Narcissists make great Leaders!

800 371 Kamal Karanth

Yes, the title was to get your attention. But you will agree with me after a few minutes about Narcissists.

Many of us publicly admit that we join new employers in search of good supervisors, work harder in our organisations when we like our bosses, leave companies becoz of bosses; Today I am deliberately leaving out obvious things like role, money, brand, organisation culture. These we know are the other parameters in joining, staying and quitting jobs. Let’s get back to the bosses now,

If you are asked what kinds of bosses you like, would the obvious answers sound like

  1. Leads by example
  2. Delegates, gives you space, trusts you
  3. High on integrity, fair, charismatic, thought leader, visionary
  4. Decisive, purposeful, relationship driven, humane….

The list can go on depending on what you have experienced or aspiring for. Not many of us can choose our bosses. But, I am sure we all have the rights to comment, judge, criticise them in our circle of influence. Today is one such exercise of commenting on ‘one’ type of leader.

How many of you have you ever worked for a leader who is a narcissist? Some of you who have worked with me please lower your hands if you have raised it! And for the rest, do I see many of you nodding your head in approval? I know we don’t need to rush to Wikipedia for the definition of a narcissist. A trait which all of us recognise as we see some of it in the mirror daily. That can be called healthy narcissism? Now, to my next question, would you like to work for a narcissist boss? Did you say never? think about it again. I think you should work for one. Not because I want you to learn on ‘how not to be a Narcissist’ but for the benefits you get working for one. Now don’t frown again, I’m not playing mind games here.

 Traits of a Narcissist

  • Special: Narcissists perceive themselves to be unique and special people. Who doesn’t want to be working for people who have high self-esteem?  Are you the kind who likes to constantly motivate your boss to get rid of his/her inferiority complex? Sounds like a nice thought though!
  • Positive: Narcissists think they are better than others. That sounds like most of us!
  • Inflated: Narcissists’ self-views tend to be greatly exaggerated. All of us belong to this category. Imagine yourself while you are being interviewed or during your appraisals.
  • Selfish: Their behaviour portrays them as being selfish. Now selfless people in work life are a rare commodity and we all are selfish, so I would accept that.
  • Oriented toward success: Narcissists are oriented towards success. None of us come to fail to work, we all want success for us, our teams and organisations.

So, tell me if these are the traits of a Narcissist, why wouldn’t you want to work for one? Or if you could tick against all these qualities for yourself ‘feel’ proud to be a narcissist. At least you can be honest to yourself. Am I playing with the term and a few qualifying parameters to support them? Yes, but I know you are smart enough to get the drift!

Narcissist Leaders

Narcissism is a thriving trait in leadership. Some of us develop it after we reach leadership positions. Many of us are born with it. I think it’s an essential trait to have or cultivate to be a successful leader. Leadership is a tough act; people throw a lot of muck at you. You are always under pressure. So, you need to be positive even when the boat is sinking. One must feel better than others to negotiate out of difficult situations.

But, some of these traits that protect are also the ones that can go against you. This depends on where you demonstrate them. It’s difficult to have these qualities and also to contain them as they are part of you. First of all, knowingly or unknowingly narcissistic qualities raise their head even without you realising them. Therefore,  the ‘gurus’ talk about self-awareness as the essential trait for leaders. They also recommend mindfulness for being at every moment to be in touch with the situation. But today I am not here to discuss about how to deal with Narcissism. In fact, I love them 🙂

My Brush with Narcissists

Probably, I loved working with tons of Narcissists. I say this as they loved to be ‘one’ and allowed people like me to gain in the process. Due to their over indulgence with themselves we were allowed into similar zones with our team. I remember even-though we were making  losses some of my bosses would ask us to fly business class with them when we took the same flight. Some others would book five star hotels for us as they wanted to avail the same luxury. Otherwise we had travel and stay in ‘budget’ when they weren’t with us 🙂

In one of my stints we started to move into new offices in rented buildings. My boss used to insist that we have nice metal name plate which had his name itched in it. He used to get great kicks unveiling those boards during office inaugurations. We were in an organisation where leaders quit almost every 2 years. So, we had to remove those boards before the next leader came. Grr! Before, I could get my own name-plates itched I left too 🙂

No Conclusion

Now, let’s not get holier than thou about others. If you want to be a leader you need to get comfortable with certain Narcissist qualities. Actually, we use certain polished corporate terms to describe them. If you sum them all up it would come to one term!

If you are too good to acquire them or display them you will will face another problem. You have to then get comfortable working for people who have them. Period.

As always, now to the narcissist part of my post, and my favourite part….

Narcissist and me? Never!


If you’ve enjoyed reading this post, Feel free to comment for me to reflect on your ‘narcissist’ views

Many moons ago I wrote this post about “who is your favourite boss” contradiction?

Who is your favourite boss?

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