The Narcissism Epidemic


. . . Living in the Age of Entitlement

Over the years I have read various good books on the theme of the narcissistic leader. I've read them because from time to time, I find myself working as a mentor for such a leader. I've also read them, because, from time to time - I too suffer from thinking too highly, too often, too uncritically about my self.

I think the first leadership book that helped me understand this dysfunction and pathology was Overcoming the Dark Side of Leadership. It was first published back in 1997. I scooped up a copy of this book, and the idea of the Dark Side of Leadership entered my vocabulary. The various "dark-side" personalities became  a tool I used in working with leaders. The Narcissistic Leader was just one of the FIVE types of dysfunction studied in this book. 

Here is a general description of the Narcissistic Leader.

  1. Image is everything (and talk about our Social Media intensifying this problem!)
  2. Personal success is the focus
  3. Inflated sense of one's importance to the organization
  4. Exhibitionist (needing others to see you in action and compliment you)
  5. Often good communicators, but they do so with the wrong motives and are skilled at manipulation
  6. Diminish the contributions of others
  7. Comparative and competitive
  8. Paradoxically, they suffer from serious inferiority and a sense of personal inadequacy
  9. Which then fuels their need tor affirmation from others
  10. Which then stimulates their attempts to get others to notice them
  11. Willing to BEND the rules when it comes to their own work
  12. Likes to "place" others on a ladder of comparison
  13. Concerned with status, perks and prestige
  14. Has ambitious (and unrealistic) expectations for their future (which involves large number of people admiring their accomplishments)
  15. Exaggerates their accomplishments (sometimes just lies and fabricates them)

There are certainly other items that could be added to this list, but this is a pretty good list. You can look over this list and see which ones apply to yourself. The problem is that a narcissist will look over this list and not recognize themselves... or worse - will recognize themself but ignore it.

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Now, the problem, according to The Narcissism Epidemic, is this problem is not going away, it is not getting better - in fact - it is growing worse. Narcissism is on the rise. The factors for this are too numerous to discuss in this post. Certainly, the proliferation of Social Media where we can present ourselves and do image management is a part of it. Probably or intense focus on celebrities is another issue. I think the failed attempts at self-esteem management that have been the rage for the last 20-30 years are part of the problem as well.

And for the authors of the book, their concern is that we now live in a cultural time when our SENSE OF ENTITLEMENT is incredibly powerful. Most of us, most of the time, believe we are owed good things: job, income, possessions, the breaks, the opportunities, the benefit of the doubt, the 3rd and 4th chances, a look the other way about our wrong-doings, good grades when we haven't studied for them . . . and on it goes.

When such people get in to leadership positions - be afraid. For such leaders will not lead for the common good. They will not lead with wisdom and discernment to do what is right. They will make decisions for the self, for self-benefit, for self-gratification, for self-protection, for self-advancement. 

What do you think?
Do you see any narcissism in yourself?
What about the people you work with?
What about the leaders you work for?

Brian K. Rice
Leadership ConneXtions International

BrianRice@lcileaders.org