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Leadership and Narcissistic Personality Disorder

By Dr. Matin Royeen Ph.D

Introduction: The dictionary defines narcissism as excessive interest in self-admiration or self-adulation.  According to Mayo Clinic, Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) is a mental condition in which individuals have inflated, distorted and pseudo high self-image by masking their real fragile and vulnerable self-esteem and deep insecurities.  Some signs and symptoms of NPD include:

  • Exaggerated sense of self importance, excessive need for admiration and to be worshipped by followers and people.
  • Preoccupied with power, lacks empathy and belittles others in order to satisfy ego needs.
  • Cannot stand criticism and disagreements, ready to insult others when things do not go according to his/her wishes and has difficulty managing emotions.

Some underlying causes of Narcissistic Personality Disorder could be attributed to problems in the family upbringing (disconnect in parent-child relationship), genetic components and  brain based neurobiology related problems,  It is important that individuals with NPD receive professional help to deal with complications related to interpersonal relationships, vulnerability to drugs and alcohol, depression and physical health problems.

National Leaders with Narcissistic Characteristics:  Narcissism (falling in love with their own pseudo- perfect self) is a common phenomenon among some leaders around the world.   Leaders have a tremendous  amount of influence on followers and their ill-guided behaviors motivated by populism, distortion of truth and manipulation of public sentiments can have poisonous social consequences in a nation.   On the superficial level, charisma, charm and persuasion techniques promoting misinformation and conspiracy theories by narcissistic leaders could become very convincing for the followers.  On a deeper level, the ingrained insecurities and greed for power and fame at any cost, only exemplify the psychopathology of an unhealthy individual.  Let us examine some specific traits displayed by these leaders.

  • They feel they are unique and feel entitled to privileges.  They work hard to manipulate others by demanding loyalty and unconditional support as rights afforded to them.
  •  They lack empathy and are devoid of any emotional support to others.  Yet, they meet their own emotional needs by being the central focus of the followers’ support and admiration.
  • Their charm and Charisma attract followers and the authoritarian populism of leadership style captivate followers in a “cult-like” manner.  There is always a segment of society who  identify with this type of leader because of their emotional vulnerability.  Thus, the followers develop a strong sense of identification with a narcissist leader who becomes the object of the admiration and source of their collective voice for defending grievances. 
  • Narcissistic leaders’ vision attracts the followers who are ready to become part of the empire.

Some  Behavioral Characteristics of Narcissistic Leaders:

  1. They often mask the truth by lying and exaggerating their accomplishments.
  • They claim to be perfect by hiding their flaws.  They become very aggressive and belligerent when criticized.
  • They project and protect their false image of portraying themselves as successful, powerful and perfect.
  • They break rules and cross boundaries as they are above the law.  They always try to get away and avoid being accountable for doubvious deeds.
  • They enjoy spreading false rumors by provoking followers sentiments against opposition.  They have mastered the art  of feeding conspiracy theories to their followers against the establishment.
  • The narcissistic leaders are well versed in the art of manipulation in order to advance their own interests and needs without any regard for the welfare of others.

President Trump’s Narcissism:  The United States post election Presidential chaos and confusion masterminded by the conspiratorial nature of President Trump, has spread the seeds of doubt not only in the validity of a fair election, but also in the legitimacy of a democratic system in the United States.  Promoting dissonance among supporters by calling the election “rigged and fraudulent” will not only further polarize a divided nation, but also will undermine President-elect Biden’s administration to serve all Americans regardless of their political affiliations.  President Trump has not accepted the election results yet and has blocked President elect Biden’s access to classified briefings, a customary practice during presidential transition.  His recent decision to reduce the American troops presence in Afghanistan to 2500 has caused considerable consternation even among Trump’s supporters in the United States Congress.  It would be interesting to see if President Trump will attend the Presidential inauguration on January 20, 2021.  The United States is dealing with the devastating health and economic impact of Covid19 which has claimed over 250 thousand lives, high unemployment and increased poverty.  It is expected that another 15 million Americans will lose health insurance after Christmas this year.  So far, President Trump’s administration has refused to work with the new Biden team in order to tackle these national issues. These vindictive and unpatriotic self-serving misdeeds will besmirch Trump’s name in the history pages of the US presidency.

Dr. Matin Royeen Ph.D is an Afghan-American educator.  He can be reached at:  [email protected]

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