Chances are good that you know at least once narcissist, whether it’s a coworker, a family member or a friend. Sometimes that person is even your boss.
Narcissistic traits include egotism, excessive confidence, lack of empathy and aggression. Such people show a marked preference for their own opinions and are very sensitive to any and all criticism.
Why narcissism is not all bad
You might have come to understand how different a relationship can be with these folks. If you’ve seen them in leadership positions, you probably have even more insight. It seems they live life by a different set of standards than we do — yet undeniably, they have a certain charisma.
We tend to think of narcissistic leaders negatively. But on the upside, narcissists also tend to have a strong work ethic and high drive, and can be extremely likable.
This is frequently how they rise to the top. The narcissistic employee is driven, charismatic and exudes confidence, so he or she will stand out among peers as a prime candidate for leadership positions. When this individual is in a position of power, he or she will show definitive and easily recognizable traits. Here are some of those traits, and why they can hurt your business, or even help it at times.
Narcissists tend to lead with vision.
One positive aspect of a narcissistic leader is vision. In his or her mind, they create a future reality, share it with their subordinates and then push through until that vision is achieved. The focus and follow-through ability of narcissistic leaders is indisputable, making organizations more action-oriented. The productivity of an organization will often rise under the guidance of this type of leader.
Delusions of grandeur drive them to try conquering the world.
Two traits of certain narcissists are delusions of grandeur and extreme confidence. The combination of these two can create a desire to conquer the world. In business, they will often want to annihilate their competition and dominate their field. This competitive nature can help ensure success for their business. This is definitely a positive trait for a company’s bottom line, assuming the narcissist does not leave a path of destruction that harms the business’s reputation.
They don’t listen to what contradicts their vision.
Let’s talk about the flip side. Narcissists’ inability to listen to others and accept differing opinions is one of their downfalls. They often surround themselves will brilliant advisors and employees, yet deny those people the opportunity to bring their ideas to fruition. The narcissist already possesses a vision and does not typically desire input from others. This type of close-mindedness can result in missed opportunities and overlooked ideas, hurting the organization.
There’s an empathy problem.
Along with the inability to listen, the narcissistic leader will also lack empathy. The feelings and needs of subordinates are seldom taken into consideration. As one can imagine, this will make the leader appear aloof and cold-hearted, which is often the case. The lack of empathy will likely become detrimental to everyone’s morale. If the narcissist doesn’t keep their abrasiveness in check, they will lose valuable employees, friends and clients. Productivity may also drop.
They can be exploitative.
Leaders with narcissistic personality traits frequently take advantage of others, exploiting their power to achieve their vision. This may include extending work hours, limiting breaks or demanding unreasonable immediate action. This exploitative way of managing decreases motivation and productivity in the long run. Initially, employees may be charmed by the leader’s charisma and motivated to be more productive. This often doesn’t last, however.
But — can they be effective?
One researcher at Durham University in the United Kingdom proposed that narcissism has two sides, a bright one and a dark one. Narcissistic leaders, at their best, can be charismatic, engaging, motivated and motivating. At their worst, they can be nit-picky and condescending.
Author and psychoanalyst Dr. Michael Maccoby agrees, finding narcissists may thrive in chaotic times but can seem out of place during times of tranquility. It can be difficult to measure how successful any leader may be for an organization, and narcissistic leaders are no different.
So, it seems like the narcissist creates an action-oriented environment but may fall short in maintaining employee morale. Effective leadership is possible if the narcissist is aware of his or her own shortcomings — and if he or she is willing to work on themselves. Being open to others’ ideas and showing empathy to those around them makes a world of difference.
Ideally, a narcissistic leader can deliver strong morale and high productivity. They just need to cultivate the emotional maturity to accept advice and truly listen to outside perspectives. Achieving that balance will help this leader not only save themselves, but also the business.