Coaching Report

2014 November / December Coaching Report

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2014 November / December Coaching Report

This month our webinar, research update and book reviews are about the darker side of leadership and a reverse focus look at Positive Psychology. Our webinar looks at issues in coaching noxious leaders from both sides of the desk. Why can one person’s toxic boss be another’s inspiration? What are the challenges when the leader is blind to his or her impact?

We then introduce you to The Upside of the Darkside the new book by Todd Kashdan and Robert Biswas-Diener. These positive psychologists unpack how to harness our negative emotions to be more effective, and ironically, increase our wellbeing. The authors have written our community their thoughts about coaching. Research shows there is an ideal positive/negative ratio in interactions and in life at about 3-6 positive experiences to 1 negative. We can’t overlook the dark side if we want peak performance

Then we get darker and look at some research on narcissistic leaders and even worse leaders who are sociopaths. Snakes in Suits: When Psychopaths Go to Work has become classic in helping us understand how these leaders can cut through their organization like butter and get to the top.  It can take years to identify their true natures and we do so at our peril.

Carol Kauffman PhD

Executive Director

From Research to Coaching Practice

All I need is a stage to shine: Narcissists' leader emergence and performance.   Barbora Nevicka,  Annebel H.B. De Hoogh, Annelies E.M. Van Vianen, Bianca Beersma, Doris McIlwain, The Leadership Quarterly 22 (2011) 910-925

Special thanks to Brodie Gregory, PhD for reviewing this research and translating the key points to use in your coaching practice.


If you’ve coached or worked with organizational leaders, chances are that at some point in your career you have encountered a narcissist… or perhaps many narcissists. What is it about the co-occurrence of leadership and narcissistic characteristics? In their August 2011 article, Nevicka et al investigate the relationship between leader emergence and narcissistic personality characteristics, as well as the role that context plays in this relationship.

Context matters, as the right situation can allow narcissists (or those with narcissistic characteristics) to really “shine” and exercise their influence and charisma. These authors found that narcissists emerged as leaders more often than those classified as non-narcissists. They also found that teams with narcissistic leaders performed worse on two important aspects of team effectiveness: communication and individual decision making. Applied broadly, we may interpret this to mean that teams with narcissistic leaders may have diminished performance because of less effective communication and decision-making processes.

In terms of context, the authors looked at reward interdependence of the teams – or the extent to which team members were reliant on one another for important rewards. They found that when teams were highly reward interdependent, narcissists in leadership roles performed better, and team members shared more information and helped each other more.  The takeaway? If you have a narcissistic leader, build in a requirement of interdependence and teamwork in order for valued rewards to be attained.

Want to learn more? Take a look at Nevicka and colleagues’ Leadership Quarterly article. Given their resistance to feedback and criticism, narcissistic leaders can make for very difficult clients. How can you use Nevicka et al.’s work to help narcissistic clients be more effective with the teams or organizations that they lead?


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