“Leadership is a potent combination of strategy and character. But if you must be without one, be without the strategy.”
- General H. Norman Schwarzkopf
This is Part 4 of "How the Mighty Fail", based on "Driving Straight on Crooked Lines" I'd like to suggest you read the first three parts and then this installement. One builds upon the other.
Narcissism is closely linked to charisma and the personalized use of power. It is correlated with destructive leadership. Narcissists share some of the following traits:
5. Selfish pursuit of pleasure.
My CEO was dogged for years by allegations that he sexually molested young men entrusted to his care, had affairs with women and was a drug addict. He was a world traveler, much of his travel apparently more related to his own pleasure than the pursuit of his organizational goals. He evaded sanction thanks in large part to the privileged status granted him by the late Pope John Paul II, orchestrated by influential supporters in the Vatican. Think of the Pope as the “Chairman of the Board” for the sake of this business-case. Only in 2006 did John Paul's successor, Benedict XVI, discipline my former by boss – who by then was 85 years old.
During my time with him, he rarely showed vulnerability, and I don’t think he fully recognized the shortcomings of his personality, and therefore didn’t deal well with his dark side. He showed signs of an exaggerated sense of self-worth, he was quite convinced of his uniqueness, and he sought the admiration from those around him. Every request he made had to be taken care of immediately. Dealing with such a self-absorbed individual was tiring and emotionally draining. The narcissist doesn’t really care about you, so you have to put your personal needs on hold.
I suspected my boss’s excessive self-belief might have led him close to some psychopathic form of narcissism, where he couldn’t live without constant admiration. A leader, who has derailed, believing in his own ‘infallibility’ can lead his followers over a cliff, even when they’ve received warnings from others. My boss never tolerated challenges to his leadership. He acted as if he were irreplaceable. The individuals whom he groomed to be directors and managers weren’t usually the most personable or talented individuals. He picked them based on their piety and unquestioning acceptance of his authority. He surrounded himself with people who thought he was unparalleled.
Robert Hogan and his associates mention other contributing factors to destructive leadership. These include parental discord, low socioeconomic status, paternal criminality, maternal psychiatric disorder, and child abuse - common themes for exploitive adults.
Childhood hardships, in the makeup of the destructive leader can also lead to an “ideology of hate.” This may be the case of those whose self-hatred is turned outwards.