Are narcissistic bosses all bad?; 1 in 4 U.S. adults hold noncollege credentials.

By Dori Meinert Mar 1, 2014
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March 2014 CoverNarcissistic Bosses Aren’t All Bad, Study Finds

While some researchers see narcissistic leaders as arrogant and destined to fail, others claim that they are highly creative. Who’s right?

Maybe both, according to a team of researchers led by Emily Grijalva, an assistant visiting professor at the University of Illinois.

In a meta-analysis of more than 50 studies, the researchers found that narcissists—loosely defined as those with a grandiose sense of their own importance—are more likely to be selected for leadership positions.

The researchers then analyzed personality asssessments and performance evaluations from six data sets provided by a consulting firm.

While they didn’t find any direct link between narcissism and the leaders’ success, they did uncover a relationship between narcissism and leadership effectiveness that followed an inverted U-shape. The bosses with extremely high or extremely low levels of narcissism were poorer leaders.

"Very low levels of narcissism could actually lead to insecure or hesitant leaders," Grijalva says. "It would be difficult for those individuals to get people to follow them. At the same time, very high levels of narcissism could mean that you are a big jerk."

Grijalva believes that the best leaders have a sense of self-importance that lies somewhere between these extremes.

Yet study co-author Peter Harms, an assistant management professor at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln, cautions that "there’s not a magic cutoff." The appropriate level might vary by job—a naricisstic actor, for example, may fare better than an accountant.

Inappropriate levels might be revealed by a 360-degree performance review, since subordinates are more likely to witness the negative behavior, Harms says.

The study was published online in January 2014 prior to publication in Personnel Psychology.

1 in 4 U.S. Adults Hold Noncollege Credentials

More than 50 million U.S. adults—1 in 4—have obtained educational credentials other than a college degree, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s first-ever report on alternative credentials.

Of those, 11.2 million adults with no college education hold alternative credentials, which include professional certifications, licenses or educational certificates.

A professional certification or license is awarded by a certification body or licensing agency through an examination process. An educational certificate is typically bestowed by an educational institution based on a program of study.

For full-time workers who haven’t earned a bachelor’s degree, the credentials provide a boost in earnings, the report states. But some workers are less likely than others to obtain alternative credentials. Only 13 percent of Hispanics held professional certifications or licenses compared with 18 percent of blacks, 19 percent of Asians and 24 percent of non-Hispanic whites.

The report, Measuring Alternative Educational Credentials: 2012, which was released in January 2014, is the first of several waves of information on alternative credentials coming from government agencies in the next several years.

"We’re building a map of human capital development after high school. That’s really what we’re doing here," says Anthony Carnevale, director of Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce, who has studied the value of credentials. "This will tell employers what the labor supply looks like and, to the extent they get sophisticated about it, they can influence that."

Ultimately, policymakers and business leaders will be able to detect which training programs are more effective by tracing individual workers and how they fared in the labor market, Carnevale says.

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