Narcissistic Leaders — The Destructive Lies They Tell Themselves and Others

Narcissistic Leaders Destructive Lies

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:
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