Narcissistic Leaders — The Destructive Lies They Tell Themselves and Others


Narcissistic Leaders Destructive Lies

When I was working in the corporate arena years ago, I had the great misfortune of reporting to and working with a number of extremely toxic colleagues, managers and narcissistic leaders whose behaviour hurt me and was also a complete mystery to me.

I couldn’t understand their raging, their defensiveness, they inability to be challenged or questioned, or their penchant for drumming people out who were not obsequious and total “yes” people to them. And it was astounding to me that leadership and management allowed these individuals to remain in their posts, doing all this damage.

After I became a marriage and family therapist and career coach, I learned a great deal about narcissistic personality disorder, and how it can wreak havoc on those who are in relationships with the narcissist. (Here’s more on how to recognize NPD in your boss and what to do about it.) Several years ago, I wished to help adult children of narcissists in a more direct way and built a Facebook group of over 2,000 adults who’d been dramatically and negatively affected by the narcissists in their lives. From their sharing, it was even more evident how destructive narcissism is in our lives and work.

From my view, we all need to understand narcissistic personality disorder more deeply, not to attack or demean narcissistic leaders, but to protect ourselves from harm, build stronger boundaries, and learn more about how to navigate effectively through the challenges of working with individuals who demonstrate these traits.

Towards that end, I was excited to catch up this month with Dov Baron. Baron has been twice cited as one of Inc. Magazine’s Top 100 Leadership Speakers and named as one of the Top 30 Global Leadership Gurus. He works with international leaders and organizations who are committed to finding the “Why beneath their Why” to create a positive legacy that lifts humanity.

Baron has deep experience with narcissistic leaders and has important information to share on the issue. Here’s his take:

Kathy Caprino: One thing you stress in your work is the need for leaders to have a strong relationship with self. What does that mean?

Dov Baron: Great leaders understand that all leadership is relationship-based. Furthermore, for relationships to be productive, they must have a degree of closeness and understanding—intimacy, if you will. Intimacy with another cannot take place until we have a strong self-relationship—intimacy with ourselves. That kind of intimacy comes only from sustained self-growth.

Related: Why Narcissists Twist The Truth: Logical Explanation

Caprino: What types of leaders and influencers struggle the most with forging a strong relationship with self?

Baron: If, at some level, we have been indoctrinated with the idea we are “not enough,” we either go on a rampage to prove that we are enough (which, while it can result in massive success, often leaves an emotional mess in its wake) or we quit on ourselves. In either case, it becomes difficult to forge a strong, intimate relationship with ourselves or with others because we are so externally driven. In these cases, self-inquiry is seen as an admission of weakness or fault.

Caprino: In your work with top influencers and leaders, you’ve said you’ve seen a good deal of narcissism. What do narcissistic leaders tell themselves and others?

Baron: The narcissistic leaders will always argue that their results justify their means. They will often use grandiose language about a greater good, which is how they con others into following them, but the truth is that everyone is merely a pawn in the narcissist’s game. They see others as less—less intelligent, less worthy, less capable, less deserving—and that’s how they justify their lies and manipulations.

Caprino: Why are narcissistic lies so damaging?

Baron: It starts with a need of the narcissistic leaders to always to be right, the inability to apologize, and a pervasive air of entitlement. The result is that such a leader does not get to grow and will invariably end up surrounded by sycophants. Such a leader not only damages the culture and morals, they will invariably suffocate innovation. We know and the research is clear—people who do not feel emotionally safe stop innovating.

narcissistic leaders

Related: Difference Between Borderline Personality Disorder and Narcissistic Personality Disorder

Caprino: You shared that when you were younger, you would “steal the light” from others. Could you talk about this a bit?

Baron: Yes, I shamefully admit that I “stole the light” many times, until I realized what I was doing and stopped.

What I mean by “stealing the light” is taking credit that is not entirely yours. Let me give you an example. We were brought in to work with an executive team in helping them find their purpose. We did a couple of sessions and made great progress. However, when we went back after each session there had been a clear drop in morale.

The first time we wrote it off; the second time I directly addressed it. I heard the same message from three separate members of the team. After we would leave, the founder of the company would not only downplay the work my team had done but he would claim that all the great input came from him. As you can imagine this was having a devastating impact on the engagement of the process and of working there.

I set up a separate time to go for a walk with the founder (who in many ways is a great guy). I shared with him what was happening, even though he was initially very defensive. We continued walking in silence for a little while.

Related: Treating Narcissistic Personality Disorder: 10 Stages You Must Know About

I could see he was thinking about what I’d shared and that no one dared tell him this truth. Suddenly stopped in his tracks and turned to me and asked, “How could I be doing that and not even know?” His concern was genuine. He was behaving like a narcissistic leader and he had no idea. “Why would I even want to do this?”

I asked, “When you were a child how did you get attention?” He responded, “Being the middle child of five, I never could.”

Even as he answered it was obvious that the realization was hitting him like a truck. As an adult, he was still trying to get attention. This is why leaders must be fully committed to their self-inquiry. Without self-knowledge we are all fumbling in the dark and unable to see or deal with our “blind spots.”

Caprino: You’ve also written about leaders needing to find their “why beneath the why.” What does that mean?

Baron: For most people, finding their why is barely different than creating a mission statement or even setting a vision. However, when we help leaders find the “Why Beneath the Why,” we are tapping into the primary drivers of a leader and an organization. Take the example of the founder who was stealing the light from his team. Until we could elicit the why of his why (the unconscious drivers determining his behavior), he was going to keep doing what didn’t work.

By the way, Simon Sinek wrote a great book Start with Why that has helped many leaders understand the value of finding their why.

Related: Dehumanization: A Narcissist’s Ultimate Manipulation Tool

Caprino: Finally, what is the one thing a leader should do to build a connection with themselves and a connected culture in their organization?

Baron: Great question! First and foremost, the leaders of the future must be deeply and sincerely emotionally intelligent. Therefore the place to start is with an ongoing commitment to developing self-knowledge.

To be clear, this is not possible on our own. No matter how smart we think we are, no one is objective in their subjective reality. Find a guide who will not let you skate on your past merits. I often hear from the clients who qualify to work with me that no one has been as fierce with them or has held them fully accountable. Without someone helping a leader with fierce accountability, they will continue to do the same old things.

Written by: Kathy Caprino
Originally appeared on:
Want to dramatically boost your power, confidence and impact in your career? Check out my new book - The Most Powerful You: 7 Bravery-Boosting Paths to Career Bliss - today! To order in Australia and New Zealand, click here, in the UK, click here, and elsewhere outside North America, click here. Thank you!
Narcissistic Leaders Destructive Lies Pin
Narcissistic Leaders Destructive Lies Tell Themselves Pin

— Share —

— About the Author —

Leave a Reply

Up Next

Having A Hard Time Managing Toxic Employees? 8 Constructive Things You Can Do

Having A Hard Time Managing Toxic Employees? Things To Do

Ah, toxic employees. They can be like a bad case of poison ivy in your organization – annoying, always spreading negativity, and making everyone feel uncomfortable. Whether they’re the office gossip, the perpetually grumpy Gus, or the master of passive-aggressive emails, managing toxic employees is a challenge every manager dreads.

However, there are some effective ways to deal with and handle toxic employees at work. In this article, we are going to explore the different types of toxic employees, how to identify toxic employees, and strategies for managing toxic employees.

So, are you ready to dive deep into this? Let’s get started, shall we? First, let us talk about the types of toxic employees.

Up Next

10 Covert Signs Of A Psychopath: Don’t Be Fooled By Their “Nice” Behavior

Signs Of A Psychopath: Look Out For These Sneaky Signs!

Have you ever wondered what lurks beneath the surface of those seemingly nice, charming and friendly individuals? You know the type—the ones who effortlessly wear a smile, say all the right things but leave you feeling a bit unsettled and uneasy. Well, my friend, get ready because we’re about to discuss the signs of a psychopath.

Don’t worry, I’m not here to scare you, but let’s face it, we all love a good psychological puzzle, right? So, let’s uncover the sneaky signs of a psychopath, the signs that separate the “nice” from the truly dangerous.

Brace yourself, because what you’re about to discover might just blow your mind. Let’s explore more about people who are nice but psychopathic.


Up Next

7 Red Flags Of A Future Faking Narcissist: Beyond The Façade

Red Flags Of A Future Faking Narcissist: Beyond The Façade

Have you interacted with someone who promises you the world, but when the time comes to do good on their promise, they leave you high and dry? Chances are you might be dealing with a future faking narcissist.

Future faking narcissists are charming and diabolical at the same time, and are experts at lying through their teeth. They will paint a picture-perfect image of themselves in front of you and will promise you a beautiful future. However, it’s all smokes and mirrors.

In this article, we are going to talk about the signs of future faking narcissists, so that it’s easier for you to understand when someone is genuinely interested in building a future with you and when someone is simply playing you.

Up Next

The “False Self” Of A Narcissist: Look Beyond The Facade!

Hidden Narcissist False Self: Make Believe Traits in Them

The narcissist false self is charming and confident, masking underlying insecurities and emptiness beneath. Let’s find out other secrets they hide!

Narcissists have a false self. They’re master illusionists. They behave like a little king or queen — whether bragging or sulking. Their whole personality is a charade crafted to deceive you into believing they are confident, superior, self-sufficient, likable, and caring.

In studies, groups of people met with and liked a narcissist, but after 6 more interviews, they discerned the narcissist’s true nature and changed thei

Up Next

How To Deal With Your Partner’s Obsessive Ex? 4 Tips For Successfully Handling One

Deal With Your Partner's Obsessive Ex: Tips And Tricks

Have you ever had to deal with an obsessive ex? Moreover, have you ever had to deal with your partner’s obsessive and toxic ex? If you have, you already know how disturbing it is to go through this. This article is going to talk about some of the best ways to deal with a toxic ex or deal with your partner’s toxic ex.

My friend is happily married to a man who has a child. He is a devoted and loving father who sought full custody of the children; the court denied his petition.

His two children are living with their narcissistic mother who actively alienates the children from their father. His ex was obsessed with him during their short and turbulent relationship. She was deceitful, abusive, controlling, and highly destructive. They hooked up while drunk.

Up Next

Dog Whistling Narcissist: 8 Ways Narcissists Use This Covert Manipulation Tactic

Dog Whistling Narcissist: Covert Ways They Manipulate You

Have you ever had the feeling that when you are talking to someone, there’s a hidden message they’re trying to get across to you? A message that feels insulting, condescending and hurtful? If you answered yes, then you are dealing with a dog whistling narcissist, my friend.

These people are experts at sending subtle messages that are extremely hurtful and humiliating, but only you understand it, not anyone else. When a narcissist uses dog whistling, their main motive is to manipulate you and keep you under their control. They’ll use it to dominate you, and put you down, while pretending to be harmless.

But what is dog whistling, and how narcissists use dog whistling? Let’s find out, shall we?

Up Next

What Is A Superiority Complex And How To Deal With Someone Who Thinks They Are Better Than You

What Is A Superiority Complex And How To Deal With It

Have you ever met someone who believes they are inherently better than others? Do they constantly exude an air of superiority, belittle others, or dismiss others’ accomplishments? This is a superiority complex in action. What is a superiority complex?

People who exhibit traits of condescension and arrogance are believed to have a superiority complex, a psychological phenomenon that drives such behavior. Let’s explore the superiority complex in psychology, its signs, causes, and most importantly, how to deal with someone with a superiority complex.

What is a Superiority Complex?

A superiority co