By | August 12, 2012 17 Comments

Can narcissists become leaders?

An article in Harvard Business Review says that narcissists make poor leaders. I’d agree with that. Then the article claims that through mentorship, companies can transform high-achievers with narcissistic traits into quality leaders. What do you think? Is it possible? Read:

Narcissism: The difference between high achievers and leaders, on

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Donna, thank you for posting this interesting article. It’s almost an oxymoron to note that narcissists make poor leaders, but can be “mentored” into leaders of quality.

I disagree that narcissists can be re-educated. If they want to un-learn and re-educate themselves, they may have the ability to do this, but the work involved would be hard, harsh, and lengthy – as in, years-lengthy.

I’ll have to pass this article along to a friend who has a current boss who is an absolute malignant narcissist. I don’t see how he will maintain his position, because he has deliberately harmed so many, many people and is unable to keep up with his lies. He’s not all that clever, he was just “charming” at the outset, and his mask has fallen too many times to ignore the ghastly thing behind that mask.

Again, thank you for the interesting article.

Brightest blessings


Yes I have to agree with Truth. Re educating narcissists is a contradiction in terms. How would organisations measure success? Oh yeh, he/she is so much more compassionate so much less insecure.

Having experienced the “management” skills of these people, I am sceptical. Although I do work in the public sector where the reputation for dealing with crap management is poor to non existent.

People lie to get jobs in senior management. Fact. I have recently had to find myself another job as the school was closed by the local authority…..One of the senior leaders told me I might have to lie in order to make sure I secured further employment. I rest my case.

These people are employed because they make the right noises, don’t appear to rock the boat and brown nose their superiors. Sheesh, they’re narcissists! There’s no hope as far as I’m concerned.

Interesting article, Donna. Wonder if the person who wrote it is a narcissist?


Strongawoman, I cannot count the number of times that I’ve heard even the most trustworthy people say, “Sometimes, you have to lie to get anywhere,” with regard to any assistance, any position, anything…..

I’m at a point where I’m facing homelessness with my son. There are no resources or agencies that can “assist” us, other than the homeless shelter. If I am truthful about being a homeowner (even though the property is in foreclosure), I am not eligible for any type of assistance. If I am dishonest about my “assets,” then I’ll be as much of a liar as anyone else. This is a personal quandary that I cannot resolve, either way. On one hand, we’re in desperate need. On the other hand, even though we’re in desperate need, we don’t “qualify” if I am truthful. WTF?!?!

No wonder our society is breeding more and more narcissists and spaths. That line in the movie, “Wall Street,” has become a reality: greed is good.



Just had a look at a book that the author of this article has written. I quote:

“To perform their best in precisely such an atmosphere of multiple, ill-defined and ongoing threats to the enterprise’s survival, a leader must possess a highly unusual set of attributes that often run counter to natural, human behaviour.”

Hmm, wonder what “attributes” they could be?


Yeh Truthy,

That is a massive quandary. You are talking desperate times requiring desperate measures, however. I suppose it poses the question, when is it ok to lie?

To protect youself and your son what else can you do? The only thing I would worry about is if they found out you had a property, even though it’s in foreclosure. Would you then be in breach of your agreement and be back to square 1?


Strongawoman, LOL!!! There was a self-proclaimed sociopath that wrote an article that was posted on this site a long while back. This person, whether they were truly a socipath, or not, extolled the “attributes” of sociopaths as being a vital part of the human experience.

Of course, this article was extremely triggering for many readers, and the responses varied from righteous indignation to hilarity.

What is interesting is that, on this site (and, others), most posts can be interpreted, over time, as manipulations and so forth, and readers eventually just tune them out until they disappear in search of easier prey. But, for me, Real Life situations cause more confusion about a person’s intentions than Online Life.

And, the fact that the article even suggests that there’s some way to “fix” what’s broken through outside intervention is absurd. A narcissist can fix what ails them, absolutely, but the chances of that are very, very, very slim. Nobody, narcissist or otherwise, will ever make lifelong changes unless they want to do it, themselves. Period. Even intervention in alcoholic families doesn’t typically work because the alcoholic is being pressured into engagin in healing. It’s not coming from a desire to stop the insanity, but a demand that they see and hear the pain and anguish of their loved ones and, because of this, they’ll heal themselves. It just isn’t all that successful.

Narcissism intervention? ROTFLMAO!!! Uh……


Strongawoman, we must have posted over one another. That’s the thing….I’ve heard many people actually say those words, “Desperate times call for desperate measures.” Is it okay to lie? I have never believed that it was okay. But, it must be “okay” to tell someone that they look nice in an outfit that is clearly 4 sizes too small for them and wholly unsuited for their frame to avoid hurting their feelings, right? Is this where it gets muddy, or is the whole issue of lies vs. truth a muddy stream?

I just don’t know, today. I only know that the colleague and his g/f have done a horrible number on my son and myself, and I don’t know how to continue coping with this situation and sort out a better one.


Oxy has a good outlook on whether complimenting someone to not hurt their feelings constitutes a lie. But she’s not here. Hope she’s recovering….I know you’ve asked Truth.
Personally, no it’s not the same IMHO. You tell someone they look nice even though they don’t because, fundamentally you don’t want to hurt them. Hmm, the spath, interestingly, thought it was never ok to lie even in the complimenting situ. But that’s another story ……

kim frederick

The problem with Narcissists, in general, is that they are always driven soley by self-interest. The author is spot on, as far as that goes, and he asserts that by appealing to the N’s self-interest, a mentor can turn him into a successful leader, well, maybe for a while. Just wait til it comes down to brass tacks. The N’s self-interest will always rear it’s ugly head, when push comes to shove.


I don’t have to read the article to know a narcissist can’t be turned into a good leader… Good leaders know how to not always lead, how to coax natural followers into taking initiative (and that’s not by appearing above them), etc… Good leaders must be very good in switching roles in order to get others to work in team for the best interest of the people of the team, not him or herself.

The narcissism the author seems to talk about is not imo the NPD one. He seems to think of egocentrists or something. It’s like the thinks that with a good work coach they can get over the narcissism. He makes it sound easy. He therefore doesn’t recognize how stuck narcissists are in their ego-shit


okay, i confess…i haven’t read the article yet…..
I had an new executive director come on-board at my last job. On about our 10th meeting he told me he was a ‘reformed narcissist’. uh. no.

who sayssss that?????


i have not read it either 1steprs, I am a follower not a leader, guess that
s why i keep gettin lead into so much deep chit.


I read the article and found it a little confusing. Basically, I believe the noun “narcissist” is just a nice way of calling someone a “psychopath” which apparently is offensive to many.

I think we are splitting hairs between a narc and a psychopath. They are both “conscienceless” individuals. Naricissim is the common denominator with pathology.

I found the article poorly written. I think that many leaders are psychopath and in fact, contribute to the crimes that continue to undercover in our government and other business entities.

We have learned to count on these types to run our schools, sports organizations, churches, law enforcement, and government entities. Then we are ALL appalled when they steal, lie or rape innocent people.

Of course, these disordered ones are GREAT at mirroring OUR values. This mirroring garners them the “trusted” positions that WE place them in our culture.

As far as “training” pathology to be “better” as a leader is like asking the fox to guard the hen house. Not EVER going to happen. Evil doesnt change it’s color – never, ever.

As long as we continue to believe in these “leaders” that show us their dark side, we will continue to struggle with all of the damage they create within our society on a daily basis.

I tend to agree with most of your statements. This one I’d like to qualify a bit.

I think a narcissist is the root of psychopathy so in a sense you are right. They are both infantile, and feel entitled to do whatever benefits them most.

I think the difference is the mask. The mask of the spath is 180 degrees the opposite of what they present. So, the spath will become a priest or a police officer or a judge. They will tend to the sick and dying. They present themselves as humble and caring. They often work as psychologists and therapists. All of this is carefully considered on their part, so that they will never be suspected of being evil. A spath is literally, Dr. Jeckyl and Mr. Hyde. Remember Ted Bundy.

A narcissist doesn’t bother hiding too much. Sure they will pretend to care when it suits them but often they just let it all hang out and tell you that they are special and the rules don’t apply to them. The narcissist wears a mask but resents it. A spath LOVES his mask. It is the source of his duper’s delight.

A narcissist wants money, fame, fortune, adoration. A spath really just wants you to suffer. To them that is justice.

A spath is a trickster. He wants to show you that you are a worm, powerless and everything you ever believed in was a lie. In other words, he wants you to become like him. He is pure evil and is fixated on your descent into hell.

A narcissist is just selfish. They really don’t care about you, they just want your supply.

Someone on sociopath world posted an interesting analogy. I’ll try to find it. It took me a few months to understand it.

Here it is:

Narcissist wolf says to everyone:
“I’m a sheep, I’m a sheep, I’m in the sheep club. The sheep are the best. Those wolves are terrible. You have to be a special sheep to be in the high-wool club like me. If you don’t believe I’m a sheep then you are calling me a liar. I was only eating meat because my boss made me do it. I was howling at the moon because you made me angry. I have always been a sheep. You are paranoid, I don’t have canine teeth. You are imagining it. I’m a sheep. I won best sheep of the year award. We have to be on the look out for SueTarget. She’s a wolf in sheeps’ clothing. I am the one that did all the work. SueTarget messed it all up. SueTargets’s fur looks fake. I’m the biggest sheep so I should be the boss. I have every right to punish SueTarget and eat her. It will be good for her, and teach her a lesson. I’m not doing it for me, I’m doing it for the team. I have to be the enforcer here and eat bad sheeps to help keep society clean. I used to be a vegetarian but because all these lazy sheep won’t do anything, I am forced into keeping order and forced into being the bad guy and have to do all the eating of sheep.”

Sociopath wolf says:
“Become the sheep. Believe you are the sheep. Keep the wolf hidden. Don’t act like a narcissist and don’t try to “talk your way”. Become the sheep. Do sheep things. Behave like sheep. No one will see the wolf. Baa baa baa. Eat grass for a while. Give up meat for a while. Tell the sheep things that will make them feel good about themselves. Gain their trust. Be humble. Make them the center of attention. Get them to lower their defenses. Tell them you lost your teeth in a car accident and your parents could only afford wolf-teeth replacements. Keep past a secret so they don’t research. Let them do all the talking. Then when the time is right, devour! It is worth the sacrifice and the wait. Then on a polygraph when they ask if I am a sheep, I will have all the sheep memories because I became a sheep. I have memories of eating grass and living like a sheep. I’m telling the truth.”

Yes, they are both toxic, but the spath is more frightening because you don’t figure it out until you are in his jaws. The red flags must be heeded at all times. The spath will always be the LAST person you expected. The shock alone could kill you. When I found out what my spath was, I lost 20 lbs in 20 days. And I was eating. But my heart rate was skyrocketing non-stop, even while I slept.

Edit, I thought you might be intersted in some of the comments from the spaths, narcs and victims.
Here’s the link.

I think you can never learn too much about the human condition. This thread is what I’d consider an advanced class.

Ox Drover

Skylar that is an interesting quote…..thanks for posting it.

I think there are LEVELS of Narcistic thinking and behavior as well as with psychopathy….it isn’t just an “either/or” situation. Dr. Baron-Cohen’s book on empathy and LEVELS of empathy (or lack of it) makes perfect sense to me. Plus, we can CONTROL our empathy and our responses to it. If we couldn’t control it, we would gather up every homeless person and homeless dog or cat and move them all into our homes. We have to limit our empathic expressions in order to protect ourselves.

Strongawoman, I think (just my opinion) that a “social lie” to keep from hurting someone’s feelings is not “wrong” in the sense it is not meant to hurt them,, but to avoid hurting them.

Example: someone has a new dress that they are so proud of and it really in your opinion looks hideous, when they ask “how do you like my dress?” What are you going to say “it looks hideous”? No, I think the KINDEST thing is to say something like, “that color looks nice on you” or something else but don’t say it looks awful.

If the person REALLY wants your opinion, then say something like “well, I’d pick something a little less daring” or something along that line.

Or if someone invites you to a party and you really don’t want to go, you don’t say “I don’t want to go to your party because it is going to be boring” you say instead “well, I have other plans” when maybe those other “plans” are to stay home and watch TV.

That is just social politeness I think. But that is just my opinion.

Yeah, I’ll definitely have to send you the Youtube of the aspie guy. You’re going to love it.


I read your post and thought about how it compared to my experiences with not ONE but TWO pathological men. Both of my experiences were the same but different.

I think that the 21 signs of a psychopath are the same as the signs for a psychopath. Sandra L Brown explains in her book “How to Spot a Dangerous Man” that NO man needs to have everything on a list. ONE trait can cause “inevitable harm” to a woman.

I believe that BOTH of my husbands were psychopathic. One was the in your face type with abuse and the other one was like a cat – stalking it’s prey. They both create “inevitable harm” to all around them.

Look at Bernie Madoff and Drew Peterson. They both wore masks and they both hurt people. One is an alleged murderer and the other the supreme “con” man.

I think they both are the same – just a different justification for their behaviors. One of the common denominators for both “narcissism.”

This makes sense to me. We have a long way to go in our culture about mental illness and personality disorders and I am planning to be one of the women that makes that change.

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