Narcissistic Leadership: The Cult Leadership That Never Ends Well

If you didn’t realize you’ve been practicing narcissistic leadership on others all this while, then now is always a good time to change, especially if it involves the mental and emotional well-being of others.

Narcissistic leaders are self-absorbed and hold beliefs of entitlement and superiority, even while some are seemingly “kind” in appearance. However, their dead giveaway is that they easily get emotional and become rather aggressive in the face of criticism or conflicting opinions, regardless if it’s constructive or not. They’re inclined to validate their self-worth further by derogating others, lying, manipulating, gaslighting, and becoming abusive. It’s a mental condition they have little or no control over and can’t help being the way they are.

If you’re a narcissist and happy with it, then this advice will be meaningless and useless to you. However, if you’re not happy with it, therapy might help you develop coping strategies. And if you’re not a narcissist, but after reading this, you realize you have been practicing narcissistic leadership on others all this while, then now is always a good time to change, especially if it involves the mental and emotional well-being of others.

Listening: First competence of leadership

First and foremost, you will need to understand that leadership is also about being open to criticism, not just giving it. You’ll grow to become a better leader when you’re ready to become a better listener, even if opinions from others conflict with yours. If you digest opinions carefully, without allowing your ego to get in the way, you may find some gold nuggets to benefit you instead of just “blowing your top” by immediately reacting angrily to them.

Learning to make it safe for people to tell you the truth

Feedback and suggestions from others, even an offer to help, including from your team members either in a group or from an individual, may not always be in the context of what you like to hear, but they can be constructive coming from people who care for what is right and for what is just. If this makes you feel inadequate or less wise of a person simply because it came from your subordinates instead of your bosses, then you have a serious problem.

Bosses, managers, or leaders instantly become toxic to themselves and to others when they think they have the right to be stressed and angry with their staff to the point of causing emotional distress to them. This behavior, in return, also creates a toxic environment for everyone within the team. And it certainly doesn’t help to build a team of “leaders” not to be petrified of accountability. Such toxicity is even disguised in the name of having a “vision” for their team’s growth.

Organizational psychologist Adam Grant says, “Leaders who fail to listen ultimately find themselves surrounded by silence. You don’t get chosen to take charge unless you give good answers. You won’t be able to make changes unless you ask good questions. Learning depends on making it safe for people to tell you the truth”.

6 Questions to Create Psychological Safety with Your Team Members by Jean Marie DiGiovanna, Renaissance Leadership Program Developer

Cult leadership never ends well

So do give room for your staff to voice out their concerns. Respect and value your team for sharing their ideas and advice. Always make time to resolve conflicts and practice utmost patience to clarify doubts. It’s part of the discipline in being an ethical leader. Don’t intimidate and abuse your authoritative power to silence any of your team members while only welcoming praise and worship to feel glorified and victorious. Cult leadership never ends well.

Freedom of speech applies to everyone, so work things out with your team amicably instead of silencing them or pressuring an individual to leave the organization because they questioned your actions. You may be tempted to even cover up such matters by making up an emotional drama with petty excuses to deviate from addressing actual problems and to portray yourself as an innocent victim, but you can’t fool everyone (including your bosses) forever. And that is certainly not a trait of a good, level-headed and grounded leader.

Thinking Styles and their Consequences

If you really think hard about it, as cunning as you may think you are in fooling and taking advantage of people, it’s really not worth it. You will eventually be exposed for who you really are, and all your claims to be “transparent,” and whatnot will prove otherwise. Worst still, you may lose your job and end up in jail. And you certainly don’t want to get abducted, tortured, and murdered by some psychotic revengeful staff.

Just like Isaac Newton’s Third Law of Motion in the world of physics states, “For every action, there is an equal (in size) and opposite (in direction) reaction” — so does your thinking style that governs your action which you give out, and the reaction you get back in return. Therefore, it is crucial that you take Adam Grant’s advice: “One of the clearest signs of learning is rethinking your assumptions and revising your opinions”.

Hierarchy of Thinking Styles by Adam Grant, Organizational Psychologist

Dark Empath Leader

Cult leaders are even more dangerous when they possess dark empathy. Dark empathy is related to narcissism as a part of the “dark triad” — the malevolent personality types of narcissismMachiavellianism, and psychopathy states, “unlike narcissists, who are traditionally known for being very low in empathy, dark empaths have a high ability to cognitively empathize—for their personal gain.”

As mentioned earlier, if you’re unhappy with possessing such negative personality traits, therapy might help you develop coping strategies. The video below sums up how dangerous and toxic dark empaths are, both to themselves and especially to others:

And last but not least, the advice from the two videos below will certainly do you good if you can accept them and make this positive change in your life. I wish you all the best.

5 signs someone is a narcissist you must not ignore:

3 personality mistakes you must avoid:

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