Narcissists; the petulant children within us all


In Forbes ‘Why Narcissistic CEOs Kill Their Companies’ outline four key traits:

(1) Exploitativeness/Entitlement –> I insist upon getting the respect that is due to me;

(2) Leadership/Authority –> I like to be the center of attention;

(3) Superiority/Arrogance –> I am better than others; and

(4) Self-absorption/Self-admiration –> I am preoccupied with how extraordinary and special I am.

“The results do seem like common sense: By definition, narcissists are egotistical, self-focused, and vain. It would follow that a true narcissist wouldn’t see self-absorption as something negative. And because narcissists tend to lack empathy, they’d probably have trouble understanding why a desire to put themselves first should be seen as a negative trait.” Washington Post, ‘You only need a one-question test to identify narcissists;’.

We all possess some of those narcissistic traits.  When we are overwhelmed, stressed or tired those little tyrants tend to surface! Here are some characteristics we can continue to develop, if we are interested in healing our narcissistic traits, and developing our servant leadership skills.

Be open:  Narcissists are stubborn.  Effective leaders will allow someone the space to take on a project they don’t completely agree with.  In our homes, we can do the same with our children.  We can allow our children to try things even though our own experience has shown they may not work as expected.  We understand,  in order for others to gain their own valuable life experience, we have to create space for them to try things as a part of the learning process.

Create an environment of learning:  Narcissists like to say “of course it didn’t work, I told you so!”.  Instead, higher level learning takes place around discussions of what did we learn from the experience, what can we take away from the experience and use the experience to boost confidence; here is what we can take away for the next time so it will be even more effective. This is how leadership is developed.

Develop leadership:  Narcissists micro-manage the time of their team.  They tell them what they have to do, how they have to do it and when they have to do it.  It’s all controlled.  This thwarts leadership development.  When we do this to our children they passively follow our lead.  They learn to lack initiative of their own or they become frustrated by the inequity and disempowerment.  It is no different when narcissism dominates in the workplace.

Be available:  Narcissists like to ‘duck, dodge, dive, and deflect’ when they are not interested in your agenda.  They only call you when they need something.  They only notice you when you displease them.  They expect you to hit the mark every time and we when you don’t they believe you made them look bad.  When you really need something; they are unavailable and will be irritated by ‘your neediness’.

Effective leaders make time for their team.  They are never too busy to value the contribution of their teams.  Because they take time to check in, their meetings are often centered around strategies and planning.

The narcissist does not realize when they are often ‘unavailable’ it creates pent up demand. Issues are left to ‘fester’ and small matters turn into emergencies by going unattended.  By the time someone does get their attention, they are not very happy and the situation has escalated.  So most of the narcissists time is spent in ’emergency management’ something the narcissist complains about but often creates.

We have the power step out of our narcissistic traits and into servant leadership.  Here are some key characteristics to consider.  If we don’t like the column we see ourselves in, then we are not a true narcissists!  If noticing some of this makes us wince a bit, then there is hope for us!  This takes patience, practice and a desire to move out of our insecure ego states and into our higher states of being.  This takes courage.  This takes commitment.  This takes no longer hiding to avoid that which is uncomfortable.  We must embrace our discomfort if we are looking to evolve!

Narcissists Leaders Servant Leaders
Unavailable for your needs; perceive them as overly needy and demanding Demand instant attention to their needs
Duck, Dodge, Dive & Deflect when they don’t want to deal with something Dominating and Tyrannical when they expect you to deal with something
Expect no accountability for their actions and show great displeasure when held accountable Want people to fall on the sword and take the blame for the narcissists deficiencies
Make knee jerk decisions and often don’t understand what is being asked Ask questions and are thoughtful in their replies with a desire for understanding
Will say no to things because it’s easier to get it off the to do list Look for ways to say yes even if they don’t agree so team members feel valued.
Will make reckless and high risk decisions for the thrill of it Are open to risks that make sense; after thoughtful and careful consideration
Are completely risk adverse on others decisions and ideas Are open to supporting someone else’s ideas and visions
Expect others to acknowledge their brilliance Give their teams credit & acknowledge the good work of their people
Low trust of others; often hide things from their teams High trust in their teams and create atmosphere of transparency
Give and contribute very little; but demand totality from others and still believe it’s not good enough Work shoulder to shoulder to gain empathy for their team and understand the process.  Best efforts are noticed and rewarded.
Ignore and shut people out who don’t agree with them Invite healthy discourse to create resolutions that address all sides of an issue
Show up as arrogant, prideful and insecure Show up as confident, thoughtful and create a sense of security for others
Overreact to small things and ignore or fail to act upon needed tough decisions Accept small things are part of leadership and tackle issues on the front lines
Often make thoughtless, inappropriate and socially awkward comments Are aware of their actions and the impact they have on others
Don’t ask questions, don’t dig too deep, don’t think for yourself, just do it my way sub culture Look to cultivate leaders who can think for themselves and ask smart questions to create a sub culture of excellence
Usually have dysfunctional systems and hobbled together operations around them because they lack the attention skills for detail or the work ethic to follow through Create clear and concise operations and systems because they invest the time & follow through necessary to create systems
Like to complain about all that needs to be fixed while on the golf course teeing up Digs into issues and implements resolutions with team input making sure people have the needed resources for success!
Expects to know everything but reveal very little of their plan (if they even have one). Clearly defines and reveals  the mission and keeps team focused
Disingenuous, self-absorbed and can not be trusted Compassionate, conscientious and trusted leaders
Thinks Servant Leaders do not exist, but pretend to be one using ‘talking points’ to manipulate others Actions speak to servant leadership so they are the leaders who are doing it, not talking about it!

Take the Narcissist Quiz:

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