Am I a Narcissist?.........Are You....?

I was stung this morning. I read a blog by Jorg Stegemann. He asked if there are parallels between your boss and aserial killer. Was the boss he was describing me?..................

I took the narcissism test this morning. Apparently the average score for the US population is 14 out of 40, and the highest reported score is 34 out of 40.....................I scored 29. Gulp!

I have been heard to say, and sometimes to large audiences, that there's something potentially mad about most leaders. These were often observations without any scientific understanding, but I have often come across some very unusual and common behaviours. Let me give you two examples:


When I ran an Australian business I had seven senior managers reporting to me. I took them and their wives out for dinner one night, and the conversation turned to loading the dishwasher (Don't ask - just don't bloody ask!). I admitted to an uncontrollable urge to re-stack the dishwasher to make it more efficient. Six of the seven wives smiled, and told me their husbands did exactly the same thing. We all realised it's not important, but it's a trait we all shared and were slightly ashamed about - The seventh wife then told us that her husband didn't unload the dishwasher, but did clean out the kitchen cupboards every month, wash them all out and replace the tins in alphabetical order, irrespective of what the tin contained.

Now he really was ashamed and it made the rest of us feel just a little less freakish.


Some years ago, we had a CFO who will remain nameless. He could charm the birds off the trees one moment, and fly into a rage the next. He was particularly rude and dominant to overseas managers to whom English was a second language. He became very impatient if they didn't understand his slang. We all thought he was unhinged, but I realised he lost it when he didn't feel he understood everything.He needed to be in TOTAL control.

Every 3 months business managers such as me had to report our recent trading and forecast what was about to happen. If I had a good quarter, I would report good sales knowing he would ask how they had been achieved. I would deliberately tell him that it was just hard work and that we hadn't done anything special. His blink rate would slowly rise and his head would start to turn pink. He would then rage about how anybody couldn't know what it was they had done so they could apply to the future. I just told him I had been lucky. He would go wild! My saving position was that I knew the CEO would then sale in and say, "well done Martin" and then ask the CFO to calm down.

Now what I realise this story says as much about me as it does about the CFO. And that is quite worrying.......

During my career I have noticed many strange behaviours from business leaders. They usually share some unusual traits. Are all leaders approaching narcissism?............

It is apt I have these thoughts as we approach Halloween. I have scared myself a little this morning.

Here is a definition about narcissism. It's not me........

Narcissistic personality disorder is characterized by self-centeredness. Like histrionic disorder, people with this disorder seek attention and praise. They exaggerate their achievements, expecting others to recognise them as being superior. They tend to be choosy about picking friends, since they believe that not just anyone is worthy of being their friend. Narcissists tend to make good first impressions, yet have difficulty maintaining long-lasting relationships. They are generally uninterested in the feelings of others and may take advantage of them.

...I hope.

I need to do some more thinking.

Anybody who knows more about this than me care to share their thoughts?

You can also read about leadership charisma here - the lines between brilliance, madness, inspiration and luck in your genes are blurred.......

Views: 330

Comment by Amy Ala Miller on January 2, 2013 at 11:44am

I scored a 22 which made me feel a little better. I was worried for a minute... :)

Comment by Martin Ellis on January 2, 2013 at 1:44pm

I'm afraid my 29 is the highest I've come across so far. I hope that makes you feel a little better Amy. Sorry if I got you concerned (he said trying to sound sympathetic like any decent narcissist would!)

Comment by Amy Ala Miller on January 2, 2013 at 4:36pm

LOL actually Martin I'm afraid I may have answered some questions (ahem) carefully knowing which way they'd push my score... :)


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