We are surrounded by narcissists on all sides. They are the emotional predators in our relationships, the terrible managers who only care about the bottom-line while ignoring the wellbeing of their employees, and our political leaders pursuing their own agendas. These leaders are callous, cold and pitiless, and seem to wallow in self-praise and admiration. Here are the most important traits of narcissistic leaders to help you identify these horrible bosses!
Take Badly to Criticism
Because they are unimaginably thin-skinned, narcissistic leaders are not very keen on emotions. Even though it is known that the best corporate leaders are those who are emotionally isolated, Narcissistic leaders are notorious for keeping everyone else at arm’s length. They can put up a wall of defense which no one else can penetrate. And since they have a hard time understanding or acknowledging their own feelings, they are never comfortable with other people expressing theirs—especially their negative feelings.
This is why narcissistic leaders are highly sensitive to criticism or slights, which feel threatening to their self-image and their confidence in their visions. These leaders cannot tolerate dissent and have no interest in finding out what others think or feel about them. In fact, they can come down hard on employees who doubt them or question their authority. Instead of leading a team of independent-minded individuals, they surround themselves with a bunch of Yes-men who nod their heads in approval at their every word.
Narcissistic leaders believe that subordinates do not have much to contribute, which is why they don’t heed their suggestions or listen to their complaints. Especially when they feel attacked or personally threatened, they can turn a deaf ear to what anyone says. Narcissistic CEOs would ever hear your complaint or criticism if the truth is too painful to tolerate or leaves a bad taste in their mouths.
In fact, some leaders are defensive to the point where they actually clap themselves on the back for their ability to not listen. They can be heard proudly boasting, “I didn’t get here by listening to people!” I once worked with a CEO who proposed an out-of-the-box strategy none of us believed would work, but no one dared voiced their opinion. Unfortunately, it did work, and his success strengthened his conviction that he had nothing to learn about strategy from his subordinates.
Narcissistic leaders are ruthlessly competitive and are relentless in their pursuit of victory, no matter the cost. They are prone to expose their competitiveness even – be it a board game against kids, a promotion, or a nationwide election – and see them as a test of their strength and survival skills. Not to mention, most narcissistic leaders are not high on morals and ethics, which makes them capable of doing whatever it takes for to secure a win. Don’t expect them to play fair. For them, there are only winners and losers – and they would never want to be the latter.
The Desire to be admired
As can be judged by their title, these leaders crave admiration. Admiration isn’t something they like, it is their lifeblood. Their personality is defined by the amount of praise and appreciation that they receive. Positive feedback keeps them alive and helps them puff out their chests further. They will do anything to get followers and admirers, no matter what they have to do in the act. They will charm con people into liking them, if that is what it takes to garner a bevy of mindless followers. Any applaud, any public appreciation, any ‘thank you’, can fuel their egos.
Lack of Empathy
Narcissistic leaders are often characterized as showing a complete lack of empathy. While they expect others to understand them, meet their needs, and heed their words, they never think about reciprocating. This can prove to be really harmful when it comes to making difficult decisions. Since such leaders don’t associate emotionally with those around them, they can seem very purposeful and driven in times of chaos or radical change. But on the other hand, this lack of empathy makes them ruthlessly heartless, and unforgiving. You can’t reason with them and you can’t expect them to understand your perspective.