Manny Ramirez, outfielder for the Los Angeles Dodgers , just got suspended for 50 games from major league baseball for violating their performance-enhancing drug policy. He is a good segue into something I’ve wanted to write about for a while, and now I’m taking advantage of Manny being in the news. I knew “Manny being Manny” would happen sooner or later…

Manny has been infamous for being sort of like a “prima donna” on the baseball field, and being the center of media attention. The way he acts is what many people have affectionately called “Manny being Manny.” For instance, while playing for the Boston Red Sox, he took a bathroom break during a pitching change by going into Fenway Park’s famed “Green Monster” wall (he’s coming out of it in the picture). He has been known to be lackadaisical in the field, and as a baserunner. But can he ever hit. So what does “Manny being Manny” have to do with research on leaders emerging out of leaderless groups?

I, along with researchers from Ohio State and the University of Georgia recently had a study published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin   examining what type of person emerges as a leader from group interactions where there was no assigned leader present. We consistently found that across 3 separate studies using various experimental designs, the person out of the leaderless group who tended to emerge as a leader was a narcissist – a “dark side” personality trait, they are defined as people who have positive and inflated views of themselves with a lack of warmth and intimacy in interpersonal relationships. There are two factors that we specifically examined that is part of narcissism, an exhibitionism factor (the wanting to be the center of attention – think about “Manny being Manny”) and a power factor (wanting power – think about Machiavelli and “The Prince”). Which was the more important narcissistic factor in leadership emergence? Those who wanted power.

So, it seems that narcissists emerge out of groups with no leader. And, it’s not because they want to be the center of attention (it’s not “Manny being Manny”), it’s that they crave and want power (sort of like “The Prince” from Machiavelli).

Think of the implications from that piece of research. As we concluded in our paper, the same characteristic that facilitates an individual’s emergence as a leader may also be the characteristic that makes a destructive leader. Checks and balances in these leaderless groups are crucial.

Knowing that piece of research, what other implications can that have in your organization, or the way you lead?

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