BY CHRISTINE LOUIS DE CANONVILLE, MIACP
“LIKE MOTHS TO A FLAME” NARCISSISTS ARE DRAWN NATURALLY TO POSITIONS OF POWER AND INFLUENCE
Narcissistic individuals, more often than not, are attracted to leadership positions of power and influence, as these roles can provide them with a sense of grandiosity and a platform for self-aggrandizement.
Narcissistic individuals often have an exaggerated sense of their importance and may believe that they are entitled to special treatment and privileges. They may also be drawn to powerful positions because they offer the opportunity to control and manipulate others, which can feed the narcissistic individual’s sense of superiority.
Unfortunately, many of the characteristics that are rewarded in the business environment are also the same characteristics that lead to the narcissistic individual becoming a destructive leader, as they are, indeed, organisational destroyers.
So, unfortunately, narcissistic leadership does not generally lead to successful group performance or positive interpersonal relationships within the workplace. All the narcissist is interested in is their own leadership skills and self-development.
People wanting power, money and prestige are drawn to heading businesses with little consideration for the company or people around them, often prioritising their interests over others.
These pathological narcissists are amoral, unfair, and abusive. They are not interested in social connections or intimate relationships with their co-workers. These behaviours harm all their interactions, including their workplace outcomes. The impact of Leader Narcissism (i.e., their bullying behaviour, their lack of empathy, unwarranted criticism and humiliation of others, etc.) all these factors jeopardises the employee’s morale, creativity, level of job performance and satisfaction.
Working under a narcissistic boss or experiencing abusive supervision, employees will feel unrecognised, unappreciated and not properly rewarded for their good work.
In short, organisational effectiveness is greatly impacted by these narcissistic and psychopathic personalities, and many companies have collapsed as a result of such poor leadership.
This is why it is important for Boards and Management Teams to be aware of this potential dynamic and to work to create systems and structures that prevent abuse of power from happening within the organisation.
Here are examples of positions of coercive power and influence that narcissistic individuals may be attracted to:
Politics: Narcissistic individuals are attracted to careers in politics because of the opportunity to wield political power and influence over large groups of people.
They may also be drawn to the public attention and adulation that can come with holding a political office. For example, it is not uncommon for politicians to have some narcissistic traits, as they often have to be confident and assertive to effectively advocate for their policies and positions.
It is also worth noting that narcissistic individuals may be more prone to engaging in unethical or corrupt behaviour, as they may be more focused on their interests and less concerned about the welfare of others.
This can be particularly problematic in politics, where the abuse of power and corruption can have serious consequences for the public at large. The narcissistic/psychopathic politician is particularly dangerous when they disguise their ruthless obsession with charming and convincing rhetoric.
Therefore, it is important for voters to carefully consider the character and values of political candidates, and to hold elected officials accountable for their actions.
Business leadership: Narcissistic individuals (especially CEOs) are drawn to positions of leadership in business because of the opportunity to make important decisions and to be in control of a team or organisation.
They are also attracted to the prestige and status that comes with being a successful business leader.
While narcissistic individuals may be able to achieve short-term success in business, their leadership style may ultimately be detrimental to the long-term success of an organisation.
This is because their focus on their interests and needs may lead them to prioritise their goals over the well-being of their employees or the overall health of the business.
Additionally, their lack of empathy and tendency to manipulate or bully others may create a toxic work environment and lead to high levels of turnover or low morale among employees. Therefore, it is important for organisations to fully understand the negative impact of CEO narcissism.
When hiring for positions of business leadership, they must carefully consider the character and leadership style of potential candidates, and ensure that their values align with the values of the organisation.
Entertainment: Narcissistic individuals may be attracted to careers in the entertainment industry because of the opportunity to be in the spotlight and to receive attention and adulation from a large audience.
They may also be drawn to the power and influence that can come with being a successful producer, actor, musician, or other performers (i.e., Harvey Weinstein).
Narcissism can be particularly problematic in the entertainment industry, where the pressure to maintain a certain image or to succeed at all costs can lead to unhealthy behaviours and negative consequences for both the individual and those around them.
Education: Narcissistic individuals are drawn to positions of leadership in education, such as being a head principal or superintendent, because of the opportunity to make important decisions and to exert control over a school or school district. Following their successful appointment, they are given an air of superiority, invincibility and entitlement.
For narcissists, it seems that school leadership is not so much about wisdom, scholarship, or having an educational philosophy, but instead, their focus is on power, manipulation, and control.
These narcissistic/psychopathic administrators are “untouchable” and will charm school Boards by telling them what they want to hear, disregarding their staff and viewing them as mere expendable commodities.
These crafty principals will feed “rose-coloured reports” to the Board members and persuade them to stay away and not be involved with the mundane day-to-day functioning of the school.
By keeping the Board members to minimum contact with staff and pupils, the narcissist gets more control in running the school the way they want. They will surround themselves with “yes-men” and promote them to senior positions, then weed out any strong staff members who are likely to challenge them.
This is why Schools and school districts need to take into account the character and leadership style of prospective education leaders with great care.
Medicine: Narcissistic individuals may be attracted to careers in medicine because of the prestige and status that come with being a doctor and being able to prove their value to society.
They may also be drawn to the opportunity to have a position of authority and to make important decisions that can have a significant impact on people’s lives.
While narcissistic individuals may be able to achieve success in the medical field, they may prioritise their own goals over the well-being of their patients.
This can be particularly problematic in medicine, where the well-being and health of patients, one would think, should always be the top priority.
The idea that narcissists are drawn to positions of power and influence is an apt description of the behaviour of some physicians.
Many physicians have a strong sense of self-importance, believing they are capable of solving any problem and providing the best care for their patients.
This grandiosity can lead them to seek out positions of power and authority to fulfil their need for recognition and admiration.
Of course, there are many noble reasons why people are attracted to such a responsible career as medicine. However, many doctors are put on a pedestal by their patients and are then expected to be omnipotent physicians. It seems that medical narcissism may tend to develop early on as a mechanism for the young doctor’s protection and survival.
This “God Like” positioning by their patients may tap into a physician’s latent narcissism (i.e., their arrogance, grandiosity, and hubris, etc.).
Also, patient interactions often offer medical narcissists the confirmation and emotional support they are searching for.
As the patient unintentionally reinforces this dynamic, medical narcissism is perpetuated.
A UK-based cross-sectional study was conducted to look into “The Dark Triad” traits amongst healthcare professionals (i.e., Narcissism, Machiavellianism, and Psychopathy).
The study found that healthcare professionals scored higher than the general population on all three traits.
The findings suggest that narcissists may be drawn to positions of power and influence in the medical field due to the prestige, status, and authority associated with it. It also suggests that medical narcissism may develop early on as a way for young doctors to protect themselves and gain recognition from their patients.
The study also revealed that surgeons had the highest levels of narcissism, with gastroenterologists and acute care specialists following closely. The highest scores for Machiavellianism were received by surgeons and gastroenterologists, yet neurologists had the highest psychopathy ratings.
The study highlights the importance of taking into account character and leadership style when selecting healthcare professionals.
Law: Some narcissistic individuals may be attracted to careers in law because of the prestige and status that come with being a lawyer.
They may also be drawn to the opportunity to advocate for their clients and to have a position of authority in the courtroom.
Unfortunately, narcissistic solicitors/attorneys may be more focused on their reputation and success than on the interests of their clients, this may be due to their sense of entitlement.
These individuals may be more concerned with winning cases and advancing their careers than with advocating justice for their client’s rights and best interests. They may manipulate their clients into making decisions that work best for them. Are likely to bully opposing counsel or witnesses to get their way.
They engage in unethical behaviour to win a case or further their interests, (i.e., misrepresenting facts, withholding evidence, or engaging in other forms of misconduct, time-wasting, etc.).
One does not need to look hard for signs of malignant narcissism in the legal profession, for example.
These individuals are focused only on getting a “win”. They are preoccupied with fantasies of success and power, so want to be the best and get the best possible outcome for themselves.
Due to their inflated sense of self and superiority complex, they do not handle criticism well, and they will invariably lash out if they feel slighted in any way. They will drag down any opponent without any sign of remorse.
When you watch a lawyer work in the movies he is full of bluster and bluff. But in reality, a good lawyer needs to be disciplined, organised, and diligent. An arrogant lawyer is not measured, therefore less persuasive. The narcissist’s lack of empathy is a big disadvantage in the courtroom, an effective lawyers can put themselves in the other person’s shoes….. they have that “as if” quality that narcissists lack.
Religious leadership: Some narcissistic individuals may be attracted to positions of leadership in religious organisations because of the opportunity to wield power and influence over a large group of people, as well as the opportunity to be in the spotlight and to receive attention and adulation.
Narcissism can be particularly problematic in religious leadership, where the primary duty of leaders is to serve and support the spiritual well-being of their followers.
Like all narcissists, narcissistic religious leaders may be more focused on their own needs and desires than on the needs of their followers. Rather than being instruments of God, they believe themselves to be God and use their position to manipulate and control others, or to gain personal wealth or power. They may also be prone to making decisions based on their interests rather than what is best for the congregation.
Narcissists are drawn naturally to positions of power and influence, as they crave attention and admiration from others. Unfortunately, their lack of empathy and tendency towards manipulation can make them ill-suited for certain roles, such as religious leaders. In these positions, narcissists may be more focused on their own needs and desires than on the needs of those they are supposed to serve, which can lead to unethical or even illegal behaviour.
Religious organisations need to be aware of the potential risks posed by narcissistic individuals in positions of power and influence and take steps to ensure that these persons do not abuse their positions. Perhaps the various Churches need to design Formation Programmes that weed out narcissists before they become ordained priests where they have access to an endless supply of victims.
Military leadership: Some narcissistic individuals may be attracted to careers in the military because of the opportunity to lead and to have a position of authority. They may also be drawn to the prestige and status that come with being a high-ranking military officer. It is not uncommon for individuals in the military to have narcissistic traits, as confidence and assertiveness can be important qualities for effectively leading and inspiring a team. Narcissism is particularly problematic in the military, where the well-being and success of the team should always be the top priority.
Why does the Military love recruiting narcissists? Because they have recognised that narcissists work well in the military construct. They choose people who are “Type B” personality types” because they are on the Narcissistic and antisocial spectrums. It seems these types of individuals perform best when in war zones. They thrive on challenge and constant stimulation, therefore, they make good “War heroes”.
The Military enrols Type B Personality Types (malignant narcissistic & psychopaths) when selecting soldiers for special ops. This is because they react differently to stress. When they studied these soldiers (i.e., heart rates, cortisol levels, and amount of time they take to get back to normal after being subjected to stress, etc.) they found they had different” normal states” from other soldiers.
Also, these soldiers had suffered traumatic events in childhood, making them more resilient to a threat. What is more, they respond to threats with an attitude of “If I can survive this, I can survive anything.” These soldiers are prized as being “special” to the military, and of course, being special feeds into their narcissistic needs.
How do we create systems and structures that prevent abuse of power?
There are several ways that systems and structures can be designed to prevent abuse of power:
Establish Clear Rules and Policies: Establishing clear rules and policies can help ensure that those in positions of power are held accountable for their actions and do not abuse their authority.
Foster Transparency and Accountability: Creating systems and structures that support transparency and accountability in decision-making processes can help prevent any misuse of power.
Encourage Diverse Representation: Encouraging a diverse representation in positions of power will provide different perspectives, experiences, and backgrounds, which will minimize any potential opportunities for misconduct.
Implement Safeguards: Establishing checks and balances on the authority of those in power, as well as setting limits to their control, are effective ways for putting safeguards in place.
Foster a Culture of Respect & Integrity: Creating an environment that values respect, integrity, and ethical behaviour will promote values that discourage any form of misconduct or abuse of power.
Train & Educate Employees: Providing training sessions on topics such as mortality dynamics, ethical decision-making practices, etc., always helps raise awareness of the issue.
Establish a System for Reporting & Addressing Concerns: Setting up a hotline or confidential channel where employees can report instances of misconduct is an important step towards tackling this issue earlier rather than later.
Implement a Zero Tolerance Policy: Making it clear through an established policy that any form of abuse is strictly prohibited can be key to creating a safe workplace for everyone.
Encourage Open Communication Channels: Fostering open communication channels between staff members allows concerns around misuse of power to be highlighted more quickly and encourage proactivity from those subjected to it.
- Narcissistic Female Intimate Partner Violence Against Men Is No Joke - February 28, 2023
- Narcissists and Positions of Power and Influence - February 6, 2023
- Why Is It So Blooming Hard Leaving a Narcissist? - December 9, 2022
Unfortunately, Chris, I tend to agree with you.
Excellent descriptions of Malignant Narcissists and Psychopaths in the workplace. Unfortunately policies (especially mandatory policies in government agencies) are merely “window dressing” for these people, as policies don’t deter their toxic behavior (Teflon mindset). Just saying, after working 45 years in government).