Narcissism & Leadership
Maria Katsarou – Managing Partner, Our World Group
Case -study: A CEO, in his mid-40s. Very successful, creative with innovative ideas in terms of product design. When you meet him, there is no way you cannnot be charmed by his enthusiasm and excitement. It’s almost contagious. You very soon, almost feel compelled to work for his organization and once you join, the initial enthusiasm and excitement wear off very fast. Like a balloon that deflates… His initial promises to you will never be fulfilled. You very soon realize that this person’s main interest lays in power and prestige and not in the company’s performance. This has led to an increased, outrageous debt that is almost impossible to sustain. He wants the ‘best’ Board of Directors and Management Team of the market. So, he goes out and hires them… and pays them accordingly. Soon, everybody realizes what all this is about. Most of the BoD and MT members change every 2 years. That’s how long they last. He has a gambler’s approach to everything.
He is not interested in long-term goals, but instead he is interested in anything that will get him power and exposure fast. His main drive is to preserve his own position. He comes across as arrogant and he does not tolerate criticism or feedback.
There are three main types of employees in his organization:
1. those who are truly loyal to him – for whatever reason,
2. those who have no other choice and stay because they simply can’t find something better and
3. those who leave the minute an opportunity appears.
He is the type of person that will take advantage of any kind of ‘loyalty’ and will not pay any attention to his people’s emotional needs. The worst part, is that he is not conscious at all of all the above… He always will find a very good ‘excuse’ and will convince himself about how he is right and everybody else is wrong. Research shows that five of the behaviors most annoying to the working professionals surveyed are behaviors directly related to narcissism:
• Arrogance and haughtiness
• Taking advantage or others to achieve own ends
• Sense of entitlement
• Grandiose sense of self-importance
• Lack of empathy
There are several types of Narcissistic Leaders namely:
• Reactive: does not listen to advisors and subordinates
• Self-deceptive: will try to make a show of appearing interested in or sympathetic to the opinions of subordinates
• Constructive: will listen more carefully to group members, partly because they know intuitively that listening to others often results in being liked.
In summary their Dysfunctional Aspects include:
• Feelings of inferiority
• Insatiable need for recognition and superiority
• An intense desire to compete
• Excessive desire for power, wealth and admiration
• Hypersensitivity and anger
• Poor listening skill
• Lack of empathy
• Irrationality and inflexibility
• Inability to follow a consistent path
• Distance for mentoring
• Paranoid thinking
As in any case, there are also positive aspects of Narcissistic Leaders:
• During a crisis: followers might need a narcissistic leader who will inspire them and believe he/she is adequately equipped to get through the crisis.
• They may have the ability to form Great Visions.
• Charisma: not everybody will respond to a person’s charisma but many will.