The Idea: Narcissism is an overused medical term often describing leaders who are self-centered, crave admiration, and lack empathy for others. Narcissistic leaders alienate others, manipulate their relationships, play victim and always believe they are under siege, often time distorting reality for their own personal benefit. Sound familiar? How do you honorably support a narcissistic leader? And when is it appropriate to break off the relationship?
Here are some common characteristics in narcissistic leaders:
1. They are often preoccupied with their own agendas, sometimes to the exclusion of the needs and concerns of others.
2. Often times they live in a state of pathological lying. Deception to serve one’s own interests with little or no regard for the needs and concerns of others.
3. They love to cast themselves as a victim in order to control the ecosystem around them.
4. They are masters of passive aggressive emotional abuse, exhibiting negative nonverbal gestures while maintaining verbal silence.
5. They constantly test others pushing them to demonstrate their love or commitment to the relationship. They can withhold affection or pout to get what they want.
6. They demonstrate a clear lack of empathy for how others feel or what they need.
7. They often get into power struggles and “I’m right, you’re wrong” debates.
8. They perceive others as either being with them or against them.
9. They struggle with close relationships (and trust), and often times they over rely on a close relationship to maintain their emotional health.
How do you work with these types of leaders?
First of all, if this person is not going anywhere and they are abusing you emotionally or physically it is time to walk and break the relationship. Kick’em to the curb and move on.
It is critical to co-exist with some of these behaviors but it’s also important to discuss some of your emotions in a non-threatening environment. These people struggle with empathy and their self-identity, so creating a safe conversation is the only way to gain trust. Let them know you support them and are on their team. Remember, they see the world as either “with them” or “against them.” Don’t take them on directly or criticize, because they simply can’t take it. Consider partnering with them on goals that they value. Offer them solutions (and options) that do not threaten them.
Finally remember, “Narcissists are great con-artists. After all, they succeed in deluding themselves.” (Anonymous)