Study: LBJ Was Most Narcissistic President

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Wednesday, 13 Nov 2013 02:16 PM

By Bill Hoffmann

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When it comes to gargantuan egos in the White House, nobody beats President Lyndon B. Johnson, says a new study of presidents' personalities.

Psychologists from Emory University and the University of Georgia say Johnson, who was thrust into the presidency in 1963 with the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, ranked highest in "grandiose narcissism."

"Johnson was assertive, and good at managing crises and at getting legislation passed. He also had a reputation for being a bit of a bully and antagonistic," said Scott Lilienfeld, a professor of psychology at Emory, according to futurity.org.

"In U.S. history, there is an enormous variety in presidential leadership style and success. One of the greatest mysteries in politics is what qualities make a great leader and which ones make a disastrous, failed leader. Grandiose narcissism may be one important part of the puzzle."

Following Johnson were Theodore Roosevelt, Andrew Jackson, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Kennedy.

The study, published in the journal Psychological Science, is titled "The Double-Edged Sword of Grandiose Narcissism: Implications for Successful and Unsuccessful Leadership Among U.S. Presidents."

Forty-two presidents were included in the study, from George Washington to George W. Bush.

The article says grandiose narcissism in presidents is associated with superior overall greatness, public persuasiveness, and crisis management. But it can also be associated with unethical behavior.

Grandiose narcissism, according to futurity.org, is "characterized by an extroverted, self-aggrandizing, domineering, and flamboyant interpersonal style."

Among those presidents with the lowest ratings for grandiose narcissism were Zachary Taylor and Millard Fillmore.

During his time in the White House, Johnson was an outsized personality who often shocked and amazed reporters.

He once raised eyebrows by proudly showing off his appendix scar in public, and angered animal lovers by lifting his pet beagle by the ears.

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