Episode #11: Dysfunction of Narcissistic Leadership

Narcissistic leaders and how to deal with them is a popular theme these days. There’s a tendency to slap a narcissist label on any leader who drives their own agenda, demonstrates confidence in their abilities, or is insistent on things being done in a certain way. However, mistaking a confident, inspiring leader for someone with narcissistic defenses or a personality disorder does a disservice to those who act from healthy entitlement and their authentic self. At the same time, it’s impossible to ignore the fact that narcissistic leaders are very common in organizations today. Yes, they are charming, engaging, and so much fun when they are at their best. But navigating the minefield that is a narcissist is something no one enjoys. The dysfunctions that narcissistic leaders create in organizations are significant, abundant, and extremely destructive.

In today’s episode, Anne & Heather explore the Dysfunction of Narcissistic Leadership and share some real client stories that illustrate just how common it is to find this type of leadership behavior in organizations today. They’ll also share some practical tips that you can use if the Dysfunction of Narcissistic Leadership has taken control of your organization.

If you want to know more about Anne & Heather’s work with dismantling dysfunctions in organizations and leadership behavior at Caliber Leadership Systems, check out:




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Are you dealing with an organizational dysfunction you need help with? Or do you have a story you would like to share on our show? Contact us at [email protected]



  • [01:31] Episode introduction and overview 
  • [03:04] The important distinction between Narcissistic Defenses and Narcissistic Personality Disorder 
  • [17:28] How one Narcissistic Leader can spoil an entire leadership team 
  • [20:38] Sub-dysfunctions that Narcissistic Leaders can cause: Silos 
  • [23:28] Sub-dysfunctions that Narcissistic Leaders can cause: Entitlement 
  • [25:12] Sub-dysfunctions that Narcissistic Leaders can cause: Lack of Ethics 
  • [28:18] Sub-dysfunctions that Narcissistic Leaders can cause: Competition 
  • [33:33] Episode gem & practical takeaway 
  • [35:21] Episode wrap up



  • People who are narcissistic easily assume the role of leader because they feel entitled to the place at the top. This affirms their belief in their superiority. They enjoy having power and have no difficulty using it to get what they want. Many leaders are image-driven and are good at rising to power within an organization because of their charm, charisma and ability to promote themselves. 
  • Whether it’s an employee or a leader, the common factor is the self-interest that drives their behavior. They are only interested in their own needs, desires and agenda. Their priority is meeting their needs, often at the expense of their employees and team members. Other common behaviors are arrogance, entitlement, competitiveness and devaluation of others. We know that narcissistic behavior is unhealthy and destructive and we often hear clients complain about their narcissistic boss’s need to one-up everyone or they act entitled to take the ideas and work of others and make it their own, taking all credit for themselves, basking in the glow of their self-importance. 
  • While narcissists promote the image of having family values, loyalty and caring for their people, these are only ideas that support their image as they are only really committed to their agendas. The impact on the organization is that all decisions must support the narcissistic leader’s interest and agenda despite the notion they promote of being inclusive and collaborative. The interests of the organization as a whole take a back burner to the grandiose needs of this leader. While promoting the idea of being democratic and collaborative, they are singular-focused and autocratic. 
  • Many narcissistic leaders don’t know how to lead despite promoting the notion they are great leaders. What you see isn’t always what you get, and this can be incredibly damaging for an organization. Because they don’t have a solid plan or strategy their focus is on undoing the great work done by others to make themselves look good. 
  • Dealing with narcissistic leaders requires strong leadership at the top so their behavior is held in check and their influence is limited by their peers not tolerating it. The tendency is to focus on their dysfunctional behavior and complain about it. What is actually necessary is to stop focusing on the narcissist and giving them power. Strengthen those around them and hold them accountable for maintaining their own opinions and boundaries. 


Anne's quote about narcissistic leadership 1
Heather's quote about narcissistic leadership 2
Anne's quote about narcissistic leadership 2

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