What is it about?

Flattery is a common way people try to make a good impression. While the person giving the flattery often benefits, we looked into how it affects the person receiving it, most often leaders. We found that if leaders reward those who flatter them, others might see them as easily fooled. We conducted several studies with over 4,600 participants and saw that leaders who grant favors to those flattering them might damage their and their organization's reputation, when they are seen doing so by other employees. Factors influencing this include the kind of flattery, who is affected by the leader's favor, and whether the leader seems aware of the flattery's motives. While flattery can be good for the person giving it, it can have negative effects on leaders and their organizations.

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Why is it important?

This work is important for a few reasons. First, it underscores the need for leaders to consider how flattery can create a climate that casts rewards and benefits in a negative light. While receiving flattery can feel good, leaders should reflect on how any favors they might provide to those who flatter them might backfire and lead to perceptions they are naive and too easily swayed.

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This page is a summary of: Too naïve to lead: When leaders fall for flattery., Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, October 2023, American Psychological Association (APA),
DOI: 10.1037/pspi0000433.
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