Researchers from Ohio State University at Newark have found that in groups without leaders it is often narcissists who step into the breach. This could be worrying as narcissists tend to be self-centred, exaggerate their talents and abilities and lack empathy for others. In one study 432 undergraduate students completed personality tests, which measured narcissism and were put into groups of four. They were given a hypothetical task selecting next year's director of the student union and afterwards completed a questionnaire evaluating the leadership of themselves and other group members. Those who scored highest on one dimension of narcissism - the desire for power - were more likely to say they wanted to lead the group, were more likely to say they did lead the group discussion and were more likely to be viewed as group leaders by the other group members. In another experiment 408 students were placed in groups of four and asked to choose 15 items from a list to help them survive on a desert island. Again the narcissists were more likely to emerge as leaders of the groups although when their list was compared to a list compiled by survival experts they were no more effective at choosing the best items than other students. In a third study 153 business managers enrolled on an MBA programme were given a task of assuming the role of a school board deciding how to allocate a large donation from a fictional company. This time trained observers sat in on the group and assessed who emerged as the leaders. Once again those highest in narcissism were more likely to emerge as leaders.
You can find out more about this research at