Are you a Narcissistic Leader?

Is it only me who sees more and more narcissistic behaviours nowadays or are there more and more narcissistic leaders in today business world? Or is it perhaps due to the volatile, uncertain, rather individualistic and fiercely competitive world of today?

According to Arvid Buit, guest presenter of Coaching without Border (CHN), every leader scores about average on a scale of narcissism. So everyone is somewhere on the narcissistic scale. Even you!

The positive effect of narcissistic leaders

They are self-confident, want to be the centre of attention, able to influence others (although they more likely manipulate you). They demonstrate power and come across very charismatic. They like to be special and unique. They have a great sense of humour and a sharp mind. They are mostly very intelligent and have lots of energy.

Where the word narcissism originated from - Story of Narcissus

In Greek mythology, Narcissus was a hunter, who was also known for his beauty and he also loved everything beautiful. He was very proud and obsessed with his own beauty, and disdained those who loved him, causing all the girls to commit suicide. One day Narcissus was walking in the woods when Echo saw him and deeply fell in love with him and followed him everywhere. He told her to leave him alone. She was heartbroken and spent the rest of her life lonely until nothing but an echo sound remained of her. Aphrodite saw this behaviour and decided to punish Narcissus. Once, during the summer, he was getting thirsty after hunting, and the goddess lured him to a pool where he leaned upon the water and saw himself in the bloom of youth and fell deeply in love with himself. He eventually realized that his love could not be reciprocated and drowned in the water.

Types of Narcissism

Every child needs unconditional love and recognition from their mothers. That creates symbiosis between the two and helps the child to develop a healthy balance of frustration tolerance and trust. The disruption in this symbiotic development, either too much love, spoiled child or too little, neglected child, creates a narcissistic scale. There are two types of narcissism in leadership.

1) Fearful Narcissism

These are the spoiled ones. “I am special, everyone should serve me.” ”Satisfy me or leave me.” These people can come across scary for others. They are craving for recognition all the time.

2) Depressive Narcissism

These leaders trust no one, and they have trouble building up relationship. “People never there for me, I cannot trust others, therefore, I have to fix everything on my own.” These people are perfectionist, they work alone, because they don’t need other people, so there is an overdose of autonomy. They are also craving applause, without any reciprocal behaviours. They can demonstrate narcissistic rage, tantrum, and absurd anger.

And of course there is a combination of both which can lead to a dictatorial type of behaviours. They are all compensating and looking for conditional recognition e.g. driving an expensive car, wearing a Rolex or hiring a stunning looking assistant.

Range of Narcissism

What I really like about Arvid’s concept that he says that every leader has or rather should have narcissistic tendency to certain extent, otherwise s/he could not be up to the leadership role they signed up for. It can be perceived as a talent if you polish it. But the importance of this range is that to certain extent there are specific behaviours that can help the leaders to act as a leader and above those extent or I would say above the average it becomes a sickness, and a personality disorder.

4 masks you can wear as a leader

Two of these masks, the Alphawolf and the Inspirator are related to narcissistic behaviours.

  • Alphawolf has high sensitivity and alertness, good at growth, change and crisis.
  • Inspirator has high authenticity and inspiration, designs concepts and new approaches, therefore, good at development.
  • Governor has high reciprocity and governance, good at consolidation.
  • Manager is thorough with good timing, flexible and professional, good at controlling and business as usual situations.

Working with over-demonstrated narcissistic behaviours in executive coaching first the leader needs to recognise and accept his/her behaviours and patterns, stop them and then change them.

If you recognise any of these patterns or struggle any aspects of leadership get yourself an executive coach.

Source: Arvid Buit, Narcissism and Leadership, Coaching without Borders (CHN) workshop

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