This, research shows, leads to concerns around an unstable form of leadership characterised by covert feelings of entitlement.
When resources are already stretched thin during a crisis, the last thing you want is your people feeling stressed or irritated because of their leaders - but this, unfortunately, can happen, depending on the traits demonstrated by the leaders.
According to research by Birgit Schyns, Distinguished Professor of People & Organisations at NEOMA, and co-authors, narcissistic leaders can cause employees undue stress in crisis situations. This is particularly the case with vulnerable narcissistic leadership, defined as "an unstable form of leadership characterised by covert feelings of entitlement".
The survey data is based on workers' sentiments in the UK education sector during the COVID-19 pandemic. Respondents were asked to report their levels of irritation and COVID-related worry in five weekly surveys, as well as their experiences with vulnerable narcissistic leadership.
The study found that employees subjected to this kind of behaviour reported feeling more irritation in general, and this irritation worsened in weeks when they were exposed to higher amounts of vulnerable narcissistic behaviour from those in charge.
Professor Schyns explained: "Resources are often already stretched thin in crisis situations. Vulnerable narcissistic leaders strain them further, for instance by giving employees no guidelines on how to accomplish goals or blaming others for their own shortcomings.
"Employees already short on time and energy are required to invest more in making sense of their leader’s behaviour."
The researchers suggest organisations should watch out for red flags of narcissistic leadership, such as punishing others for taking the initiative, as the irritation this causes followers can lead to more severe mental health impairments.
"Followers can be protected by implementing checks and balances and adjusting HR practices to better deal with these behaviours," says Professor Schyns.
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