A new study in the Journal of Personality likens the impact of narcissistic leadership to chocolate cake. Let’s take a look at what Trump, leadership and a slice of our favourite cake have in common.

The Chocolate Cake Effect

“The first bite of chocolate cake is usually rich in flavour and texture, extremely gratifying. After a while, however, the richness of this flavour makes us feel increasingly nauseous. Being led by a narcissistic leader can produce a similar effect.”

In ‘This Leader Ship is Sinking: A Temporal Investigation of Narcissistic Leadership’ Wei Ong, Ross Roberts et al describe the honeymoon period whereby the confident, outgoing and dare we say it, pushy character appears to make a good leader. In times of political strife, those who sound as though they know what to do can seem a good option (even if they, like Trump, seem a bit hazy on the how). The researchers found that just like the first hit of chocolate cake, this kind of leadership doesn’t last. It simply isn’t up to the long haul required for long term change.

Narcissism Stunts Motivation (Yours Not Theirs)

The study followed 142 students taking part in weekly group tasks. Throughout the research the participants were asked to rate each others’ leadership skills. Students scoring high levels of narcissism rated higher on leadership in the beginning but as the research continued, that perception began to fade. Those initially perceived as leadership material were increasingly less likely to be rated as having the requisite skills. This decline was attributed to a lack of transformational leadership skills. The narcissistic leaders simply didn’t have the ability to motivate others. When we’re looking for a leader we need more than the chocolate cake effect. A transformational leader inspires and motivates others, creating transformation and growth. It’s hard to do that if you’re constantly focusing on yourself as a leader.

When the cake is finished and only the crumbs remain, how do you inspire your team?

  1. Know Your Team. Take time to get to know your team. Identify their strengths along with areas they need and want to develop. Ask for their opinion and their ideas. Say ‘Hello’ ask them how they are. Build a genuine rapport and learn who they are and what motivates them.
  2. Listen. Collaborate with your team. Encourage suggestions and ideas. Incubate innovation by listening to (and implementing) new ideas cultivating a no blame culture so that you’re team isn’t afraid to try something new.
  3. Be Clear On Your Vision. Know what you want to achieve and communicate that the your team, department and organisation. Your vision shouldn’t stop with your senior leaders. You all need to know what you’re aiming for if it’s going to succeed. You should be able to articulate your vision in less than 5 minutes.
  4. Model Behaviour. Model the behaviours, values and attitudes that you have laid out in your vision. Nobody wants to be the leader who espouses one thing and does another. Audit your behaviour to check that you’re walking your talk.
  5. It’s a VUCA World. If you’re leading transformation in a VUCA world (and you are) it’s important to aid your own growth and development as a transformational leader. Take time out to;
  • Challenge your assumptions
  • Be flexible in your communication style
  • Take time to reflect and renew


Originally published at positivechangeguru.com on September 22, 2016.

Originally published at medium.com