'It's all about me!'

Gendered narcissism and leaders' identity work

Alison Pullen*, Carl Rhodes

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

25 Citations (Scopus)


This article develops and illustrates a gendered theorization of narcissism as it relates to the self-identity of leaders in organizations. While the value of existing theories of leadership and narcissism are acknowledged, it is noted that they treat narcissism in an implicitly masculine fashion. In so doing they limit narcissistic leadership identity to relatively aggressive, self-oriented, and domineering forms. To develop a more thorough and nuanced appreciation of the implications of narcissism for leaders' identity work, the article articulates a gendered perspective on narcissism that accounts for forms of leadership that are self-focused but not necessarily traditionally masculine. Four types of leadership narcissism are identified and illustrated: the bully, the star performer, the servant, and the victim. While each of these forms is narcissistic in that identity is associated with the defence of a grandiose self-image (ego ideal) through the admiration of others and the love of the self, they achieve this in markedly different, and gendered, ways. The article concludes by arguing how a gendered reading of narcissism and leadership provides a richer understanding of the narcissistic behaviours of men and women in contemporary organizations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5-25
Number of pages21
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2008
Externally publishedYes

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