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Vulnerable narcissists in leadership? A bifactor model of narcissism and abusive supervision intent

Braun, S.; Schyns, B.; Zheng, Y.; Lord, R.G.

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B. Schyns

Y. Zheng


Addressing the controversial debate about narcissism and its impact on organizations, this article pursues three main purposes: First, we aimed to assess the factorial structure of the Pathological Narcissism Inventory (PNI) in an applied organizational context. In the overall sample of 926 German-speaking managers (Studies 1-3), we found a bifactor model differentiating a general narcissism factor from narcissistic grandiosity and vulnerability to be advantageous over a traditional second-order factor model. Second, we sought to establish the relationships between narcissism and leaders’ drive to aggress against followers (i.e., abusive supervision intent). Above and beyond the general narcissism factor, narcissistic vulnerability consistently predicted leaders’ abusive supervision intent, while narcissistic grandiosity did not. This result also held with an additional measure of grandiose narcissism, the Narcissistic Personality Inventory (NPI) in Study 2. Third, we intended to provide initial insights into the underlying mechanisms linking leaders’ narcissistic vulnerability to their abusive supervision intent. An experimental design in Study 3 identified one reason why narcissistic vulnerability drives leaders to aggress against their followers: they were prone to respond to failure with internal attributions and shame. In sum, this research is the first to point out leaders’ narcissistic vulnerability as a risk-factor for organizations. It advances the current understanding of its conceptual nature and practical implications.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Apr 18, 2019
Online Publication Date Aug 1, 2019
Publication Date Aug 1, 2019
Deposit Date May 3, 2019
Publicly Available Date Aug 1, 2020
Journal Academy of Management Proceedings
Print ISSN 0065-0668
Electronic ISSN 2151-6561
Publisher Academy of Management
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 2019
Issue 1
Article Number 11224
Public URL


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