Narcissistic Leaders

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narcissistic leadersI took the test. Then Emily took the test for me. We both arrived at the same results. I’m a narcissistic leader.

The test was included in the book Narcissistic Leaders by Michael Maccoby. It’s an older book. It was originally published in 2003, but it may be one of the most helpful leadership books I’ve read.

In the book, Maccoby highlights four patterns of personality:

  • Erotic – They are driven by loving and being loved.
  • Obsessive – They live by the rules, and the rules are set by some higher authority (i.e. father figure, strict conscience, tradition, etc.)
  • Marketing – They sense what the market wants and needs and then conform to it.
  • Narcissist – They impress us as a personality, who disrupts the status quo and brings about change.

Each of these personality patterns can either be productive or disruptive. And, there are combination of types (I’m narcissistic-marketing), but one usually is dominant over the other. Maccoby suggests that Bill Gates, Jack Welch, Henry Ford and Abraham Lincoln are/were productive narcissists.

I’ll let you pick up the book to get the rest of the story. But, here are a handful of highlights from my reading:

  • “Narcissists do no react to the external world so much as they try to create it… [Their] vision always starts with a rejection of the status quo.”
  • “A true narcissist is the kind of person who (1) doesn’t listen to anyone else when he believes in doing something and (2) has a precise vision of how things should be.”
  • Narcissism “is not an illness or a description of bad behavior, but a personality type, and like any personality, it can be productive or unproductive, creative or destructive, healthy or sick, generous or selfish.”
  • Obsessives “become mired in details and rules…; they are more concerned with doing things in the right way than doing the right things; they turn into control freaks.”
  • “Without enthusiasm and passion, even the most skillful, focused, reasoned, and talented person can just go through the motions of work, passively accepting tasks as if they were assignments.”
  • “The ones who do actually change our world, provide meaning not only for themselves but also for the people who work for them, who believe in them, who follow them.”
  • “Narcissists can’t stand situations that contain them and their ideas, and have the guts to go out on their own, risking security and failure in favor of their vision.”
  • “Because of their paranoid tendencies, narcissists may try to maintain total control over an organization, making it impossible for their best people to make any kind of contribution or further the narcissist’s vision.”
  • Regarding working for a narcissist: “If you have a great idea and can’t get his ear, you have to frame it in a way that shows him how he will benefit personally. Also, if you are trying to stop him from an action that could damage the company, you have to show how it will damage him personally.”

Now, let’s be honest. I’m guessing I’m not the only leader in the church today who has these tendencies. Either you do as well, or you probably know someone who does. If that’s true, this book may be for you. I’ve only scratched the surface of the contents of this book.

In the mean time, I need to figure out how to disrupt the status quo a little bit more.

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About Author

Tony Morgan

Tony is the Chief Strategic Officer and founder of The Unstuck Group. For 14 years, Tony served on the senior leadership teams at West Ridge Church (Dallas, GA), NewSpring Church (Anderson, SC) and Granger Community Church (Granger, IN). He's written several books and articles that have been featured with the Willow Creek Association, Catalyst and Pastors.com.

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