Wisdom and narcissism as predictors of transformational leadership

Claire E. Greaves, Hannes Zacher*, Bernard McKenna, David Rooney

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: Although leadership and organizational scholars have suggested that the virtue of wisdom may promote outstanding leadership behavior, this proposition has rarely been empirically tested. The purpose of this paper is to investigate the relationships between transformational leadership, narcissism, and five dimensions of wisdom as conceptualized by the well-established Berlin wisdom paradigm. General mental ability and emotional intelligence were considered relevant control variables. Design/methodology/approach: Interview, test, and questionnaire data were obtained from 77 employees of a high school and from two or three colleagues of each employee. Data were analyzed using hierarchical regression analyses. Findings: After controlling for general mental ability and emotional intelligence, narcissism and the wisdom dimension relativism of values and life priorities were negatively related to transformational leadership, and the wisdom dimension recognition and management of uncertainty was positively related to transformational leadership. The other three wisdom dimensions, rich factual knowledge about life, rich procedural knowledge about life, and lifespan contextualism, were not significantly related to transformational leadership. Research limitations/implications: Limitations to be addressed in future studies include the cross-sectional design and the relatively small and specialized sample. Practical implications: Tentative implications for leadership training and development are outlined. Originality/value: This multi-method and multi-source study represents the first empirical investigation that examines links between well-established wisdom and leadership constructs in the work context.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)335-358
Number of pages24
JournalLeadership and Organization Development Journal
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Emotional intelligence
  • General mental ability
  • Narcissism
  • Transformational leadership
  • Wisdom


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