcissism affects two fundamental aspects of organizational culture - an organization’s emphasis on integrity and collaboration. In two field studies and three experimental scenarios, our results reveal that people who are more narcissistic: (a) are less concerned about collaboration and integrity; (b) prefer organizational cultures that are lower on collaboration and integrity; (c) lead organizations with cultures that place less emphasis on collaboration and integrity; (d) endorse policies and procedures that are associated with cultures with less collaboration and integrity; and (e) have followers who are less likely to make decisions that support collaboration and integrity. We discuss the potential impact of narcissistic leaders on the cultures they cultivate and the implications of these findings to enable future theory-building connecting leader personality to organizational culture.