Date of Conferral







Tom Diebold


Narcissistic transformation leaders have inflicted severe physical, psychological, and financial damage on individuals, institutions, and society. Multifactor Leadership Questionnaire (MLQ) has shown promise for early detection of narcissistic leadership tendencies, but selection criteria have not been established. The purpose of this quantitative research was to determine if item response theory (IRT) could advance the detection of narcissistic leadership tendencies using an item-level analysis of the 20 transformational leadership items of the MLQ. Three archival samples of subordinates from Israeli corporate and athletic organizations were combined (N = 1,703) to assess IRT data assumptions, comparative fit of competing IRT models, item discrimination and difficulty, and theta reliabilities within the trait range. Compared to the generalized graded unfolding model, the graded response model had slightly more category points within the 95% confidence interval and consistently lower X2/df item fit indices. Items tended to be easier yet more discriminating than average, and five items were identified as candidates for modification. IRT item marginal reliability was .94 (slightly better than classical test theory reliability of .93), and IRT ability prediction had a .96 reliability within a trait range from -1.7 to 1.3 theta. Based on 8 invariant item parameters, selection criteria of category fairly often (3) or above on attributed idealized influence items and sometimes (2) or below on individual consideration items was suggested. A test case demonstrated how narcissistic tendencies could be detected with these criteria. The study can contribute to positive social change by informing improved selection processes that more effectively screen candidates for key leadership roles that directly impact the wellbeing of individuals and organizations.