Dealing With Narcissistic Leaders!

Narcissistic leadership is a leadership style in which the leader is only interested in him or herself. Their priority is themselves – at the expense of their people/group members. This leader exhibits the characteristics of a narcissist: arrogance, dominance and hostility. It is a sufficiently common leadership style that it has acquired its own name. “–Wikipedia


Let’s look at the primary characteristics of narcissistic personalities.  And get some ideas on how to deal with them.

A Visionary Leader

In the positive spectrum of narcissistic leadership, these leaders understand the importance of having a vision, seeing the big picture and attempting to turn vision into reality.  However, narcissistic leaders have a strong need to be admired, believe they are special and have unique ability to conquer the world.  They believe they are better than others.  In the narcissistic leadership style, they are only interested in themselves, even to the detriment to others.

It’s All About Me!

The first thing you’ll notice when dealing with a true narcissist is that Nothing Is About You.  Nothing is ever about someone else. Everything is about the narcissist only.  No matter what you do, expect to be given little or no credit.  If you fail, your failure will be couched in terms of how it hurts or negatively impacts the NIC (Narcissist-In-Chief).

So, simply steel yourself against it.  If you need validation or an “attaboy,” seek it from someone else in the company.  It will be a rare day indeed that you get one from your NIC.


This can be both a blessing and a curse.  If you happen to be working on your narcissistic boss’ top project of the moment, you’ll get his undivided attention when you bring something to him that relates to the project.

If you’re working on anything but his current “top priority,” then sending communications about it will be sending messages into a black hole.  Don’t expect a response.  You won’t get one.  If you need assistance, you’ll have to rely on your own network of connections.  So build yours!


Narcissistic leaders are fiercely competitive. They take competition seriously and will relentlessly pursue victory because losing is not an option to them.  They are capable of focusing on whatever it takes to win and ignoring everything and everyone.

You’ve got to have thick skin to work for a narcissist.  They can lash out, at random, at anyone within earshot.  There’s really no proper defense against this, except to steel yourself against it, and keep your head down till the current storm blows over.

Everybody’s A Critic

Narcissists are sensitive to harsh criticism.  They can be abrasive with those who dare to disagree or voice a negative opinion. To the narcissist, everybody is a critic on some level. But the harshest critic is a narcissist.  If you don’t do whatever it is you’re doing exactly the way your narcissistic boss would have done it, you will sure hear about it. Loudly.  Frequently.

Defend yourself by learning how your narcissistic boss thinks, works, operates, and creates.  Once you know that, you’ll be able to mimic his moves, and deliver the end result he’s looking for fairly consistently.  Which he, of course, will take credit for.

Attention Must be Paid To Me!

The narcissist broadcasts his latest “Big Idea” and how fantastic it is, so expect to hear about that often.  The more attentively you seem to listen, the more often you’ll be called on to listen.  There’s a bit of an art form here.  Pay attention, sure.  But not too much attention.  If you appears overly interested, you’ll spend all your time listening to the latest list of achievements.  And fall behind in your own work.

A Sense of Entitlement

This won’t impact your day to day work but it will shade and color almost every personal interaction with your narcissistic boss.  You’ve seen this a thousand times.  The narcissist is owed and deserves, well…everything.  If he doesn’t get it, you can expect a tantrum.

What if you’re not used to being around that sort of person?  And can’t just let it roll off your back?  The best tactic is to minimize your personal interactions with your boss as much as you are able.

I Don’t Want To Hear It!

Finally, no matter how constructively you try to offer it, you can expect that your boss will view any criticism or disagreement about his plans or agenda with suspicion, if not outright hostility. Depending on exactly how narcissistic your boss is, the “Wolf Pack” strategy might work.  Offer the feedback as a group rather than alone.  If enough of his own people are against his latest plans and schemes, he just might listen to reason.

The boss may be more receptive to feedback from the “many” than the “only.” On the other hand, if you’re an old hand at dealing with this personality type, you already know how to ride out the anger and still manage to get your point across.  So, just keep doing what you’re doing.

Put things in perspective.  No matter how you slice it, dealing with a narcissistic personality can range from being a challenge to being an obstacle.  The interesting thing, though, is that quite often narcissists can really be quite brilliant.  They might not always be right.  But, they’re right often enough to make it seem a little spooky, and that can make the hassle of working with them worth it.  It does take a lot of patience and fairly thick skin to do it in the longer term though, so brace yourself.  If your boss is a narcissist, you’ll be in for a fairly bumpy ride.

Sometimes you have to let go just to hold on to your sanity.  There are people that have mastered making you believe you’re the crazy one.” – Quotes on Pinterest

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