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.

Who Was Narcissist?

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]

Narcissists and Leadership

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.

Simon 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]

Identifying Narcissists

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]

The Impact on Organizations

“The capricious nature of narcissistic leaders makes them prone to conduct negative management behaviors in order to maintain their own interests and authority, which deteriorates the perception of good relationship between employees and the organization and leads to negative responses from employees that reduce their job embeddedness (Ogunfowora, 2013Haggard and Park, 2018Mackey et al., 2018).”

Heli Wang, Runkai Jiao, and Feifei Li, “Research on the Effect of Narcissistic Leadership on Employee Job Embeddedness,” Frontiers in Psychology 13 (July 7, 2022): 927529,

According to Wang, et. al., employees of these businesses and organizations are not as committed to their jobs. In addition, research shows that there is greater turnover, sick leave, and family difficulties where a boss is toxic.

It is evident that narcissistic leadership do not bring about the goals of an organization no matter how talented that leader is. In the end, the organization will suffer poor performance by employees and less buy-in. A Christian organization’s witness to a watching world will in turn be diminished.

It behooves us to know the signs of a narcissist and not be drawn into his 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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