The Narcissist Leader (Part 2)

In the last posting, narcissism was defined and explored as a behavior exhibited by some leaders. In this posting, I will share some of my insights arising from my work with these leaders.  Coaching a leader with this characteristic is one of the more challenging assignments one will experience. These leaders have blind spots that often prevent them from: 1. being aware of the dysfunctional aspects of their leadership, 2. assuming accountability for their actions, and 3. changing their behavior. It takes perseverance and a strong back bone to achieve results.  In addition, it is to be expected that there will be many narcissists that are not open to change, and are not “coachable”. The approaches listed below will be more or less applicable depending on your role and relationship with the narcissist.

  1. Clarify Your Role – Explain that you are not there to pass judgment, but rather to support them by focusing on their strengths, (list those—narcissists like to hear them), and hold the mirror in a manner that reflects an accurate image of the perceptions surrounding them. Help her understand the distinction between the positive aspects of her leadership style and the “overuse” of these strengths that may lead to suboptimal results
  2. Enlist a Support System – Are there individuals that the narcissist leader has let into his circle of trust?  Often these collaborators have hitched their wagon to the leader and have a powerful incentive to keep him in power. If you can enlist these individuals by demonstrating that their leader is setting himself up for a fall through his actions, you may be able to encircle the narcissist leader with a consistent message of change. This strategy has to be used with finesse, as the narcissist is by definition mistrusting and suspicious. He must not detect that there is any sort of conspiracy or palace revolt, or there will be a backlash that will only worsen the narcissist’s unproductive behavior
  3. Use Setbacks As An Ally – Narcissist leaders leave a trail of misjudgments and mistakes prior to the straw that finally breaks the camel’s back. Create a compelling case for the cumulative outcome and direction of the leader’s decisions. Provide external benchmarks and other normative examples to demonstrate the probable outcome of his decisions
  4. Build an Strong Culture – Narcissistic leaders often seek openings in organizational culture (processes, procedures, policies, etc.) that allow them to shortcut and bully their way to their desired outcome. The strongest impediment to the narcissist’s bullying tactics is a culture that rewards leadership and accountability at all levels in the organization and discourages the single leader knows it all mindset
  5. Prepare For The Worst – If all else fails, begin to plan for the “fall”.  Who is ready to assume the reign? Which critical projects to initiatives will be adversely affected? What are your plans for rescuing them? How will you council and work with the fallen narcissist?

Questions for On-Line Conversation

  1. What strategies have you used to reign in a narcissist leader?
  2. How have these tactics worked?
  3. When you are in a narcissist frame of mind and what can be done to pull you out of it??

About Kaveh Naficy
Kaveh is the leader of Heidrick and Struggles executive coaching practice in North America. Kaveh focuses on working with leaders placed to make transformational and creative changes in their organizations. Kaveh has a proven record of success in harnessing the strengths of these leaders to achieve accelerated business solutions. He is able to create significant insights through reflective thinking, presence, and disciplined follow-through. Executives who have worked with Kaveh say that his strengths are his deep insights into the realities of the current and future business world, accelerated scanning of the environment and competition; creative out of the box thinking, and leveraging the collective intelligence of their teams and creating the organizational culture to support and foster the appropriate organizational design and strategies. They also point their deep trust and personal connectivity with Kaveh, his coaching approach, and style.

2 Responses to The Narcissist Leader (Part 2)

  1. Jason Arends says:

    Kaveh-Well done!-Thanks-Jason

  2. If some one desires expert view concerning running a blog after that i recommend him/her to pay a visit this webpage, Keep up the nice job.

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