How the Powerful Become Narcissists

We assume that narcissists favoured securing influential positions for themselves. The University of Melbourne’s Nicole Mead, an associate professor in the management and marketing division has conducted research that raises the possibility that narcissism may be a byproduct of power.

According to Mead, “narcissists can have a sense of entitlement; they demand and expect respect from others as well as unique advantages.” “They are eager to take advantage of others to achieve their goals.”

Those people can become oppressors and bullies if you give them authority.
While not everyone who has power becomes a terrible tyrant, Mead claims that when it falls into the hands of those who want it most, it has negative impacts. Only individuals with high baseline testosterone levels — those who aspire to attain and hold positions of power — are more prone to narcissism.

Mead, a social psychologist, studied the connection between narcissism and power in part to shed light on the socially destructive behaviours of powerful individuals that she perceived to be reminiscent of narcissistic behaviour.
She claims that those in positions of power work to maintain them even at the expense of others.

Tests for testosterone

Mead and her associates gathered 206 men and women to test their hypothesis that social dominance increases narcissism in those with high testosterone levels. Each participant’s saliva was collected, and they were informed that they were taking part in a study on team dynamics.

Each participant was required to perform exercises designed to gauge their leadership potential by the researchers. Only half of participants received the news that they would be the “boss” of a group work, even though all participants were told they received the highest leadership score. As a result, they had power over both the group task’s incentives and their subordinates. The other half was informed that they shared responsibility for the same assignment.

The Narcissistic Personality Inventory, the most widely used narcissism test, was employed by the researchers to gauge narcissism. They used a scale to measure how willing people are to abuse their position of authority.

The researchers standardized testosterone levels within each sex because men had higher levels of testosterone than women. This means that the researchers were able to look at how people respond to power when their testosterone levels are relatively high or low for their sex.

According to the study, neither men nor women with relatively low testosterone levels at baseline develop into narcissists when they are in positions of power.

The exploitative-entitlement aspect of narcissism, however, increases in those with relatively high testosterone levels as they rise in status. Their increased readiness to abuse their power was further explained by increased narcissism.

Combined with Corruption

According to Mead, “power is an integral component of social life. Even though the corrupting character of power has long been recognized, how it alters how individuals view themselves in relation to others has remained a mystery. We hypothesised that narcissistic self-views might be the final ingredient needed to fully grasp how power corrupts.”

The study’s findings imply that those with high testosterone levels may be more likely to abuse their influence since feeling superior to others makes them feel deserving of special treatment.

According to Mead, this research is among of the first to examine aspects that contribute to the growth of narcissism and to identify the alteration in self-perceptions that can account for the corrupting effects of power.

Furthermore, the research demonstrates that narcissistic sentiments of inferiority, the researchers say, “rather than narcissistic feelings that one is unique and deserves special treatment, were the causes of the damaging impacts of power. Having a power gap between themselves and others may be made easier for persons who want power by feelings of exploitation and entitlement. ”

It’s best to seek for “real indicators of talent, competence, and skill rather than people who brag that they have those skills” while searching the workplace for pro-social leaders, advises Mead.

Therefore, watch out for bosses that make a big deal out of themselves, project an air of dominance, or feel entitled to take your seat in a meeting because they might be getting ready to let loose their hidden narcissist.

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Ray Williams

Ray Williams

Author/Retired Executive Coach-Helping People Live Better Lives and Serve Others