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Can narcissists become leaders?

An article in Harvard Business Review says that narcissists make poor leaders. I’d agree with that. Then the article claims that through mentorship, companies can transform high-achievers with narcissistic traits into quality leaders. What do you think? Is it possible? Read:

Narcissism: The difference between high achievers and leaders, on blogs.HBR.org.

Link supplied by a Lovefraud reader.



17 Comments on "Can narcissists become leaders?"

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  1. darwinsmom says:

    I don’t have to read the article to know a narcissist can’t be turned into a good leader… Good leaders know how to not always lead, how to coax natural followers into taking initiative (and that’s not by appearing above them), etc… Good leaders must be very good in switching roles in order to get others to work in team for the best interest of the people of the team, not him or herself.

    The narcissism the author seems to talk about is not imo the NPD one. He seems to think of egocentrists or something. It’s like the thinks that with a good work coach they can get over the narcissism. He makes it sound easy. He therefore doesn’t recognize how stuck narcissists are in their ego-shit



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  2. one/joy_step_at_a_time says:

    okay, i confess…i haven’t read the article yet…..
    I had an new executive director come on-board at my last job. On about our 10th meeting he told me he was a ‘reformed narcissist’. uh. no.

    who sayssss that?????



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  3. hens says:

    i have not read it either 1steprs, I am a follower not a leader, guess that
    s why i keep gettin lead into so much deep chit.



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  4. hope52 says:

    I read the article and found it a little confusing. Basically, I believe the noun “narcissist” is just a nice way of calling someone a “psychopath” which apparently is offensive to many.

    I think we are splitting hairs between a narc and a psychopath. They are both “conscienceless” individuals. Naricissim is the common denominator with pathology.

    I found the article poorly written. I think that many leaders are psychopath and in fact, contribute to the crimes that continue to undercover in our government and other business entities.

    We have learned to count on these types to run our schools, sports organizations, churches, law enforcement, and government entities. Then we are ALL appalled when they steal, lie or rape innocent people.

    Of course, these disordered ones are GREAT at mirroring OUR values. This mirroring garners them the “trusted” positions that WE place them in our culture.

    As far as “training” pathology to be “better” as a leader is like asking the fox to guard the hen house. Not EVER going to happen. Evil doesnt change it’s color – never, ever.

    As long as we continue to believe in these “leaders” that show us their dark side, we will continue to struggle with all of the damage they create within our society on a daily basis.



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  5. skylar says:

    Hope,
    I tend to agree with most of your statements. This one I’d like to qualify a bit.

    I think a narcissist is the root of psychopathy so in a sense you are right. They are both infantile, and feel entitled to do whatever benefits them most.

    I think the difference is the mask. The mask of the spath is 180 degrees the opposite of what they present. So, the spath will become a priest or a police officer or a judge. They will tend to the sick and dying. They present themselves as humble and caring. They often work as psychologists and therapists. All of this is carefully considered on their part, so that they will never be suspected of being evil. A spath is literally, Dr. Jeckyl and Mr. Hyde. Remember Ted Bundy.

    A narcissist doesn’t bother hiding too much. Sure they will pretend to care when it suits them but often they just let it all hang out and tell you that they are special and the rules don’t apply to them. The narcissist wears a mask but resents it. A spath LOVES his mask. It is the source of his duper’s delight.

    A narcissist wants money, fame, fortune, adoration. A spath really just wants you to suffer. To them that is justice.

    A spath is a trickster. He wants to show you that you are a worm, powerless and everything you ever believed in was a lie. In other words, he wants you to become like him. He is pure evil and is fixated on your descent into hell.

    A narcissist is just selfish. They really don’t care about you, they just want your supply.

    Someone on sociopath world posted an interesting analogy. I’ll try to find it. It took me a few months to understand it.

    Here it is:

    Narcissist wolf says to everyone:
    “I’m a sheep, I’m a sheep, I’m in the sheep club. The sheep are the best. Those wolves are terrible. You have to be a special sheep to be in the high-wool club like me. If you don’t believe I’m a sheep then you are calling me a liar. I was only eating meat because my boss made me do it. I was howling at the moon because you made me angry. I have always been a sheep. You are paranoid, I don’t have canine teeth. You are imagining it. I’m a sheep. I won best sheep of the year award. We have to be on the look out for SueTarget. She’s a wolf in sheeps’ clothing. I am the one that did all the work. SueTarget messed it all up. SueTargets’s fur looks fake. I’m the biggest sheep so I should be the boss. I have every right to punish SueTarget and eat her. It will be good for her, and teach her a lesson. I’m not doing it for me, I’m doing it for the team. I have to be the enforcer here and eat bad sheeps to help keep society clean. I used to be a vegetarian but because all these lazy sheep won’t do anything, I am forced into keeping order and forced into being the bad guy and have to do all the eating of sheep.”

    Sociopath wolf says:
    “Become the sheep. Believe you are the sheep. Keep the wolf hidden. Don’t act like a narcissist and don’t try to “talk your way”. Become the sheep. Do sheep things. Behave like sheep. No one will see the wolf. Baa baa baa. Eat grass for a while. Give up meat for a while. Tell the sheep things that will make them feel good about themselves. Gain their trust. Be humble. Make them the center of attention. Get them to lower their defenses. Tell them you lost your teeth in a car accident and your parents could only afford wolf-teeth replacements. Keep past a secret so they don’t research. Let them do all the talking. Then when the time is right, devour! It is worth the sacrifice and the wait. Then on a polygraph when they ask if I am a sheep, I will have all the sheep memories because I became a sheep. I have memories of eating grass and living like a sheep. I’m telling the truth.”

    Yes, they are both toxic, but the spath is more frightening because you don’t figure it out until you are in his jaws. The red flags must be heeded at all times. The spath will always be the LAST person you expected. The shock alone could kill you. When I found out what my spath was, I lost 20 lbs in 20 days. And I was eating. But my heart rate was skyrocketing non-stop, even while I slept.

    Edit, I thought you might be intersted in some of the comments from the spaths, narcs and victims.
    Here’s the link.
    http://www.sociopathworld.com/2008/08/why-i-hate-narcissists.html

    I think you can never learn too much about the human condition. This thread is what I’d consider an advanced class.



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  6. Ox Drover says:

    Skylar that is an interesting quote…..thanks for posting it.

    I think there are LEVELS of Narcistic thinking and behavior as well as with psychopathy….it isn’t just an “either/or” situation. Dr. Baron-Cohen’s book on empathy and LEVELS of empathy (or lack of it) makes perfect sense to me. Plus, we can CONTROL our empathy and our responses to it. If we couldn’t control it, we would gather up every homeless person and homeless dog or cat and move them all into our homes. We have to limit our empathic expressions in order to protect ourselves.

    Strongawoman, I think (just my opinion) that a “social lie” to keep from hurting someone’s feelings is not “wrong” in the sense it is not meant to hurt them,, but to avoid hurting them.

    Example: someone has a new dress that they are so proud of and it really in your opinion looks hideous, when they ask “how do you like my dress?” What are you going to say “it looks hideous”? No, I think the KINDEST thing is to say something like, “that color looks nice on you” or something else but don’t say it looks awful.

    If the person REALLY wants your opinion, then say something like “well, I’d pick something a little less daring” or something along that line.

    Or if someone invites you to a party and you really don’t want to go, you don’t say “I don’t want to go to your party because it is going to be boring” you say instead “well, I have other plans” when maybe those other “plans” are to stay home and watch TV.

    That is just social politeness I think. But that is just my opinion.



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  7. skylar says:

    Yeah, I’ll definitely have to send you the Youtube of the aspie guy. You’re going to love it.



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  8. hope52 says:

    I read your post and thought about how it compared to my experiences with not ONE but TWO pathological men. Both of my experiences were the same but different.

    I think that the 21 signs of a psychopath are the same as the signs for a psychopath. Sandra L Brown explains in her book “How to Spot a Dangerous Man” that NO man needs to have everything on a list. ONE trait can cause “inevitable harm” to a woman.

    I believe that BOTH of my husbands were psychopathic. One was the in your face type with abuse and the other one was like a cat – stalking it’s prey. They both create “inevitable harm” to all around them.

    Look at Bernie Madoff and Drew Peterson. They both wore masks and they both hurt people. One is an alleged murderer and the other the supreme “con” man.

    I think they both are the same – just a different justification for their behaviors. One of the common denominators for both “narcissism.”

    This makes sense to me. We have a long way to go in our culture about mental illness and personality disorders and I am planning to be one of the women that makes that change.



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