Are narcissists good leaders in business and communications?
09/06/2023 • Profession news
Narcissism as a term in everyday communication is mainly used to express a pathological form of self-love, which creates a false image of oneself with the experience of omnipotence, excessive pride, expressed perfectionism, a strong motive for achievement and maintaining one's self-esteem by all possible means. Seen from the point of view of business and career, the only problem in the previous definition is the concept of “false image”, all other qualities could be characterized as desirable in the business world, i.e. as something that could be the initiator or trigger of an entrepreneurial, innovative spirit in an individual. This is exactly what has led many psychotherapists in recent years, especially those in the field of business coaching, to wonder if narcissists are actually destined to be leaders and if this is a role that was simply created for them. However, the conclusions they reach mostly revolve around the platitude that “all leaders are narcissists, but not every narcissist can become a leader”.
In order to understand how narcissism really manifests itself in the business world and through communication, Kliping agency contacted Ksenija Mijatović, Master psychologist and certified integrative psychotherapist, who, among other things, also deals with business coaching, and asked her if narcissism can have a positive side at all and manifest itself as such through business communication:
“Narcissism is an inseparable part of the concept we call ‘self-image’, which manifests itself through the relationship a person has with oneself, and from which various other personality traits, as well as behavioral models, arise, so you will often hear in professional circles that one speaks of ‘developmental narcissism’. How narcissism will develop, in a positive or negative direction, depends on many factors: the family environment, the degree of intensity of traumatic experiences as well as their continuity, and much more. What is important is that narcissism is fundamentally neither good nor bad.”
Narcissism is necessary for the development of every person
Whatever it is, Ksenija explains, narcissism is necessary for the development of every person, and points out the difference between bad and good narcissism:
“Narcissism becomes bad when it develops in the direction of narcissism that we call GRANDIOUS (it is characterized by arrogance, self-aggrandizement through baseless self-praise, abusing other people to fulfill one's own needs, lack of empathy...). There is also VULNERABLE narcissism, which is also called fragile or covert narcissism, which is also extreme in a negative sense. It is more difficult to recognize, but it also leads to dysfunctional behaviors. It is characterized by hypersensitivity and the tendency of the person to enter the role of the victim. On the other hand, HEALTHY NARCISSISM is reflected in a person's capacity to want more from oneself, from one’s life, to want to progress and develop. To love life and people, to know what is acceptable for one and what is not, and to stand behind it. Although I have mentioned the two extremes of the continuum called narcissism, the most important thing is not to place it exclusively in a negative context.”
Self-promoter or narcissist
What is indisputable is the fact that the best self-promoters are those who harbor narcissistic tendencies. This often makes them arrogant, but mostly efficient and successful. However, we mostly notice that grandiose narcissism, which our interlocutor confirms:
“We can recognize it very easily through insolence in behavior and communication, lack of respect for the interlocutor, these are mostly people who are ready for anything (truths and untruths), without scruples and integrity, as young people would colloquially say - anything is possible. I am afraid that we are witnessing a time in which we see the majority of such.”
However, not all narcissists are like that, those who cultivate healthy narcissism are very good at business communication. As they are good self-promoters, they can also successfully sell their product, which makes them suitable for media appearances and PR work, which Ksenija agrees with:
“In answer to the first question, I mentioned you that there is also something that we can call a ‘healthy’ dose of narcissism that is necessary for certain professions, and that is that you have no problem being exposed, that you like it, that you can cope with it, that you are ready to stand up for yourself and that you want more for yourself. That's why such people do well in promotional work, because everything they do, they do with ease in terms of exposure to the world and people.”
It is generally characteristic of narcissists that they are not afraid to talk about themselves and what they do, that they demand the right reward for their efforts, and usually do not let obstacles and rejection stop them in their ambitions. Narcissism, if healthy and controlled, can motivate them to push forward their subordinates, which is why it is actually believed that they can be good leaders who motivate their employees, because they know exactly what they want and are excellent at rejecting people who move them away from their personal goal, while in contrast, they care and protect equally well those who contribute to their success.
Steve Jobs is probably the most successful known narcissist who did not hide the fact that he was such, as confirmed by his bibliographies and collaborators. His personality, as well as several other similar examples, shows how narcissism, although treated as a negative trait, can be put at the service of striving for perfectionism and achieving success. However, our interlocutor does not think that narcissism is the most important thing for Jobs' success:
“The basis of self-confidence is narcissism, and we know that people who made great things had to have that trait - of course, let's not forget that Hitler also had a certain image of himself, so we know what that looked like. Narcissism is a big and broad topic, but it all boils down to HOW and in what way it manifests itself. That's why it's important to be careful about sharing ‘labels’. Steve Jobs had a difficult character (temper, as they say in our country) and it was obvious through the way he communicated, but linking it to narcissism alone would not be true to the end. In understanding the human psyche, everything is latent and depends on the way it manifests, that's why we as psychotherapists develop a degree of refraining from placing people in ‘molds’ unless the diagnostic picture clearly indicates that it is a clinical picture, including a diagnosis. But if you ask me if there is a lot of dysfunction without a diagnosis, I would say: yes, you are right.”