The Fall of Empires and the Narcissist

While researching and writing about toxic leadership over the last few years, I have often shared with anyone who would listen, “Toxic Leadership never ends well.” It is a disappointing and well-worn lesson.

As we watch current events unfold we are seeing the results of narcissism in bold and deeply disturbing colors. The short-term positive gains by a toxic leader, I would suggest, can never overcome the long-term devastation caused by their focus on self and the devaluation of people and relationships. Scripture teaches this and life lived shows it.

Below is a portion of my research from a few years ago about narcissism.

Narcissism and the Toxic Leader

Langberg explains the name, “Narcissist” comes from the Greek mythological story of a young, handsome youth who had a “heart that was inaccessible to love.”[1]

One of his “rejected lovers” prayed that he be punished for his “lack of empathy.”[2] Nemesis, the god of retribution to whom she prayed, “caused Narcissist to see his reflection in the water and fall completely in love with himself.”[3]  As he was unable to access his reflection, he “died of unrequited love.”[4]

It is common for narcissists to occupy leadership positions. According to Chamorro-Premuzic, “An impressive 15-year longitudinal study found that individuals with psychopathic and narcissistic characteristics gravitated towards the top of the organizational hierarchy.”[5] Chandler and Fields explain, “Narcissistic leaders may pass selection screening because they possess strengths such as the ability to present a vision in a charismatic fashion, inspire others with rhetoric, and thereby persuade others to follow.”[6]

There have been many studies on the Narcissistic Personality Disorder according to George Simon, author of the article, “Narcissism: Pathological Self-Love,” despite the American Psychiatric Association removing the disorder from the DSM-5.[7] He says, “Too many folks who know all too well how painful it is to live or deal with a narcissist” are seeking information on narcissism. He goes on to say, “Because ours is the age of permissiveness and especially ‘entitlement,’ narcissism has flourished, and just about everyone has a story to tell about dealing with a narcissist.”[8]

Narcissistic individuals are described as “conceited, boastful or pretentious,” according to the Mayo Clinic.[9] Chamorro-Premuzic says narcissists have “unrealistic feelings of grandiosity, an inflated – though often unstable and insecure – sense of self-worth, and a selfish sense of entitlement coupled with little consideration for others.[10] Oates defines empathy as “putting oneself in another person’s place and experiencing that person’s needs as primary,” and lacking this other-centeredness is a common characteristic of narcissism.[11]

Narcissists often “belittle or look down on people” they “perceive as inferior.”[12] “As a result…they naturally conclude they should come first: their needs (often lavish), their image, their success,” argue Chapman, White, and Myra.[13]

According to Chandler and Fields, “Narcissistic leaders…blame others for their failures.”[14] They “usually have no interest in self-insight or change.”[15] Oates agrees, saying, “The capacity for self-evaluation and self-criticism is absent.”[16] Subordinates are simply “expected to provide blind support.”[17] If employees do not act in support of the narcissist, they become “increasingly expendable,” according to Oates.[18]

It behooves us to know the signs and not be drawn into their pathological self-love.


[1] Langberg, “Narcissism and The System It Breeds.”

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Chamorro-Premuzic, “Why Bad Guys Win at Work.”

[6] Schyns and Hansbrough, When Leadership Goes Wrong, 106.

[7]  George K. Simon, Ph.D., “Narcissism: Pathological Self-Love,” Psychology, Therapy & Mental Health Resources, accessed March 29, 2016,

[8] Ibid.

[9] Mayo Clinic Staff, “Narcissistic Personality Disorder,” Mayo Clinic, November 18, 2014, accessed February 10, 2015,

[10] Chamorro-Premuzic, “Why Bad Guys Win at Work.”

[11] Oates, Behind the Masks, 45.

[12] Mayo Clinic Staff, “Narcissistic Personality Disorder.”

[13] Gary Chapman, Paul E. White, and Harold Myra, Rising Above a Toxic Workplace: Taking Care of Yourself in an Unhealthy Environment (Chicago: Northfield Publishing, 2014), 136.

[14] Schyns and Hansbrough, When Leadership Goes Wrong, 106.

[15] Arabi, “20 Diversion Tactics Highly Manipulative Narcissists, Sociopaths and Psychopaths Use to Silence You.”

[16] Oates, Behind the Masks, 45.

[17] Schyns and Hansbrough, When Leadership Goes Wrong, 107.

[18] Oates, Behind the Masks, 50.

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  1. Pingback: All Things for Good: Beauty from Ashes | Pearls & Swine

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