NARCISSISM AND LEADERSHIP IN TODAY'S ARENA
April 23, 2012
For the most part, the American political system is alive and well. We applaud those individuals who are moved by a sincere desire to serve, lead, and govern. And then, there are those who are motivated by personal self-interests, and a need for power and aggrandizement. In such situations, narcissism seems to play a heavy hand.
The term Narcissism is appearing more and more in the current political news stories. Narcissism, an inflated sense of one's self and one's abilities, can help politicians carve successful careers in the public eye, experts say. But that self-grandiosity can and usually does lead to a self destruct scenario in the long run.
"Narcissism can be a strength in that if you feel special, you're more apt to do special things," said Paul Griffin, a psychologist who teaches at Pace University. But it can serve as a sort of "mind blindness." Narcissist individuals explain away their own behaviors and feel entitled to do the things they do. "Huge egos" are what cause some politicians to put themselves above others, and with that mentality, self destruction, in time, begins to take center stage.
Narcissists may think they'd be good leaders, but often their preoccupation with themselves hinders their performance in teamwork situations. And good leadership goes hand in hand with teamwork. For without a teamwork spirit, there can be no leadership.
Although narcissists have leadership-related qualities, such as confidence, authority and high self-esteem, their self-centeredness ultimately prevents them from partaking of the creative exchange of information and ideas, which is crucial in group decision-making situations. And good leadership is a process by which a person influences others to accomplish an objective and directs the organization in a way that makes it more cohesive and coherent. With examples, such as has been in the news: Saddam Hussein, Muammar Qaddafi, and Hosni Mubarek, it isn't a surprise that research has shown that many such leaders are narcissists. Narcissists have a knack for getting into positions of power and authority (although they likely become MORE narcissistic once they are in power). Moreover, some of these narcissists appear as powerful leaders (and evil too )....Adolf Hitler, Pol Pot, Stalin, the list goes on and on.
Narcissistic leaders tend to be relentless in their pursuit of their ambitions, but they can also be ruthless, not caring much about the collateral damage that occurs. They lack empathy, are sensitive to criticism, are self-centered, believing that everyone must think the same way that they do. Michael Maccoby, noted anthropologist and leadership specialist, suggests that many narcissistic leaders on the surface appear as effective and productive, for awhile. But, that is because they surround themselves with trusted "sidekicks" who helps manage them and balance them out. But their strength is short lived and soon becomes a weakened image of its so called "strong self."
It is true, narcissists do gain leadership roles, often based on their charisma and ability to persuade others to accept their point of view. However, some of the underlying traits, or "dark sides"of the individual will eventually surface, preventing any positive affirmative leadership from really taking hold. Kathy Schure, doctoral candidate at Georgia Tech, has identified such characteristics as highly narcissistic traits, they are... exploitation/entitlement, superiority/arrogance, and self-absorption/self admiration.
Far too often, narcissistically flawed individuals are hopelessly attracted by the grandiose opportunities of the political arena like moths to a flame. Their sense of self is starkly invested in the desire for power over others, constant admiration and adulation and grandiose ambitions. This makes them remarkably adept at what Steyn calls the "politics of personal destruction."
For the narcissist, it is always a zero-sum game he or she plays with other individuals. From the perspective of the narcissist, if someone else "wins," the narcissist "loses." It cannot be otherwise, since on some level they know that their own talent and skills are way overblown. Hence, they cannot hope to "win" based on those talents alone. Thus, the behavior of the classic narcissist is mostly directed toward making others lose so they can win by default. To that end, for the narcissists, there is no behavior or tactic that is considered out -of-bounds or over-the-top.
Hence, we see the current state of political discourse and the ubiquitous personal attacks that have become the trademark of political campaigns. You know, there are candidates and potential candidates out there who are not of this narcissistic mentality, and then, there are others... . This columnist has seen both. Hopefully, the voters will discern those who are and those who are not. For therein lies the future of "the Republic for which we stand." And that is how we see it FROM THIS PERSPECTIVE.