Article Component Papers (Authentic Leadership)

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2011 18: 40 originally published online 9 November 2010Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies John H. Humphreys, Stephanie Pane Haden, Milorad M. Novicevic, Russell W. Clayton and Jane Whitney Gibson

Narcissist Leader Lillian McMurry of Trumpet Records: Integrity and Authenticity in the Charismatic, Constructive

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Lillian McMurry and Trumpet Records are so tightly intertwined, it’s the same story. I keep a picture of her on the wall above my desk because she’s a great hero to me. She was so determined to do right by everyone. I like to think that if I ever considered cheating some- one, Lillian would reach down off the wall, grab a ruler, and rap my knuckles. Because I admire her eth- ics so much I often say that Lillian keeps me honest.

—Bruce Iglauer, Founder of Alligator Records

The above personal communication with the head of Alligator Records speaks greatly to the exceptional integrity of Lillian McMurry, a pioneer of the Mississippi delta recording indus- try. As we will reveal, the story of her integrity, compassion, and genuineness is truly remarkable. With the current attention on leader integrity and authenticity (see Walumbwa, Avolio, Gardner, Wernsing, & Peterson, 2008), an examination of an exemplary female leader whose practice of values and princi- ples approached the “challenge and the fulfillment of authentic leadership” is certainly warranted (George, Sims, McLean, & Mayer, 2007, p. 138).

Moreover, although the emerging construct of authentic leadership has received significant attention recently, there are still competing theoretical perspectives. Common with nascent theory, many have suggested that researchers attempt to craft expanded and more nuanced conceptions of potential components, antecedents, and outcomes associ- ated with the conduct and attribution of leader authenticity (e.g., Avolio, Walumbwa, & Weber, 2009; Walumbwa et al., 2008). Although such theoretical advancement is essential to the maturation of the paradigm, management historians recognize the critical roles that deconstruction of the his- torical record and ethnographic inquiry can play in the pro- gression of contemporary theoretical frameworks.

1Texas A&M University–Commerce, Commerce, TX, USA 2University of Mississippi, University, MS, USA 3Nova Southeastern University, Fort Lauderdale-Davie, FL, USA

Corresponding Authors: John H. Humphreys, Management Department, College of Business & Technology, Texas A&M University–Commerce, P.O. Box 3011, Commerce, TX 75429, USA Email:

Lillian McMurry of Trumpet Records: Integrity and Authenticity in the Charismatic, Constructive Narcissist Leader

John H. Humphreys1, Stephanie Pane Haden1, Milorad M. Novicevic2, Russell W. Clayton2, and Jane Whitney Gibson3


Although the emerging construct of authentic leadership has received considerable attention recently, there are still diverse and competing theoretical perspectives. Common with nascent theory, many have suggested that researchers attempt to craft expanded and more nuanced conceptions of current and potential components, antecedents, and outcomes associated with the conduct and attribution of leader authenticity. Although such theoretical advancement is essential to the maturation of the paradigm, management historians recognize the important role the historical record can play in the progression of contemporary frameworks. During archival research of the business proceedings of Trumpet Records, a 1950s independent record label, we encountered the compelling story of an entrepreneurial leader whose extraordinary integrity and authenticity appeared inconsistent with certain aspects of the principal authentic leadership definitions beginning to converge in the literature. Accordingly, we examined the life and writings of Lillian McMurry, the founder of Trumpet Records, to propose a framework by which leader integrity initiates the conduct and attribution of authentic leadership to transcend charismatic and narcissistic tendencies and diminish the abuse of symbolic status.


authentic leadership, integrity, Lillian McMurry, Trumpet Records, constructive narcissism, charisma

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Humphreys et al. 41

During archival research of the business files and pro- ceedings of Trumpet Records, a 1950s American indepen- dent record label, we encountered the compelling story of Lillian McMurry, an entrepreneurial leader whose extraordi- nary veracity and authenticity appeared inconsistent with certain aspects of the principal authentic leadership defini- tion beginning to converge in the literature (Avolio et al., 2009). Accordingly, we analyzed her life, business records, and personal writings to further inform the debate and “spot- light issues that merit caution and further investigation” (Ordonez, Schweitzer, Galinsky, & Bazerman, 2009, p. 83).

To provide context, we begin with the factors leading to the rise of the independent record labels in general and Trumpet Records in particular. As evidenced by the open- ing quote, any discussion of Trumpet Records has Lillian McMurry inexorably intertwined in it, so her history must follow. From numerous primary and secondary sources, we investigate the personality and behavioral components associated with her interactions, with specific consideration to those elements that appear at odds with contemporary perspectives of leader authenticity. Finally, we integrate our insights concerning McMurry’s leadership to propose a framework by which leader integrity initiates the conduct and attribution of authentic leadership to transcend charis- matic and narcissistic tendencies and diminish the abuse of symbolic status.

The Independent Record Industry Prior to the 1950s, the record industry in America was dom- inated by a few major players (Capitol, Columbia, Decca, Mercury, MGM, and RCA), all of which produced music for the White middle class. Because of this, it was the small, independent labels that became the “catalysts for the rock ‘n’ roll revolution” (Mabry, 1990, p. 411). Through these firms, many previously ignored musicians and ethnic groups (including marginalized factions such as the rural Southern Whites) were afforded the opportunity to enter the national marketplace (Escott & Hawkins, 1980). Yet, although these independent companies played a crucial role in the history of the record industry (Gillett, 1983), beyond Ace Records (see Mabry, 1990), few have been thoroughly examined, especially those focused largely on Black music (referred to as “race” music until 1948—renamed “rhythm and blues” to avoid umbrage—Mabry, 1990, p. 415).

Mabry (1990) argued that the rise of the independent labels was possible for three primary reasons. First, techno- logical changes enabled small players to join the fray. Low costs; portable recording machines; the move from the frag- ile 78-RPM discs to 45-RPM plastic discs, which were suit- able for the popular music market (Grendysa, 1986); and superior microphones and speakers allowed small firms to create recording studios in storefronts.

Second, the combination of technological advancement (economical record players) and demographic shifts allowed many African Americans and Southern Whites to emerge as record consumers. World War II created an envi- ronment where these musical forms migrated to Northern urban areas as well, “creating small but definable markets” (Mabry, 1990, p. 417).

Finally, the crossroads of technological innovation and changing demographics allowed for the significant impact of television. “The phenomenal success of television between 1947 and 1957 forced most radio stations to shift to an all-music format to draw audiences, thus increasing the demand for any kind of recorded music” (Mabry, 1990, p. 418). As a result, the space between increased demand and the disregard of minority forms of music was filled by the independent labels, leading to more than 100 such autonomous firms by 1952 (Gillett, 1983). One of these entrepreneurial ventures was Trumpet Records.

Trumpet Records Trumpet Records was the first record company from the State of Mississippi to attain national stature through its sales, airplay, and marketing (Martin, 2007). What began as simply stocking records as props in a furniture store to sell phonographs soon turned into buying “race” records and selling them to meet the emerging unmet demand.

To assist in promoting the sale of these records, speakers were attached to the outside of the Record Mart—Furniture Bargains store to attract those passing by to the listening booths inside (Hannusch & McMurry, 1984). The firm also sponsored a radio show on WRBC (Jackson, Mississippi), which was heard in six states and Cuba, producing a more widespread demand for these records, leading to mail order distribution from mailing lists and catalogs (Ryan, 2004). This attempt at vertical integration (Winstead, 2009) resulted in up to 1,500 orders a day (Hannusch & McMurry, 1984).

It was at this point that the creative force behind Trumpet Records, Lillian McMurry (Martin, 2007), took an entre- preneurial leap, as the next logical step seemed to be the production of the records. The firm was incorporated on June 27, 1950, as Diamond Record Company; however, that label name was already taken. Since the company was originally interested in producing spirituals and gospel music, the name Trumpet (as in the archangel Gabriel’s awakening trumpet) seemed appropriate (O’Neal, 1986).

In 1951, Trumpet began recording at Scott Record Ser- vice in Jackson. By 1952, the label was also recording in Memphis, Chicago, and Houston. In September 1953, the fledgling firm moved out of the Record Mart to create its own recording studio. Although the studio was primitive, with mattresses lining the walls and ceiling for sound con- trol (Ryan, 2004), the first recording sessions were held

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there in October 1953. Even John Vincent Imbragulio, the founder of Ace Records, recorded there with his early Champion blues label (Mabry, 1990).

The record company, however, could not sustain its early success. Larger firms were stealing its artists (Ryan, 2004); the company had various cash flow problems (Winstead, 2009), significant supplier charge-offs (Ryan, 2004), and uncollectable accounts receivable (according to the Cash Journal); and the market could not sustain the numerous independent labels competing in such a niche market (Mabry, 1990). Although widely celebrated by blues aficio- nados, Trumpet Records ceased operations in 1955, after only 5 years in business. In 1964, the firm returned its cor- porate charter and officially came to a close (Winstead, 2009).

Yet although Trumpet Records may not generally be remembered for its ultimate business achievements, its innovative founder should certainly be taken into account in the history of the music business and even American societal change.

When the story of the blues’ formative relationship with rock ‘n’ roll is one day told in full, the name of a white woman, wife of a furniture store owner in Jackson, Mississippi, should be remembered as a seminal influence in the growth of music. (Dallas, 1999, p. 1)

For sure, the very idea of a young, inexperienced, White woman becoming a record producer of Black music in 1950s Mississippi cannot be overstated.

To conduct our research, we used not only the secondary data available in Ryan’s (2004) biography of McMurry in Trumpet Records: Diamonds on Farish Street but also the primary data from the Trumpet Records/Lillian Shedd McMurry Collection, which is available at the Department of Archives & Special Collections, J. D. Williams Library, University of Mississippi. This compilation, donated by Lillian McMurry, contains the ledger books, business records, legal files, artist files, recordings, and personal cor- respondence in the same organizational system she used. Although Mabry (1990, p. 412) lamented that the business files of independent producers were not readily available, as they were “necessarily more concerned with selling records in a very competitive market than with preserving data for historians,” such primary data do exist for Lillian McMurry and Trumpet Records. Our review also led to per- sonal correspondence with those who knew Lillian, includ- ing her daughter Vitrice, who kindly agreed to an interview (January, 2009). Although our initial interest was in Trum- pet Records as a business entity, our research led us to con- clude that it was Lillian McMurry that was the more compelling and instructive story.

Lillian Shedd McMurry

Lillian McMurry was born to Julius and Grace Shedd on December 30, 1921, in Purvis, Mississippi. When the Great Depression hit, the family experienced extreme poverty. As a result, the Shedd family went to live with an aunt and her seven boys in Canton. The toughness she acquired in response to growing up surrounded by a brother and seven male cousins is often credited with her survival in the male- dominated recording business. She also grew up surrounded by music. With money being scarce in such trying times, Lillian and her family sang together as their form of enter- tainment, initiating her love for the art form.

Her diligent work ethic emerged early. After high school, she obtained employment at a pharmacy in Jackson. She worked incredibly long hours, 7 days a week, eventually earning a promotion to a managerial position. This unwav- ering drive remained a permanent element of her character. She was soon able to attain a more esteemed position as secretary to the Executive Secretary of the Governor of Mississippi.

Although working in the governor’s office, Lillian resided in a Jackson apartment with an upright piano, but her desire soon became fixed on a concert grand that was for sale in a furniture store owned by Willard McMurry. Realizing that the grand piano was not within her price range, she entertained the idea of selling her upright piano, and Willard drove her to her apartment so that he could inspect it. He called Lillian for a date the next day, and in 1945, the couple married. Ryan (2004) eloquently noted that a few years later, “the happy young couple would take part in a second marriage, of music and furniture stores, records and radio shows” (p. 7).

The stage for the “second marriage” was set when Wil- lard bought an old hardware store on North Farish Street to use as a furniture outlet. While cleaning out the building, his workers stumbled on a stack of 78-RPM records and started playing them on a turntable. Lillian was mesmer- ized. This was the first time that the then 28-year-old Lillian McMurry had ever heard a record by a Black artist, and Wynonie Harris’s “All She Wants to Do Is Rock” inspired her. She recalled, “It was the most unusual, sincere, and solid sound I’d ever heard” (Ryan, 2004, p. 8).

Lillian’s entry into the music business commenced with her venture to sell records in the new store, converting it into a combination record and furniture shop. Although Lil- lian had no experience in the music business, she was clearly not intimidated by her more knowledgeable coun- terparts and quickly learned what she thought she needed to know in order to be successful in selling records. Being without fear and possessing an insatiable thirst for knowl- edge undoubtedly contributed to the success she enjoyed in the years that followed.

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Flush with records by some of the great musicians of that time, Lillian had to continually restock her shelves. With the customer-focused marketing tactics, which reflected considerable entrepreneurial spirit, the Record Mart was a success. Not only did the creativity inherent in her methods help sell records, it also initiated her exploration into record producing. In fact, the listening booths attracted the first two vocal groups that would eventually record on her label—The Gospelaires and The Southern Sons. This was the first time Lillian had heard Black artists sing live, and she was again inspired by the music—this time, to produce it herself.

It was in 1950 that Lillian engaged in her inaugural trial as a record producer. The first music genre she focused on was gospel. A few doors down from Lillian’s store stood the Alamo Theater, a popular tour stop for some of the most talented Black blues and gospel artists. Many of the musi- cians who played at the Alamo would find their way into the Record Mart. The vivacious and charismatic Lillian also took it on herself to scout talent, attending shows at the the- ater with Willard and her brother, Milton. The Southern Sons signed an exclusive contract with her on May 30, 1950, and she had them in the WRBC studio that night to record their first session.

Lillian courageously went in search of artists in bars, theaters, restaurants, and churches. She put herself at risk when she visited many of these places, as illegal activities were routinely occurring. Her greatest find was Aleck Miller, better known as Sonny Boy Williamson. She took her brother, Milton, and a friend, Curtis Dossett, along with her on her journey to find him. In their search, Milton and Curtis had difficulty getting people to give them informa- tion because the two White men were suspected to be law- men or bill collectors. Lillian was often able to acquire information that the men could not, as was the case when they stumbled on Sonny Boy’s house. When Milton failed to get information from the woman who answered the door, Lillian took charge. Her intuition told her that they were close to locating him, so she approached the house and was able to get Sonny Boy’s wife, Mattie, to speak to her. The women made plans for Sonny Boy to go to Jackson, sign a contract, and complete a recording. The trust that she was able to garner from Mattie resulted in one of her most prof- itable recording endeavors.

Her interactions with Sonny Boy Williamson led to humorous exploits that demonstrate her legendary tough- ness. According to Dallas (1999), Sonny Boy was a gun- toting tough guy, and the petite Lillian always took his gun away when he came to perform. She also did not tolerate bad language in the studio, although we note that she had no such reservations in business correspondence. On one occa- sion when Sonny Boy began cursing, she marched him out of the studio at the point of his own gun, telling him he

could only return when he learned better manners and apol- ogized. Apparently, Sonny Boy went to Willard 2 weeks later to say he was ready to ask for forgiveness, and Willard warned him to first toss his hat into the studio before enter- ing to see if Lillian would shoot it (Ryan, 2004).

Enjoying the success that followed the signing of Sonny Boy Williamson, Lillian hired a traveling promoter to help while she continued her promotional efforts via the phone, mail, and radio. She fired him after his first trip, though, displeased with his performance and assured that she could do a better job by phone, once again demonstrating her supreme self-confidence.

Soon, however, Trumpet would experience one of its greatest setbacks. In 1951, there was a fire at the Master Record Company in Chicago, and all of Trumpet’s master recordings were destroyed. Despite the gravity of this pre- dicament, Lillian exhibited tremendous resiliency. She arose even more determined and with higher aspirations, eager to become more involved in the creative and business aspects of making records. She quickly found a new firm to handle the mastering of her records, Shaw Record Processing (Cin- cinnati), and soon had Sonny Boy back in the studio to recut tracks from the original masters that were lost in the fire.

Rebounding from the fire, Lillian continued to audition new talent and record new titles in the spring and summer of 1951. Lillian was able to uncover some promising artists by sifting through the multitude of bad acts that made their way through the doors of the Record Mart. She would patiently lead each through the recording process, from cut- ting a demo to working out the contract to ultimately releas- ing a Trumpet record. The effort she invested in each musician was a testament to her compassion and how deeply she cared about the music and those who made it.

At the close of Trumpet’s first year, Lillian busied her- self learning more about the technical aspects of the record- ing process, as she had never been satisfied with the quality. In one particularly frustrating session, she rejected 120 takes on one title. In search of perfection, she sought the expertise of Bill Holford, owner of Audio Company of America (ACA), Houston, Texas. Having studied electron- ics in the military, he was able to employ a new technology. Holford had a portable studio and agreed to travel to Jack- son for a 4-day, 3-night recording run.

The series of marathon sessions were originally sched- uled to be held at the Union Hall in Jackson, and a few titles were cut there. However, as Black artists took the stage, a disturbance unfolded in response to the violation of the “Whites only” policy. Lillian McMurry refused to allow her musicians to be harassed, so she relocated the entire opera- tion to a vacant club hall, the Cedars of Lebanon. This deci- sion cost Lillian a significant amount of recording time, but in her mind, her integrity toward her artists and being true to her character outweighed the loss.

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Lillian endured much ridicule for her dealings with Black artists, but she was always confident, hopeful, opti- mistic, and resilient. At an early age, she was exposed to racial injustice (according to her daughter, she had wit- nessed hangings in the town square) and had developed strong moral convictions. She believed in treating people equally. She lived her life as herself and ran her business based on the principles of honesty, fairness, consistency, integrity, and authenticity. Based on psychological capital, conduct, and follower attribution, Lillian McMurry pro- vides a powerful example of the emerging construct of authentic leadership.

Authentic Leadership The theoretical legacy of authenticity can be traced from the ancient Greek philosophers (Harter, 2002) to the early man- agement thinkers (Novicevic, Harvey, Buckley, Brown, & Evans, 2006) to 20th-century (e.g., Rogers, 1959) humanis- tic psychologists (see Humphreys, Williams, Clayton, & Novicevic, in press). Recently though, a theory of authentic leadership as a “root construct” (Avolio & Gardner, 2005, p. 328) has emerged from “the intersection of the leadership, ethics, and positive organizational behavior . . . literatures” (Walumbwa et al., 2008, p. 92). As common with nascent theory, there have been disparate attempts to express what constitutes authentic leadership (Walumbwa et al., 2008).

Luthans and Avolio (2003) originally described authen- tic leadership “as a process that draws from both positive psychological capacities and a highly developed organiza- tional context, which results in both greater self-awareness and self-regulated positive behaviors on the part of leaders and associates, fostering positive self-development” (p. 243). However, some (e.g., Shamir & Eilam, 2005; Sparrowe, 2005) took exception to the idea of authentic leadership containing the positive psychological capacities of hope, optimism, resilience, and confidence (efficacy in Luthans, Youssef, & Avolio, 2007). Shamir and Eilam (2005) instead portrayed authentic leaders as those who viewed the leadership role as an integral part of the self-concept, dem- onstrated a high level of self-concept clarity, and exhibited self-concordant goals and self-expressive behaviors. Fur- thermore, Shamir and Eilam (2005) omitted values from their account, “reasoning that a leader can be ‘true to self’ without attaining a high level of moral development or complying with high standards of ethical conduct” (Walumbwa et al., 2008, p. 94). This argument for ethical neutrality, though, has largely been rejected (see Gardner, Avolio, & Walumbwa, 2005).

The dominant conceptualization in the literature appears to be converging on four underlying elements (Avolio et al., 2009). Based on the authenticity refinements of social psy- chologists, and leadership researchers’ interpretation of

those efforts, Walumbwa et al. (2008) defined authentic leadership as

a pattern of leader behavior that draws on and pro- motes both positive psychological capacities and a positive ethical climate, to foster greater self-aware- ness, an internalized moral perspective, balanced processing of information, and relational transpar- ency on the part of leaders working with followers, fostering positive self-development. (p. 94)

As described by Avolio et al. (2009, p. 424), self-aware- ness refers to the understanding of one’s strengths and weaknesses and the way one makes sense of the world. Internalized moral perspective alludes to being guided by internal moral standards to self-regulate behavior. Balanced processing refers to objectively analyzing pertinent data before making a decision. Relational transparency refers to the open manner in which authentic leaders and their fol- lowers explicitly share appropriate information, thoughts, and feelings.

According to Walumbwa et al. (2008), this approach suggests that authentic leaders operate consistently with personal values to develop credibility and earn the esteem and trust of their followers. We count ourselves among those who believe that this line of inquiry has great poten- tial for leadership research, particularly because of the strong emphasis on the internalized moral perspective so dependably evidenced by Lillian McMurry’s dyadic inter- actions and influence.

Authentic Leadership and Moral Development The social psychology literature offers support for the rela- tionship between superior levels of morality and authentic- ity (e.g., Kernis, 2003; Knobe, 2005). Moreover, we agree with Gardner et al.’s (2005) assertion that the construct of authentic leadership would be “incomplete and misguided” if it did not contribute to increased focus on the ethical responsibilities that inhabit the leadership role (Walumbwa et al., 2008, p. 94).

With that acknowledgement, though, we also think that the debate over moral development has inadvertently stifled the attention given to the issue of personality and authentic- ity (Humphreys, Pane Haden, Oyler, & Pryor, 2010). It appears that in the zeal to repudiate ethically neutral per- spectives of authentic leadership, the matter of leader nar- cissism has been entwined with moral development and subsequently discarded. We find this development unfortu- nate and suggest that the result could hinder the develop- ment of the authentic leader construct.

To be fair, there are allusions to this position in the psy- chology literature (e.g., Ryan & Deci, 2003). Kernis (2003)

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offered a model suggesting that the attainment of authentic- ity resulted in an optimal level of self-esteem. Walumbwa et al. (2008) interpreted this proposal to suggest that authentic leaders “display high levels of stable, as opposed to fragile, self esteem” and are “more comfortable forming transpar- ent, open, and close relationships with others” (p. 93). We do see where researchers could extend this reasoning to speculate about the relationship.

Yet it appears that we have accepted such an allusion as dogma. Although there is a relationship between moral development and narcissistic tendency, they are not one and the same. We agree that higher levels of moral development are likely related to the achievement of leader authenticity. Still, there is evidence that people can be authentic at mod- est levels of moral development (Kegan, 1982; Kohlberg, 1984). Even so, Gardner et al. (2005) declared,

To be clear, we have specifically taken the stand that authentic leaders by our definition and in terms of development are of high moral character . . . which is a prerequisite for such leadership, in the same way Burns (1978) defined transforming leaders as being of high moral character . . . again using Burn’s description of transforming leaders as leading based on their “end values” of justice and liberty, disquali- fies all of the narcissistic leaders throughout history as satisfying our definition of authentic leadership. (pp. 395-396)

Although we agree that authentic leaders must be moral, the final thought conveyed in this statement simply cannot be true.

To be clear, the converging viewpoint is that narcissistic leaders cannot satisfy the current definition of authentic leadership. Gardner et al.’s (2005) statement seems to assume that narcissism in leadership is purely bad, as are all narcissistic leaders. This is too simplistic, and we think that the literature and Lillian’s example support our position. Earlier, we introduced the assertion that the construct of authentic leadership would be incomplete and misguided if it did not address the ethical dimension of leadership. We are asserting that leadership scholars must begin to account for narcissistic tendencies within authentic leadership. Not doing so is likewise misguided and risks the perpetuation of an insufficiently developed framework.

Narcissism According to Humphreys, Duan, Ingram, Gladstone, and Basham (2010), our knowledge of narcissism has advanced considerably since Freud’s (1914) initial views. Based on the story of Narcissus from Greek mythology, who perished because of his excessive vanity (Lubit, 2002), 19th-century

psychologists defined narcissism as “a personal form of admiration” (King, 2007, p. 184) or “perverse self-love” (Rosenthal & Pittinsky, 2006, p. 618).

This early work led Freud to examine the personality of narcissists (Raskin & Terry, 1988), which, in turn, per- suaded Horney (1939) to speculate on the antecedents of Freud’s observations. Although Freud (1931) proposed a specific narcissistic personality type, Kohut (1966) and Kernberg (1967) advanced narcissism as a personality dis- order. “Today, we most often use the term narcissism to describe a pervasive pattern of overt grandiosity, self-focus, and self importance behavior, displayed by an individual or group . . . (APA, 2000)” (King, 2007, p. 184).

Although many clinical psychologists have insisted that the structure of narcissism is categorical, social psycholo- gists have provided evidence that narcissism is continu- ously distributed and dimensional (Foster & Campbell, 2007). We agree and stress that those pursuing authentic leadership have largely ignored these findings.

It is important to note that even in the clinical literature there has been debate on whether personality disorders should be classified as categorical or dimensional. Although Kraepelin (1917) is acclaimed for devising the taxonomy of pathologies, even he conceded that “whenever we try to mark out the frontier between mental health and disease, we find a neutral territory, in which the imperceptible change from the realm of normal life to that of obvious derange- ment takes place” (p. 295). Similarly, Widiger and Coker (2003) called for dimensional classifications because other- wise there would be little qualitative distinction from nor- mal functioning. “It is not a question of either/or, but of the degree of narcissism” (Jorstad, 1996, p. 18). As a result, the 2012 update of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fourth edition (DSM-IV) is seeking “a graded continuum between mental health and disease” (Monastersky, 2008).

We think that this issue of dimensionality versus catego- rization of narcissism is crucial to the study of leadership (Rosenthal & Pittinsky, 2006). Multiple organizational researchers (e.g., Brown, 1997; Harrison & Clough, 2006) have underscored the value of narcissism in understanding the emergence and trajectory of leader behavior. According to Kets de Vries and Miller (1985), “if there is one personal- ity constellation to which leaders tend to gravitate it is the narcissistic one” (p. 586).

Narcissistic Leaders The contrast between the harmful impact that narcis- sistic leaders can have on their constituents and insti- tutions and the fact that narcissism is a key trait of some of the world’s most creative and generative leaders seems to suggest that the concepts being

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studied need to be refined. (Rosenthal & Pittinksy, 2006, p. 628)

Leadership can be exploitive and damaging or developmen- tal, ethical, and motivating. The question is why? Kets de Vries and Miller (1985) suggested that “leadership effective- ness and dysfunction can often be explained by the narcissis- tic dispositions of the leader” (p. 584). They emphasized

that these characteristics occur with different degrees of intensity. A certain dose of narcissism is necessary to function effectively. We all show signs of narcissistic behavior. Among individuals who possess only limited narcissistic tendencies, we find those who are very tal- ented and capable of making great contributions to society. Those who gravitate to the extremes, however, give narcissism its pejorative reputation. (p. 588)

We find this work, which applied psychoanalytic object relations theory to narcissism and leadership, to offer con- siderable substance that is missing from the authentic lead- ership debate.

Object relations refer to the accumulated perceptions that form the cognitive backdrop that one uses to under- stand and interact with the external world. These psychic representations are thought to sit at the “genesis of patho- logical narcissism” (Kets de Vries & Miller, 1985, p. 590). Yet individual differences with respect to narcissistic ten- dencies can be measured in the normal population (Raskin & Hall, 1981). Building on this insight, Kets de Vries and Miller (1985) proposed that the degree of leader narcissism could lead to differential styles of leadership.

Although it is not our intent to offer a complete descrip- tion of their illustrative types (see Kets de Vries & Miller, 1985), these authors suggested that leaders occupy different positions on a continuum ranging from pathological narcis- sistic personality, which they labeled reactive narcissism, to healthy narcissism, often identified in the literature as constructive (Kets de Vries & Miller, 1985), productive (Maccoby, 2000), or normal (Freud, 1914) narcissism.

Notably, there is evidence that constructive narcissists are psychologically healthy (Sedikides, Rudich, Gregg, Kumashiro, & Rusbult, 2004). Campbell (2001) suggested that rather than being maladaptive, normal narcissism “may define a positive and healthy strategy for dealing with the modern world” (Morf & Rhodewalt, 2001, p. 245). All leaders have some degree of narcissistic propensity derived from assurance of their personal worth, “an important ele- ment in ordinary people’s self esteem and self-confidence” (Jorstad, 1996, p. 18). This often generates an impression of dynamism among followers (Kets de Vries & Miller, 1985).

Along this line, Humphreys et al. (2010) proposed a con- ceptual framework of leader narcissistic demarcation and emerging charismatic leadership patterns, the principal idea

being that the degree of narcissism influences the form of charismatic leadership ultimately exhibited. There is evi- dence indicating that narcissism may serve as a distinguish- ing variable of socialized versus personalized charisma (O’Connor, Mumford, Clifton, Gessner, & Connelly, 1995). In the case where reactive narcissist leadership encourages the initiation of the relational self of followers, those fol- lowers generate a singular focus on the persona of the leader, leading to follower dependency and exploitation, which are the hallmarks of personalized charismatic leader- ship. In contrast, where constructive narcissist leadership promotes the activation of the collective level of self- concept, the followers develop a broader focus of the leader–follower relationship, resulting in the empowerment of those followers and the attribution of socialized charis- matic leadership.

We do, however, understand that charisma, so much a part of related theories such as transformational leadership, is not a component of authentic leadership and authentic leaders need not be charismatic (Avolio & Gardner, 2005), although this was the case with McMurry. Since, however, evidence exists that indicates that the degree of narcissism influences the form of leadership offered and perceived in overlapping leadership constructs (e.g., Walumbwa et al., 2008), would it not be necessary, or at least prudent, for authentic leadership researchers to also account for such narcissistic delineation within leader authenticity? We think so and believe that the case of Lillian McMurry adds further support for our perspective.

Lillian McMurry as a Charismatic, Constructive Narcissist and Authentic Leader

Although our labeling of Lillian is a mouthful, we maintain its accuracy. Those who knew her say that she was charis- matic, and charisma figuratively oozes from the archived materials. Based on her conduct and follower outcomes, she exemplified the more socialized version of charismatic leadership.

As evidenced by the archives, she drew on the psycho- logical capital described by Luthans and Avolio (2003) and transparently acted in accordance with her internalized moral perspective and true self, achieving authenticity with those she influenced. She clearly matches up to the depictions of authentic leadership in the literature, with one glaring excep- tion. Gardner et al.’s (2005) definition notwithstanding, Lil- lian McMurry was unmistakably narcissistic.

This should not be terribly surprising. We know that leadership tends to attract narcissists (Maccoby, 2000). In addition, narcissistic tendencies are often the attributes of entrepreneurs, frequently manifesting as a need for control (Kets de Vries, 1996). Lillian McMurry’s need for control

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was extreme. O’Neal’s (1986) interview with her in the magazine Living Blues was allowed only if she was “able to approve and edit its contents prior to publication” (p. 15). In a letter to an artist, Ann Clark, in September 957, she wrote,

We’ll probably have to void the contract . . . and me sign you as agent with me first being reimbursed for any monies I put out on the musicians fees and then me getting 25% of your recording royalties, booking and/or personal appearances. I’m quite sure you’d have to sign (with my approval) the union contract of any company taking you. I will also be 1/3 writer in everything you write with the right to change and rearrange any musical composition as I so desire. (Box 2.38)

Previously (in August 1955), she had told her, “Use Ann Clark instead of Ann E. Rooney, it’s more simple, easy to say and remember, so I have filled out your recording con- tract that way” (Box 2.38). Such examples are not uncom- mon. Kay Holford, who along with her husband Bill recorded many of Lillian’s artists, remarked to Ryan (2004) that “Lillian liked to get in the act” (p. 110). Although anec- dotal, even her daughter said that her mother had narcissis- tic leanings.

We hold that Lillian’s narcissism was of the constructive form, for two primary reasons. One, we think her actions and follower outcomes are plainly aligned with what we know from the literature about constructive narcissists. In addition, we accept the notion that socialized charisma is more likely to be associated with constructive narcissism (Rosenthal & Pittinsky, 2006) than the more reactive forms.

Embracing this perspective, however, raises another dif- ficult issue. “When a leader is both charismatic and narcis- sistic, he or she is likely to successfully abuse the power of symbolic status—that is, to induce followers to buy into abuse behaviors” (Sankowsky, 1995, p. 57). “This power is abused when leaders manipulate their relationships with fol- lowers for personal gain at the expense of the followers’ psy- chological well-being” (Sankowsky, 1995, p. 61). In reality, Lillian seemed more dedicated to her followers’ well-being than her own (see Ryan, 2004). Symbolic status also refers to the tendency of followers to regard the leader as a parental figure. In many ways, we would expect this relationship in Lillian’s dyadic interactions, not only because of her charis- matic, narcissistic sway but also because paternalism was common during her time. Sankowsky (1995) offered that such a leader could abuse symbolic status by avoiding the “responsibility to provide clear and unbiased information and feedback” (p. 61). This would be counter not only to leader authenticity but also to Lillian McMurry’s practice. For example, an artist by the name of Luke McDaniel attempted to craft a moving tribute to Hank Williams and ended up on the receiving end of Lillian’s clarity, as she

deemed his recording “the lousiest product” (Ryan, 2004, p. 106). She was right, and the record did not do well. She spoke the truth in direct and sometimes harsh ways but always in an attempt to create positive outcomes.

Thus, based on our research, Lillian McMurry was a constructive narcissist, a charismatic leader who achieved authenticity and did not abuse symbolic status. So with these personality characteristics (constructive narcissism and charisma), just how did she generate authentic leader- ship and not abuse this power? We believe in large part that it was due to the exceptional integrity inherent in her leadership.

Integrity and Leadership Integrity is a “ubiquitous ideal in leadership” (Palanski & Yammarino, 2007, p. 171) and is fundamental when it comes to authentic leadership (Gardner et al., 2005). Like narcissism and charisma, however, it too comes in multiple forms and has been broadly presented as wholeness (e.g., Koehn, 2005), being true to oneself (e.g., Peterson & Selig- man, 2004), consistency of words and deeds (e.g., Paine, 2005), consistency in adversity (e.g., Duska, 2005), and general moral behavior (e.g., Newman, 2003) encompass- ing virtues such as honesty (e.g., Den Hartog & Koopman, 2002) and trustworthiness (e.g., Trevino, Hartman, & Brown, 2000). A resounding case can be made that Lillian McMurry demonstrated integrity in all these categories.

Conversely, narcissism has been negatively related to integrity (Mumford, Connelly, Helton, Strange, & Osburn, 2001), although the findings of studies have been mixed (e.g., Blair, Hoffman, & Helland, 2008). Again, we have a divide between Lillian McMurry’s example and the prepon- derance of these findings. Ryan (2004) noted that Lillian had “a generous disposition towards her artists” and was “one of the first of a new breed of independent producers who were . . . contractually honest” (p. 70). Martin (2007) recounted her sense of fairness, since she continued to pay artist royal- ties for decades after the label closed. Her faithfulness to her artists can also be seen in the numerous loans she provided, often at times when her own finances were suspect and even after her death, when she provided the headstone for Sonny Boy Williamson’s grave. In a letter dated 1973, his wife declared, “My daughter just loves you. She didn’t know Mississippi had people like you” (Box 5.42). Ryan (2004, p. 165) concluded that if there were a Hall of Fame for good human beings, Lillian would be there.

This paradox is attributable in some part to the tradi- tional measure of narcissism (Brown, Budzek, & Tambor- ski, 2009), as we classify narcissism by how closely the sample leaders resemble the reactive narcissistic extreme rather than establishing where they would fall along a nar- cissistic scale. Lillian tended toward the constructive pole. Regrettably, the predominate works of leader authenticity

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treat narcissistic leaders as a homogeneous group, totally aligned with the reactive end of the spectrum. If authentic leadership is to gain further conceptual credibility, depic- tions of how constructive narcissism might be incorporated into the concept must commence. We think the case of Lil- lian McMurry provides a persuasive illustration.

In fact, although we are critical of the cursory treatment of narcissism in prior authentic leadership descriptions, we find many of these works expressly valuable in pursuing the construct. As stated, we greatly appreciate the moral com- ponent inherent in authentic leadership and are in agree- ment with those advocating this view. We also agree that reactive narcissist leaders would not qualify as satisfying our perception of authentic leadership. We disagree, how- ever, that this stance eliminates constructive narcissism from the discussion and think the considerable literature we have cited makes the current position untenable.

In addition, although we do discount the ethically neu- tral perspective espoused by Shamir and Eilam (2005), their life-stories approach to authentic leadership development resonates with us, especially when trying to integrate intra- and interpersonal characteristics (Morf & Rhodewalt, 2001). “Life-stories provide authentic leaders with a self- concept that can be expressed through the leadership role” (Shamir & Eilam, 2005, p. 402). We agree that an individu- al’s self-knowledge and clarity of self-concept can be derived from his or her life story and are entwined with individual integrity, which is clearly required in authentic leadership (Luthans & Avolio, 2003) and is a prominent ele- ment in the leadership of Lillian McMurry.

Moreover, although Shamir and Eilam (2005) criticized the idea that authentic leadership itself should contain the statelike, positive psychological capacities in Luthans and Avolio’s (2003) initial depiction, we sense that the notion of psychological capital is a valid conception in the process of authenticity. In fact, we imagine that alternative conceptu- alizations of psychological facilities may provide one ave- nue for the inclusion of constructive narcissism.

Based on specific criteria in searching for psychological capacities that could be measured and developed for perfor- mance enhancement, Luthans, Avolio, Avey, and Norman (2007) stressed that the components of hope, resilience, optimism, and self-efficacy combined to form positive psy- chological capital. Luthans et al. (2007) focused on these elements in some part because of their statelike nature—that is, they would be less stable and therefore open to development— offering a heuristic describing a state–trait continuum from positive states (e.g., positive mood) to statelike elements (e.g., resilience) to traitlike elements (e.g., virtues) to posi- tive traits (e.g., intelligence). Centering on malleable, state- like elements is appropriate in a framework of authentic leader development (Gardner et al., 2005). Authentic leader- ship as a theory, though, goes beyond the developmental aspect, and researchers must continue to account more fully

for the authenticity exhibited by leaders, as well as the attri- bution of followers. As this is the case, we think it important that Luthans and Avolio (2003) posited that authentic leader- ship could incorporate integrity. Specifically, Walumbwa et al. (2008) connected the moral perspective of leader authenticity to “an inner drive to achieve behavioral integ- rity” (Palanski & Yammarino, 2009, p. 407). Integrity, how- ever, is more complex than just the consistency between words and deeds.

Palanski and Yammarino (2009) suggested that since many forms of integrity overlap with one another, research- ers might equate integrity with virtue (see Audi & Murphy, 2006). These authors described integrity primarily as adjunctive virtue—virtue that is neither inherently morally good nor bad but required for realizing morality. We agree that behavioral integrity is critical to the attribution of authenticity, but since we reject the moral neutrality of authentic leadership, it seems to us that the role of substan- tive virtue might be just as legitimately applied.

In addition, Luthans et al. (2007) described virtues as traitlike on their scale. “Traitlike” suggests elements that are more stable and difficult to change than statelike ele- ments. If narcissistic inclination, however, is a real trait, could one not infer that more traitlike, substantive virtues such as honesty, fairness, trustworthiness, and compassion (see Palanski & Yammarion, 2009) might serve as more effective psychological capital to clarify the self-concept for constructive narcissist leaders? Authentic leader behav- ior is ultimately an expression of the self-concept (Shamir & Eilam, 2005), which is certainly involved with narcis- sism (Sutin & Robins, 2008). We think this area should be explored, particularly since both narcissistic tendencies and authentic leadership emerge from an individual’s personal history/life story.

Unfortunately, there is little extant theory concerning integrity and leadership (Palanski & Yammarino, 2009) and even less providing for the inclusion of constructive narcis- sism within the construct of authentic leadership. Charisma complicates these relationships further. As management historians, though, we accept the notion that history should “equip perceptive people with additional alternatives” (Wren, 1994, p. 4). Thus, we reason that an examination of the experiences, actions, and perceptions of Lillian McMurry provide meaningful intimation of the uncertain linkages between these seemingly contradictory elements.

Achieving Authenticity in the Charismatic, Constructive Narcissist Leader We begin our conceptualization (Figure 1) with the proba- bility that the charismatic leader as narcissist would abuse the power of symbolic status, thereby diminishing the per- ceptual filters of his or her followers, encouraging them to buy into the abuse, leading to negative follower outcomes

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Humphreys et al. 49

(Sankowsky, 1995). However, in Lillian McMurry’s case, these expected effects did not ensue.

Since the degree of narcissism emerges from individual history and the antecedents of authentic leadership are life story (Shamir & Eilam, 2005) and/or personal history (Gardner et al., 2005), it seems logical to illustrate the pro- gression toward authenticity from this position. Immedi- ately, though, the contradictory nature of narcissism becomes problematic.

Those with narcissistic inclinations tend to exhibit the “seemingly paradoxical juxtaposition of grandiosity and vulnerability” (Morf & Rhodewalt, 2001, p. 245). Even while we certainly would see far greater grandiosity in reac- tive narcissists, these competing forces would also exist to some degree in constructive narcissists. Morf and Rhode- walt (2001) offered a plausible explanation for this coexis- tence. They proposed that “the narcissistic self-concept contains simultaneously two conflicting self-assessments: self-love and self-loathing” (p. 246). They surmised that the assumption that grandiosity is immediately expressed while vulnerability (fragility) is only indirectly revealed (or hid- den) is faulty and that such a view is inconsistent with more recent research on constructive narcissism (Campbell, 2001). It makes intuitive sense that there would be differ- ences in self-regulation between reactive and constructive

narcissists. Sutin and Robins (2008) described research indicating that constructive narcissists differ from the reac- tive variety in both emotional and motivational content, in their memories and personal strivings. We agree with the assessment of Morf and Rhodewald (2001) that “the unique- ness of the narcissistic type derives from a distinctive con- stellation of . . . processes, as well as from the extremity of some of their reactions and responses while engaged in motivated self-construction” (p. 244). “That is, although the constituent units and processes are found in all individuals, it is the unique combination and weighting of these compo- nents, which is driven by distinctive identity goals, that gives substance and meaning” to the construct of narcis- sism (Morf, 2006, p. 1534). We are suggesting that substan- tive virtues such as honesty, fairness, trustworthiness, and compassion, surfacing from one’s personal history/life story, represent psychological capital that influences the constructive narcissistic self-construction and the creation of these identity goals. We are not implying that these sub- stantive virtues replace the psychological capacities described by Luthans and Avolio (2003), as these capacities certainly influenced McMurry’s leadership. We are propos- ing, however, that these substantive virtues play a similar role, which is especially important to leaders with construc- tive narcissistic inclinations. This perspective is in keeping

Substantive Virtue as Psychological Capital



Character/Self-Concept • Self-Knowledge • Self-Concept Clarity • Self-concordance • Person-role merger


Individual Personality Variables

(charisma and narcissism)

Perceptual Filters

Abuse of Symbolic Status

Negative Follower Outcomes

Positive Follower Outcomes

Perception of Behavioral Integrity and Attribution of

Leader Authenticity

Expected Effects

Leadership Elements • Internalized

Regulation • Balanced

Processing • Relational

Transparency • Communication


Actual Effects

Life Story/Personal History

Diminished Perceptual Filters Substantive Virtue as Psychological Capital

• Honesty • Fairness • Trustworthiness • Compassion

Adjunctive Virtue as Authenticity Markers •

• Courage • Being True to

Oneself – Private Integrity

Consistency of Words and Deeds – Public Integrity

Figure 1. Integrity and the achievement of authenticity in the charismatic, constructive narcissist leader

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50 Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies 18(1)

with the morally unambiguous stance supported by Gardner et al. (2005) and Walumbwa et al. (2008).

We also think that it is reasonable that substantive virtue serving as psychological capital influences the constructive narcissist leader’s self-concept in such a way as to enhance clarity of self-concept, self-knowledge, self-concordance, and the person–role merger described by Shamir and Eilam (2005). We think that Lillian McMurry would simply refer to this as “character.” “Whenever people are committed to a set of prescriptions (goals, rules, and scripts) for conduct, the prescriptions become a dominant schema for . . . guid- ing conduct” (Schlenker, 2008, p. 1080). Since the substan- tive virtues mentioned above materialize from the life story (see George et al., 2007), they provide further information about the values that authenticate the self-concept, increas- ing the likelihood of expression of one’s core convictions and resulting in individual self-awareness.

We agree with Gardner et al. (2005) that enhanced self- awareness “is a core element of the authentic leadership development process” (p. 349). However, we also offer that character in the form of self-concept clarity in the narcissis- tic leader may not always achieve the expected degree or form of self-awareness. According to her daughter, Lillian was not very self-analytical. If we assume that self-aware- ness is only knowledge of one’s contradictory self-aspects, we think that Lillian’s strong substantive virtues created such character that she was likely more self-aware than she would have been otherwise. Importantly, though, we also think that with constructive narcissist leaders the strength of the moral self-concept could actually substitute for some degree of self-awareness because awareness also refers to trust in one’s personal values (Ilies, Morgeson, & Nahrgang, 2005). We are not signifying that this is an optimal state. Much like Kerr and Jermier (1978) proposed that certain elements could substitute for leadership if effective leader- ship were absent, we are suggesting that this moral strength of character could serve as a proxy for some portion of self- awareness in constructive narcissists. Thus, we show both self-awareness and, to a lesser degree, character based on substantive virtue as leading to adjunctive forms of virtue.

Palanski and Yammarino (2009) described integrity in terms of adjunctive virtue as word–deed consistency, cour- age, and being true to oneself. Lillian McMurry exhibited each of these virtues to an extraordinary degree. As we demonstrated, her courage was legendary, consistent with the heightened confidence of a constructive narcissist.

She also clearly displayed both public (consistency of words and actions) and private (being true to oneself) integ- rity (Palanski & Yammarino, 2007). She owned her values and acted accordingly. Perceptions of behavioral integrity are influenced by both leader conduct and follower attribu- tion (Simons, 2002). Lillian’s actions were an expression of her communication, and that message was a manifestation of her values. This is critical as we know that consistency

between words and behavior affects leadership effective- ness in general (Dineen, Lewicki, & Tomlinson, 2006) and the effectiveness of authentic leadership specifically (Walumbwa et al., 2008).

We agree with Luthans and Avolio (2003) that increased self-awareness, as well as the adjunctive virtues described, promotes self-regulatory processes such as internalized regulation, balanced processing, and relational transpar- ency. We find this especially important in trying to integrate constructive narcissism into the construct of authentic lead- ership, as narcissistic form and degree are undoubtedly intertwined with differences in self-regulation (Morf & Rhodewalt, 2001). We also add communication clarity to these leadership elements. Others might think that commu- nication clarity should be subsumed under relational trans- parency, as this facet could incorporate openness to such clarity between leader and followers. However, in the case of Lillian McMurry, communication clarity was such a strong element in her leadership that we felt obliged to explicitly label it in our framework.

Based on her strength of character, elevated self-awareness, and emerging adjunctive virtue, and the ensuing leadership elements, her followers judged her conduct, perceived her behavioral integrity, and made the attribution of leader authenticity. This is noteworthy, as there is evidence that the attribution of authenticity is more challenging for females in leadership roles (Eagly, 2005). We also show authentic leadership as strengthening substantive virtue, as we agree with Walumbwa et al. (2008) that psychological capacities are likely both an antecedent and a consequence of authentic leadership.

We also think it important to note here that although it is common for charismatic, narcissistic leaders to abuse the power of symbolic status, which diminishes the perceptual filters of followers, allowing them to buy into abusive lead- ership; we see no such effects with Lillian’s dyadic interac- tions. For example, Hugh Dent sent her two songs that he thought would be good, and she promptly wrote him to tell him that “the audition stinks” (Ryan, 2004, p. 113). He wrote back to defend his music and to let her know how her words made him feel. Although expressing open relational transparency and communication clarity, this exchange also demonstrates that even with her personality characteristics she did not abuse symbolic status, as his perceptual filters appeared to be intact, thereby making subsequent attribu- tions valid. Thus, authentic leadership results in positive follower outcomes (Ilies et al., 2005).

In summary, we offer our conceptualization of the vital role of integrity in the process of authentic leadership in a charismatic, constructive narcissist leader. Lillian McMurry’s robust, moral self-concept/character, emerging from sub- stantive virtue, allowed her to achieve authenticity to tran- scend negative charismatic and narcissistic tendencies and diminish the abuse of symbolic status.

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Contributions, Limitations, and Future Research

First, we do not perceive the primary contribution of our work to be the graphical representation presented. In fact, we hope that our readers do not get so caught up in the fig- ure that they miss the more critical issues raised. Since we are challenging the conventional wisdom that all narcissis- tic leaders are incapable of authentic leadership, and have both the literature and a compelling case example to dem- onstrate the shortcomings of this perspective, we felt obli- gated to at least begin the necessary discussion of how the needed integration of constructive narcissism into leader authenticity might take place. Therefore, we attempted to portray our rationale within acknowledged elements of authentic leadership. Like Shamir and Eilam (2005), we readily admit that parts of our conceptualization are conjec- ture, although based on our understanding of the literature and scrutiny of the dyadic interactions of Lillian McMurry. We subscribe to Weick’s (1989) notion that theory construc- tion is necessarily speculative. We agree with his assess- ment that a “disciplined imagination” (p. 516) is actually an asset in such representations. At the very least, we hope that our portrayal spawns conceptual critique from others to fur- ther the discussion.

A primary contribution, however, is the supported call to authentic leadership scholars to take another look at narcis- sism and leader authenticity. Assuming that narcissism in leadership is always a bad thing is clearly too simplistic (Rosenthal & Pittinsky, 2006). The assumption that all nar- cissists are pathological is wrong (Kets de Vries & Miller, 1985; Maccoby, 2000), as narcissism can be measured in the normal population (Raskin & Hall, 1981). “The notion that narcissists are fragile, depleted or depressed simply does not square with current research on normal samples” (Campbell, 2001, p. 215). Accordingly, if one acknowledges that con- structive forms of narcissism exist and may even prove ben- eficial to effective leadership (Rosenthal & Pittinsky, 2006), those pursuing authentic leadership will be compelled to integrate the considerable body of work on this topic into greater comprehension and expression of the construct.

Also, it is our sincere hope that our assessment of the current state of authentic leadership theory will not be taken as universal criticism of prior conceptual efforts. We are simply concerned that in our haste to fashion a theory of authentic leadership, the emerging definition could actually set back a significant line of research. We do not want to reach consolidation without first more substantively addressing the underlying assumptions that are potentially flawed and/or inconsistent with the literature.

Nor is our concern an assault on the positive psychology underpinning the current conceptualizations of authentic leadership. We agree with Luthans and Avolio (2009) that what is needed is more balance in researching both positive

and negative aspects and believe that integration between the two sides may be an important step to advancing the field.

We think that other contributions emerge from our depic- tion of integrity and the achievement of authenticity in char- ismatic, constructive narcissist leaders as well. One is the idea that traitlike virtues such as honesty, fairness, trustwor- thiness, and compassion might also serve as psychological capital. Another is the notion that the moral self-concept developed by these substantive virtues might serve as a sub- stitute for a portion of self-awareness in such personality- driven leaders, further enhancing authenticity and avoiding the abuse of symbolic status. These ideas require further development and subsequent empirical inquiry.

As far as limitations are concerned, clearly our descrip- tion is only one approach to incorporating constructive nar- cissism into the authentic leadership framework. We suspect that many will disagree with some of our assumptions. Such debates should be encouraged as they will enhance our understanding and lead to superior conceptualizations.

Although some discount the validity of case-based approaches, we count ourselves among those claiming that the offsetting strengths more than justify the technique (see Gerring, 2007; Lieberman, 2008). We agree with Ordonez et al. (2009) that “case studies, journalistic accounts, and anec- dotes should all be used to raise questions, focus attention, and develop ideas,” which should then be tested (p. 82). We find great value in inductive attempts at theorization (Locke, 2007) and concur with Ketokivi and Mantere (2010) that all studies involve inductive reasoning. We certainly invoke their notion of contextualization in our inferential process.

Also, the case of Lillian McMurry allowed us to move beyond relying only on secondary resources. Although sources such as biographies are appropriate, ideally we would like to use primary sources (Van Fleet, 2008). In this case, we had not only biographical material but also personal accounts from friends and family, and many years’ worth of business documents and personal correspondence directly from the pen of Ms. McMurry and many of her artists, confi- dants, and adversaries. Even a critic like Madansky (2008) admitted that such historical cases could provide “solid data upon which one might build valid inferences” (p. 560).

Our inferences should certainly lead to future research. Assuming that we have established that constructive narcis- sist leaders can be authentic, at what point along the narcis- sistic continuum does authentic leadership become impossible? The answer to this question alone could be pro- found. In what ways are the self-regulatory mechanisms of constructive narcissists differentiated from those farther down the spectrum of dysfunction, and how do these influ- ence the self-concept? We have offered substantive virtue as potential psychological capital in the progression from constructive narcissism to authenticity. To what degree must substantive virtue imprint one’s character before self- awareness is enhanced? We also postulated that strength of

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character might serve as a substitute for some portion of self-awareness. How much proxy is possible and under what conditions? Must charismatic, narcissistic leaders possess every form of virtue to overcome their natural incli- nations and avoid the abuse of symbolic status?

Also, Morf (2006) called for more sophisticated models of narcissism. This affects our discussion as we are calling for a richer elaboration of authentic leadership, one that considers constructive narcissism. Baumeister and Vohs (2001) even suggested that narcissism might be better con- ceived of as an addiction and not a trait. Although we do not accept this premise, the idea of pliability in narcissistic inclination is interesting and should be explored. As with the dynamic nature of motivational development, described by Leonard, Beauvis, and Scholl (1999) using self-concept- based processes, is it possible that narcissistic degree, or at least its exhibited manifestations, might also change over time? If so, questions related to timing, efficacy, and weighting become fundamental.

Conclusion Although several authors have described authentic leader- ship from disparate perspectives, it does appear that a con- sensus definition is converging in the literature. We are concerned that in the rush to solidify the theory, the emerg- ing definition could actually impede a significant line of research. We think it is crucial that leadership researchers continue to question the assumptions underpinning our understanding of leader authenticity. In particular, we advise that we must find ways to incorporate our knowl- edge of constructive narcissism into the construct of authen- tic leadership if the theory is to gain further conceptual credibility. We think that the literature and the unique aspects of Lillian McMurry’s authenticity demand it. Accordingly, we examined her life and writings to propose a framework by which leader integrity initiates the conduct and attribution of authentic leadership to transcend charis- matic and narcissistic tendencies and diminish the abuse of symbolic status.

Authors’ Note

All quotes taken directly from letters in the Lillian McMurry collec- tion are shown along with the corresponding location (e.g., Ann Clark, Box 2.38) in the archives in an attempt to assist future researchers.

An earlier version of this article received the 2010 SAGE Best Leadership Paper Award from the management history division at the 69th annual meeting of the Academy of Management.


We give special thanks to Greg Johnson, Blues Curator at the University of Mississippi, for his assistance and expertise with the Trumpet Records/Lillian Shedd McMurry Collection, the Department of Archives & Special Collections, J. D. Williams

Library, the University of Mississippi. We also thank Vitrice McMurry and Bruce Iglauer for their personal recollections of Lillian McMurry.

Declaration of Conflicting Interests

The author(s) declared no conflicts of interest with respect to the authorship and/or publication of this article.


The author(s) received no financial support for the research and/ or authorship of this article.


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About the Authors

John H. Humphreys is a Professor of Management at Texas A& M University – Commerce and Texas A&M University system gradu- ate faculty. His work has appeared in numerous venues including the Harvard Business Review, Sloan Management Review, Thunderbird International Business Review, Journal of Management History, and Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies.

Stephanie Pane Haden is an Assistant Professor of Management at Texas A&M University – Commerce. Her work has been pub- lished in the Journal of Applied Management and Entrepreneurship, Management Decision, Journal of Business Strategy, and Industrial Management. She is also co-author of Staffing the con- temporary organization, 3rd edition.

Milorad M. Novicevic (Ph.D. University of Oklahoma) is an associate professor of management at the University of Mississippi. His research focuses on management history, management educa- tion and international management. He has published more than

100 articles in various peer-reviewed journals including the Leadership Quarterly, Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies, Journal of Business Ethics, Human Resource Management, European Management Journal, Journal of World Business, Business Horizons, and Organizational Dynamics.

Russell W. Clayton is a Ph.D. candidate in management at the University of Mississippi. His research interests include the work- family interface, management history, and leadership, and he has published work in these areas in such journals as the Journal of Vocational Behavior and Journal of Management History.

Jane Whitney Gibson is a Professor of Management at the Wayne Huizenga School of Business and Entrepreneurship at Nova Southeastern University where she is also editor of the Journal of Applied Management and Entrepreneurship. Gibson teaches human resource management and leadership at the gradu- ate and undergraduate levels and is the author of four books and numerous articles. Her current research interests are online peda- gogy, intercultural values, and leadership.

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