The Coach's Corner

Is a narcissistic leader a bad leader?

February 3rd, 2014 // Tom Doescher //
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In our last blog, we suggested that in an effort to grow and develop as a leader, it’s important to read books and listen to folks who have different points of view. Our latest example comes from reading Narcissistic Leaders by Michael Maccoby. He presents a pretty compelling case, and explains why what he calls “productive narcissistic leaders” have made significant contributions to the world. Maccoby, a psychoanalyst born in 1933, would label the following individuals as productive narcissistic leaders: Abraham Lincoln, Henry Ford, John D. Rockefeller, Herb Kelleher, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, and Jack Welch, among others. He calls them “change the world” personalities, and says they have the following strengths: a vision for changing the world, independent thinking, a willingness to take risks, passion, and charisma. They are/were also voracious learners, knew how to persevere, were alert to threats, and possessed a sense of humor.

Probably what most of us observe are their weaknesses, which Maccoby would list as: not listening, oversensitivity to criticism, paranoia, anger, putting down others, a sense of over-competitiveness, over-control, isolation, exaggeration, lying, lack of self-knowledge, and grandiosity. In our August 21, 2012, Food For Thought article entitled “Was Steve Jobs a Great — or Even a Good — Leader?” we discussed many of these weaknesses. We also pointed out that Jobs changed six industries, including personal computers, phones, tablet computing, music, digital publishing, and animated movies.

For those of you who are working with a productive narcissistic leader, we would highly recommend that you take a look at Maccoby’s book. In our next blog, we’ll consider his tips for successfully working with a productive narcissistic leader.

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Tom DoescherYou’ll find stories from the trenches, business lessons, and pertinent questions to help you find inspiration, professional growth, and leadership savvy.

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