Narcissism, one of the three “dark triad” personality traits, has had a number of different definitions. This is because a number of therapies or modalities of psychology have theorized about the role of narcissism in our personality, including Freudian psychology in the early 1900s and continuing in various forms until its definition in the 1968 issue of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM).
Despite the different definitions of narcissism there are a few common elements present regardless of who defines it, these include high self admiration, arrogance, and exploitation of others. People scoring very high in narcissism may even be diagnosed with a mental illness known as narcissistic personality disorder (NPD).
Given the apparent downsides to this personality trait, it may seem confusing that those who have a narcissistic personality often find success climbing the corporate ladder. Their success lies in their ability to promote themselves and a strong drive for success that often accompanies this.
Another example of how a narcissistic personality may help people experience success in business is their ability to lead others. Research has shown that narcissistic personalities tend to take control of groups without leaders, which makes them standout candidates for project management roles in struggling areas of the business. By taking control you can establish yourself as someone who gets things done.
Sometimes narcissistic personality leaders are portrayed as not caring about others, but in reality their focus on themselves means that their team benefits because they always look polished and ready to take on the world. Research has shown that narcissists tend to have lower levels of anxiety as well, which helps their employees feel secure and lead to a more productive workforce which is an important quality of leaders.
Additionally, narcissists tend to be well-protected against attacks to their ego. Channeling this self-admiration gives them a strong belief in themselves and an ability to tolerate failure that others may not have so readily. A thick skin and a strong belief in one’s self can help a narcissist be seen as a motivator and a positive thinker who is driven and believes in himself and his company.
Narcissists value self-sufficiency and emphasize their superiority, qualities that ensure their success in a harsh business environment. Because of their frequent self-evaluations and an often competitive strive to meet an imagined best-version standard they are constantly improving and working on personal and professional development.
This focus on image means that when an organization is looking for someone to promote, the narcissist personality outwardly projects confidence and security, qualities that are far more attractive than one who shows cracks and insecurity. This is not to imply that either candidate lacks the skills to perform but that the narcissist is better at putting himself on display with the self-marketing necessary to succeed.
The focus on self appearance or self-admiration transfers over to diet and exercise, which also helps narcissists be more physically attractive. As much as we don’t wish to acknowledge it, personal appearance still matters in the workplace and narcissists have a distinct edge over their coworkers in this regard.
Narcissists often make excellent first impressions which can help them make job switches more easily. The greatest change in income results from changing jobs, and being able to impress a hiring manager is an important trait for moving up the corporate ladder.
Clearly narcissism and the narcissistic personality is a more complex personality trait than the exaggerated depictions in the media and there are strong advantages to be had for individuals who possess an ability to put their best foot forward.
Narcissists often see themselves as the “center of the universe” and believe (or wish) that the world revolves around them. This self-admiration can cause them to focus strongly on the image they present to others and work to maintain it in the best light possible.
If you’ve enjoyed this then be sure to check out the other two dark triad personalities:
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