It seems as if I’ve gone down one of those rabbit holes that keep me entertained on the net for ages. Yesterday’s blog led me to further my not so structured research into sociopaths and I’ve come up with a whole new look at politicians as narcissists.
According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, a narcissist exhibits “a pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behavior), need for admiration, and lack of empathy, beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts, as indicated by five (or more) of the following:
- has a grandiose sense of self-importance
- is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love
- believes that he or she is “special” and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions)
- requires excessive admiration
- has a sense of entitlement,
- is interpersonally exploitative, i.e., takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends
- lacks empathy
- is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him or her
- shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes
If that doesn’t describe most politicians these days, I don’t know what does. Although not all narcissists are sociopaths, all sociopaths are narcissists. And while not all narcissists are politicians, are all politicians narcissistic?
And even more, are many leaders outside of politics narcissists? If you look at the list carefully, I’m sure you’ll identify many of the behavioural traits of former and current bosses of yours.
But do you need to be a narcissist to be a leader?
Keri Damen wrote a blog recently for MaRS that pointed out some of the character traits of entrepreneurs. High on the list for entrepreneurs was a severe lack of empathy. It would be great if entrepreneurs could be tested for further traits of narcissism. It might settle the old nature or nurture issue: Can you teach someone to be an entrepreneur. And this gets into the debate on leadership. Can you teach someone to be a leader?
I tend to think you can teach someone to be a leader but if narcissism is a prerequisite for leaders then this is something that cannot be taught. A bit distressing actually.