Narcissistic Leaders: How You Know You Are Working With One (Part 1 of 3)

thank you for joining us today for caliber leadership systems first in a series of webinars on dysfunctional leadership styles how you know you are working with a narcissistic leader over our 25 plus years of working closely with executive teams and individual leaders on behavioral change leadership and organizational development combined with our research on personality styles neuroscience and the emotional drivers of behavior we have come to identify five distinct dysfunctional leadership styles each has its own challenges as well as path towards development each represents a different negative impact on the organizations in which they lead impacts that can often lead to dysfunction within the organization or even just a failure to achieve the potential of the organization we chose to start with the narcissistic leader as their impact is felt strongly by those who work with them firstly you want to decide if it's a narcissistic leader that you're working with I will cover off the six signs that you are in fact working with a narcissistic leader in parts two and three of the webinar we will provide you with tips on how to survive as well as how to coach their development if you find yourself working to change their impact as leaders it is our hope when you have completed our three webinars on our statistic leaders you will be able to identify them by their behavior and by their impact know how to deal with them personally to minimize the impact that they have on you directly and also understand fully what it takes to actually change their behavior they bring great strengths to our organizations so shifting them to out of their dysfunctional behavioral patterns is key to getting the most from these leaders so before we get into the six signs of how you know you are working for a narcissistic leader I want to talk a little bit about the characteristics overall of this dysfunctional leadership type now there's a lot of confusion about the differences between people who are narcissus stick versus those who have a narcissistic personality disorder according to the Mayo Clinic narcissistic personality disorder is a mental disorder in which people have an inflated sense of their own importance and a deep need for admiration those with narcissistic personality disorder believe that they're superior to others and have little regard for other people's feelings but behind this mask of ultra confidence lies a fragile self-esteem vulnerable to the slightest criticism the narcissistic leader that we're talking about on the other hand is not mentally ill they do not have a personality disorder they are most interested in gaining power money and prestige they may act the same and seem almost indistinguishable to those with an actual personality disorder for most people however their self-esteem is not as fragile and they are actually able to develop new behaviors now they seem the same because they use the same dysfunctional behaviors in order to achieve their agenda narcissistic leaders are able competitors who love getting to the top and staying there they are able to visualize themselves as the best or most accomplished in their field they can energetically sell themselves and their ideas their projects they are shrewd in dealing with others utilizing the strengths and advantages of others to achieve their own goals however on the flip side narcissistic leaders are arrogant and obnoxious and act as though they are superior to others they exploit others to gain what they want and have no qualms about doing this with little capacity for reflection their self-awareness is low they rarely apologize as they have no insight into what they do and feel little shame or remorse for their actions the narcissistic leader reacts to criticism with feelings of rage stress or humiliation even if they're not expressed they are interpersonally exploitative always taking advantage of others to achieve their own ends narcissistic leaders lack empathy and are unable to recognize and experience how others feel they are often preoccupied with feelings of envy as they want what it is that others have however a key characteristic of narcissistic leaders that it is important to always remember is that they are able to develop new behaviors this is important to always keep in mind because while it may be challenging for them to do so and certainly it takes work for those of us that are supporting their development it is possible so the first sign that you are working for a narcissistic leader is that you walk on eggshells around them so consider this do you wonder what mood your boss is in before you approach them do you find yourself spending a lot of time figuring out the best way to spin something for your boss in order to manage his or her reaction to the information one of the ways we know we are working for a narcissistic leader is that we find ourselves walking on eggshells around them all the time their moods and behavior swing back and forth leaving you uncertain as to who it is that's actually going to show up I have one client who's a narcissistic leader whose mood we can feel before she even walks into the room and opens her mouth and what happens is you can watch the rest of the team shift their behavior depending on how she is leading herself into the room without emotion they're always trying to find ways to work around her and avoid dealing with her they really don't want to have to take on the emotions and inappropriate behavior that emerges when she is confronted in any particular way now narcissistic leaders are not above using their emotions to intimidate and manipulate to get their way recently I was sharing the results of an employee feedback process with a client some of the feedback wasn't favorable unfavorable about him as we started the discussion he was charismatic charming welcoming talking about how much he was looking forward to what it was that I had to share with him as soon as I started to share the feedback his whole demeanor changed in a heartbeat he was suddenly leaning forward towards me his voice raised finger-pointing accusing me of making it all up or taking what one person had said and making it sound like it was coming from everyone now I found myself wanting to physically withdraw and defend my credibility which of course was his intent shifting it using his emotions to intimidate me so I had to consciously lean forward to him and simply respond without engaging in the battle I had to deflate it of course in the back of my mind the whole time I was thinking I got to experience exactly what it was employees we're talking about firsthand so cue number one moods and behavior of the narcissistic leaders swing back and forth from charming to rageful or vindictive causing you to tread carefully and walk on eggshells around them now the impact of this behavior of course is quite significant on the people around them it creates a culture of fear and anxiety employees are unable to do their best work and often opt not to bring issues or ideas for for fear of unleashing the Beast Within going back to my example of the leader that I was sharing feedback with a lot of the his employees talked about the fact that there is very much a fear of the shoot the messenger syndrome in that organization and so even though there was an issue it was just best to ignore the issues that were going on inside of the organization then have to deal with this particular narcissistic leader the next cue that you're working with a narcissistic leader is that you are an object so what does this mean well when you work with a narcissistic leader the bottom line is that it is all about them your purpose to the narcissistic leader is simply to mirror back a very inflated self-image they don't invest any energy in developing employees as they can't see past their own agenda and the goal is to use people while keeping themselves fearing feeling superior at all times in order for them to be strong someone has to be weak this dysfunctional leadership style is known for choosing people with low self-esteem and then taking advantage of them they will criticize humiliate or embarrass others in public with demeaning jokes or comments employees end up feeling invisible and devalued often it can be tough to recognize that you are caught in this dynamic with the narcissistic leader I recently observed an exchange between a CEO client of mine and his long-term principal auditor who just recently started up his own business what's the name of your company my client asked the auditor shared the name well said the CEO that's a stupid name for a company why would you name it that of course as anyone would the auditor attempted to defend the name choice but despite the joking behind the discussion that the CEO tried to put into it the damage was done it showed the CEO as being superior and devalued the auditor in order to inflate the CEOs self-esteem this same client is a great example of the impact that this behavior has on the organization when your focus is on exploiting people and not wanting to feel threatened by the competence of others you don't hire competent people to work for you as a result there's a lack of bench strength and the organization struggles to grow and perform given the inexperience of the people below the narcissistic leader in the case of my CEO client the company has stalled out as he is not put in place and experienced leadership team to run the operations his next level managers end up working long hours to compensate for their lack of development and experience but no matter how hard they try and they are always to blame for the problems in the company the narcissistic leader has a gift for seducing people into believing they are friends and on solid ground in the relationship they will act like you are special when they need you as an employee it is exciting to receive the attention of the narcissistic leader and to be part of his or her inner circle you can actually start to believe that this gives you the ability to be honest and direct with the narcissistic leader even talking to them as though they are your friend but the third cue that you are working for a narcissistic leader is that you are not as special as you think one head of HR that is a longtime client of ours had an experience with her CEO boss who clearly fits with the profile of a narcissistic leader the two of them had worked closely together for about 18 months as she handled his complaints about his direct reports and dealt with difficult situations for him so that he didn't have to and even was aware of things going on his part in his personal life that others were not he gave her time and attention while others on the executive team complained about being ignored by the leader they had a great rapport and she felt confident in her relationship with him however this changed the moment she addressed with him that some of his behavior was the cause of dysfunction within the executive team and that his habit of picking one person on the team to blame for the issues firing them and moving on to scapegoat another was not helping the business she was effectively thrown out from that point on he avoided her refused to meet with her and ultimately she proposed her own exit from the firm while she handled the situation gracefully others having similar experiences with the CEO did not and found themselves having their reputations damaged and though recovery for themselves in their career very challenging with the narcissistic leader you become quickly aware that you only exist when they need something from you and that what you are feeling or experiencing is actually irrelevant to the relationship with them their lack of empathy means that they fail to see how they treat others and really don't care about those feelings I listened to a recent exchange between two executive team members both of whom are narcissistic leaders let's call them sue and will will recently join the organization taking over responsibilities that used to fall under Sue's control sue expected will to defer to her expertise and come to her for direction on what he was doing even though he doesn't report to her she refused to reach out to him in order to share her knowledge Will's perspective was that he knew what he was doing and so didn't need anything from her after all he was hired in for his expertise sue complained that he was being dismissive and devaluing her will didn't see what the issue it was he had a job to do he acknowledged that he forgets that other people exists and that he needs to stay connected with them I use this example as both of them couldn't see how the other was feeling nor did they really care the focus as it always is with narcissistic leaders is on their own agenda regardless of how other feels sue was not concerned with what it was that we'll was feeling coming into the new organization and working to support him she was only concerned about whether or not he was reflecting back and she and and making her feel superior on the flip side will acknowledging Cooley I forget people exist I don't really know that they're there because if I don't need them then I just need to get on with the business at hand as a result it when we've got individuals that are individual narcissistic leaders that are focused so much on their own agenda and not considering the impact on the people then what happens is is that you're included if you're useful to that agenda but otherwise you don't exist so what's the impact as a result what we see happening is a resentment and employees become passive aggressive in dealing with the narcissistic leader as is the case with Sue so she took the position of well he needs to come to me I don't need to go to him and so rather than working in the best interest of the organization each of them are driving it around their own agenda so the other thing that happens is is we watch employees who work for narcissistic leaders really because they become are so fearful of the reaction and what the narcissistic leader might do to them they actually allowed themselves to be used yelled at and otherwise humiliated and they stay with the narcissistic leader in order to keep trying to show that they actually do matter the reality is that good people are rarely suspicious of the behavior of others as a result they cannot imagine other people doing the things that they themselves are incapable of doing so when their narcissistic peers or boss constantly throw them under the bus when something goes wrong in order to deflect any blame or responsibility for themselves the purse left person left picking themselves up is often shocked by what just happened a few years ago I started working with an executive team and this was one of their favorite phrases they all accused each other of throwing them under the bus and they also talked about their direct reports doing the same to peers in other areas of the business often in front of their clients as a result of the their own behavior at the executive level one of the team in particular was constantly doing this to her teammates as I observed the dynamics in the group I could see that it would happen any time she was asked a question about something she was accountable for one conversation in particular went like this okay Lisa can you tell us where you're at with the launch of the new website design and whether it's back on track her response my team is totally behind getting out the proposals for our clients as Glenn's team hasn't given me the numbers I need Glen what's the problem as yours is as your team knew the deadlines we were working to see the deflection so poor Glen not only was blindsided but shifted to defend his team despite really not having any details in that meeting the rest of the leadership group just sat back in stunned silence turns out the website was yet again going to miss the launch deadline but the team never got this information as it moved on to the next item on the list after Lisa threw Glen under the bus one of my favorite lines that captures this aspect of the narcissistic leader is everything would be great if you would just expect less of me so really their non-performance is my fault as my expectations are too high so the impact of this behavior on any team is that it breaks breaks trust it builds resentment between team members and ultimately create silos in the organization they fracture the cohesiveness on the team and caused people to take sides of them around them take the sides around them as I showed you with the example of my the executive team that I was working with where people shift as a result of being thrown under the by this behavior it's really tough to build alignment around organizational or team objectives when you have a narcissistic driving their own agenda and reflecting responsibility or deflecting responsibility for their area because they need to win they create power struggles with team members or the team leader they're disruptive during meetings they may even show up late discounted and really ultimately they are slighted and so using their emotions which is what throwing people under the bus is all about is really about driving further conflict on the team so they can be untouched in the process so finally our last clue that you are working for a narcissistic leader is that you are never raped this might be the easiest one to catch because it doesn't matter the topic the situation your expertise or even the leaders expertise it's simple you're just never raped a client of mine a long time HR VP recently went through the experience of getting a new boss who was brought into a fast-growing company as the CEO oh he had never been a CEO before nor did he have any experience in their particular industry in fact he really didn't have much that would recommend him for this job except he convinced the CEO entrepreneur to give it to him so here we are about six months into the role and significant issues have begun to emerge and turnover in the company has skyrocketed ratings on glass door which had historically always been positive now we're increasingly negative as the VP HR my client presented options as to how to deal with what was happening while keeping it objective so as not to infer blame on the new CEO each time he told her there was no issue she was overreacting and being too emotional and that he knew how to handle the situation better than she did in fact he argued with her on everything from the purpose of the HR function and would constantly ask her questions to prove her expertise that really had nothing to do with the actual business needs almost she were being tested in an academic environment he would tell her how to do her job he would tell her what the right answers were that she should be giving him all of this behavior was to put her in her place today this CEO has lost 75% of the leadership team that was in place when he took on the role in each case he is refusing to bring in experienced candidates choosing instead to downgrade roles from VP to director the limited capacity of the narcissistic leader for sharing the limelight causes them to devalue others to ensure their place at the top they want to be king or queen of the castle and they want to always be right so they ensure their domain allows this to happen driven by the belief that their way is the better way this leader does their own thing at the expense of the organisation and organizational alignment as with all the other dysfunctional self protective behaviors of the narcissistic leader this creates organizational silos and it forces competent confident people to leave the organization at great cost of the business and of course my HR client is now residing in a new organisation where she can actually bring her expertise to the table and and have her be valued and be listened to in the role given the great expertise she brings to the organisation I hope you found this session informative and clarified for you how to determine if you are working with a narcissistic leader the impact of their dysfunctional self protective behaviors are profound and we have seen many an example of organizations that have imploded as a result of the narcissistic leader at its helm want to learn more check out our webinar on how to survive the narcissistic leader in which we give you specific strategies for keeping your confidence intact as well as how to change the behavior of our narcissistic leaders thank you for your interest at calibre we specialize and helping individuals and organizations to achieve their potential through our customized approaches to development and organizational effectiveness we look forward to your feedback and hope you will return to check out our other webinars and articles or sign up for some of our live events thanks again

Maurice Vega

23 Responses

  1. Cummins Allison 852 Feehanville Drive 60056 Fire Honest People that do not want to stylus whip Preventative Maintenance Tickets that Customers Purchase (PAY GOOD MONEY FOR) and use an excuse to try to ruin Great Employee's Credibility. "IT" SUXX !

  2. this video is unhelpful and sounds like it was made by a narcissist because it talks about them as if we need to deal with them AS IF they can be changed. They can't! bullshit video.

  3. Oh yes, a chaotic, dirty, messy, non productive environment! And I’ve just had an offer from their biggest competitor, well ran and growing. lol.

  4. I would like to know ur credentials because u do not understand narcissistic personality disorder. two of the determining factors are lack of empathy and remorse which can be picked up on a brain scan of those with NPD. What u are describing is a personality disorder. You can ask any leader in this field and the success rate for behavioral change is Nill. In fact when they do receive therapy they take what they learn and apply it in their lives to become more manipulative so they actually get worse

  5. I was such a fool. I truly believed I was valued and special. I know my work performance is exemplary as I was told. The second I stood up for myself, I was humiliated, given the silent treatment and never thanked or recognized again. I tried to communicate, but it failed. Although I was loyal and excelled, I felt guilty, ashamed and like a failure. I forgave myself because I did not know any better. Now, I know. It is horrible, horrible, horrible to know they hold power over you bc they sign your check.

  6. Omg! My evil job coach is like that towards me do u know how can I replace her cus I really hate her a lot she's a mean bitch I can stand that evil witch! She criticizes me and makes fun of me if I don't do the job right. And I have a disability so yeah!

  7. No, I don't feel like I'm walking on eggshells I just hate being criticized by my job coach who I can't get her off my back I think she either is a narcissit or she has histronic personality disorder.

  8. Omg! Where I work at right now the way way the place was set up was so confusing to me I mean I didn't know where to start I mean with the cleaning up the chairs and the bottom it was confusing how they set me up to me saying that I'm a hostess when in fact I'm just a mantance. I mean I'm starting to think this job were I go to a scam.

  9. We're currently dealing with one. In the seven years I've worked for this company. The new CEO portrays himself to be very charismatic, religious, and your buddy. He has had tirades in meetings asking a question if we don't like it here why are we still here? Since his start date of 2014 … Over 20 people some with 20 plus years with the company have been fired or forced out. Here two weeks ago he fired a man just before Christmas that has a very young family. This is a religious man , remember .The so called new ideas and micromanagement he has isn't working. We are walking on eggshells. And it sucks.

  10. People with NPD have five or more of the nine traits associated with narcissism, and display them on a consistent enough basis for them to be 'part of who they are' and predicted by those who know them. Nothing they do surprises them. The worse types – covert or overt – can cause unimaginative damage to those closest to them with on-going destructive patterns of behaviour. People who are merely narcissistic may have fewer than five traits consistently, or have more than five witnessed throughout life but only display during specific times of stress or incident based patterns but the 'real them' as people tend to know them is not someone who you would consider to be mentally unhealthy as a rule. They have and keep friends and family and can and are willing to change if they are confronted with criticism and they feel that it is warranted. Those who are NPD would rather believe everyone close to them is nuts or mentally disfunctional than face up to the problem.They never heal or even recognise a problem. Wise people tend not to confront them with their NPD for fear of retribution on an unimaginable scale or even tragic consequences like suicide. Their sickness is evident to all who know them well except to themselves.

  11. Way to put them on pedistal. They will actually run down the business by raging or covert abuse of others. The work place will be unproductive and revolving doors will never stop. And NPD has no cure aka no therapy or medication can help them change. That is why it is called a disorder rather than an illness. You need to do more research and getting rid of narc people in the office. They do not change, they become more covert and are likr addicts, they will need to escalate the behavior in order to get high from abusing others. You are actually making them worse by letting them stick around. Thus putting the environment and others in zombie mode in order to function.

    Actually for normal people, ceos putting others down does not make them look better but worse. Lady you are way off here.

  12. Narcissists can't change their behavior. Where is this idea coming from?? Any person who has endured serious narcissistic abuse whether personally or professionally knows that they can't accept that they have a problem and therefore cannot change their toxic behaviors.

    I love the idea of having faith in these people. I truly do. I have put forth years of serious effort in trying to do so but it is never to any positive end result. Sadly. The problems for these individuals are deep-seeded. We have to learn how to put up barriers, protections, and put our emotional safety first. That's all any of us can do. And document, document, document.

    The only way to "deal" with them is to lie… pretend it's okay, appease their ego undeservedly, and put your personal integrity on the back-burner.

  13. A narcissistic leader is a narcissist in the sense of mental disorder or one with to strong narcissistic traits. They can simply not change. it sounds rather like you are talking about a leader with some narcissistic traits.

  14. The best way to survive a narcissistic boss or organization is to leave.  Start our own business.  You can check this organization out on the BBB and all over the web.  This is how happy millionaires are made.

  15. +Caliber Leadership Systems Do you have something against men? Do you think poorly of men? It would be good to know when there are SO MANY negative stereotypes if men.

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