Palin and Powell… Nice folks or Narcissists?

Posted October 20, 2008 in Latest News & Insights

Reading the paper this morning about Colin Powell’s jump to support Obama and Sarah Palin’s appearance on SNL, I had to wonder what makes people actually want to throw themselves into public leadership.  Leadership at that level is so visible, so judged, so seemingly thankless.  I for one, can’t imagine how thick your skin needs to be to run for public office.

Or does the thickness of your skin have nothing to do with it?

The Globe and Mail recently ran an article about Narcissistic leaders… essentially pointing out that people with a lack of empathy and high self regard are drawn to leadership positions.  They speculated that political leaders would score higher on the narcissistic scale than the average person.  I would suspect that the same would be true for many executives that strive for the C-suite.  I do wonder if David D’Alessandro (author of Executive Warfare) is a hard-core narcissist based on his views on what it takes to get ahead in business.

All which made me think… can you really be successful if you do have empathy for your people and actually give a damn about being a better person while you’re becoming a better leaders?

I’ve worked with a couple of bonefide narcissists over the years…one of whom actually revelled in the fact that they were devoid of empathy.  All were very smart at manipulating the higher ups, but horrendous with certain peers and the majority of their direct reports.

From my experience, most crashed and burned in the workplace… eventually.  What’s been your experience with office narcissists?  Are you working for or with one right now and wondering what to do about it?  I’d love to hear your thoughts and share some strategies.

Happy leading.


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