One cannot be a leader without followers, so leadership is basically a lonely post. And since this large chuck of the responsibility is held by just one person, it is easy to give in to the temptation of being narcissistic.
But is narcissism in leadership really a bad thing, and isn’t it true that all leaders are narcissistic anyway?
Yes, all leaders are narcissistic to some degree. In fact, most experts believe it is a fundamental ingredient in leadership: if the person was not narcissistic enough to begin with, they wouldn’t have the audacity to declare themselves the right person for the job. In this instance, confidence or passion can be mistaken for narcissism.
But confidence can turn into arrogance, and this can quickly escalate to extreme narcissism. That’s when narcissism becomes a bad thing – 6 examples:
- Narcissists are generally painted in a bad light, and for good reason. They are perceived as having a bloated sense of self-worth, but in reality are insecure and defensive.
- Most often they are consumed with the need to be validated at all times, and as narcissistic leaders their actions and decrees would reflect that. No longer will the good of the organization or its people be their foremost concern, but their status as a “leader” will take precedence.
- Leaders who are extremely narcissistic do not take kindly to suggestions and believe they are always right.
- Narcissistic leaders become careless of their surroundings and the effect they have on the rest of the world.
- They are intent on succeeding, but for purely personal and selfish reasons: for the appreciation and love of their peers, for the sake of promotion and more money, or to sustain others’ impression of their “greatness”.
- They may think they are above reproach, and this could lead to illegal or immoral activities. One can say that, in a sense, leadership has gone to their heads.
Conversely, if narcissism were redirected, it can prove useful, and – as some authorities in narcissism like to put it – healthy.
The ironic thing is that narcissists can be productive. The trick is to not let personal interests get in the way of leadership, and instead use narcissism as a tool not for personal gain but for the common good. An example: “I want this thing to work, because it will bring in more revenue for the company,” as against “I want this thing to work, because it will make me richer,” can be considered a better outlet for narcissism.
If you focus on the success of your organization more than your own success as a leader, you are on the road to becoming a highly effective leader – even despite any underlying healthy bit of narcissism.
Jane Morrison is a Certified Executive Coach and Founder of AuthenticPower Consulting and The Center for Inspired Leaders. She works with leaders and business owners, to dramatically influence their brand, performance and culture in a dynamic way. Reach her at www.janemorrison.com