By Nancy E. Parsons
With keen interest, I read Kathy Caprino’s Forbes article, “How Extreme Narcissism Wreaks Havoc On Your Life And What To Do About It” (7/06/15) Ms. Caprino offers great insights and resources on dealing with the Extreme Narcissist person at work and home. For her article, she interviewed expert Dr. Joseph Burgo, a psychotherapist of 30 years.
During the interview, Dr. Burgo identified 5 different types of Extreme Narcissism, and below are four of the five that hit home in the executive coaching and assessment work we do:
“The Bullying Narcissist - Builds up his or her self-image by persecuting you and making you feel like a loser.
The Seductive Narcissist - Makes you feel good about yourself, as if you’re a winner, in order to secure your admiration … then dumps you.
The Know-It-All Narcissist - Constantly demonstrates superior knowledge in order to make others feel ignorant, uninformed, and inferior.
The Vindictive Narcissist - When challenged or wounded, will do everything possible to destroy the perceived cause of shame.”
From a leadership context, our firm, CDR Assessment Group, Inc., has measured the inherent Risk Factor of “Egotist” which is a trait that reflects egocentric or narcissistic type behaviors since 1998 for thousands of leaders around the globe in all sectors. While our instrument does not measure personality disorders (as Narcissism is categorized), the CDR Risk Assessment measures 11 leadership risk factors for those considered having “normal” personality. What this means is our database is comprised of working adults (or working eligible), not clinical patients.
When used for coaching leaders and executives, the complete CDR 3-D Suite of assessments is used to reveal their full authentic talent, capability, inherent risks and motivational needs. The Suite includes the CDR Character Assessment, CDR Risk Assessment and CDR Drivers & Rewards Assessment.
Reflecting on Dr. Burgo’s 4 types of Extreme Narcissism above, we can see a parallel in the workplace with Egotists using our measures.
The Bullying Egotist
One who demonstrates these traits is typically in a position of power or influence. Key scores from our CDR 3D Suite:
- Character Assessment: would likely identify a person who:
- does not have empathy or concern for others (low Interpersonal Sensitivity)
- who is intense, has insecurities, and who may be emotionally volatile (low Adjustment)
- who is extraverted and outspoken (high Sociability)
- is driven, competitive, and enjoys taking charge (high Leadership Energy)
- Risk Assessment: The Bullying Egotist would likely have high scores as an: Egotist, Cynic, Rule Breaker, Upstager, and Hyper-Moody – this is what we call a “moving against profile” so when dealing with conflict or a perceived threat, they go into attack mode and can be condescending, mean, hostile and very self serving.
- Drivers & Rewards: High Power & Competition, High Fame & Feedback are common drivers or needs that impacts the Bullying Egotist because of their undaunted thirst for power, attention, and positive recognition. So, if the Bullying Egotist perceives a threat to his or her status or persona, their moving against Risks often go into high gear.
The result is a bully or abrasive leader who uses belittling behaviors and who treats others with a lack of respect or dignity. Below are actual excerpts of verbatim comments from Bullying Egotists’ 360° feedback:
- Too often, people feel as though they are his "minions" doing the dirty work while he takes the credit.
- She tends to belittle the people that interact with her by appearing to be flawless in her execution of assignments and shifting blame when mistakes are made
- Takes credit for work done by an entire team of workers and does not acknowledge others for their extra effort.
- Low level of self-awareness in terms of how his approach negatively impacts others
- Has a hard time working with others on the team as equals. She lets it be known that she has "arrived," while they still have a long way to go.
- Has a hard time managing people "underneath" him. Often demeans and is condescending. Doesn't show the proper respect to people around him.
- Demands rather than delegates.
The Seductive Egotist
This Seductive type Egotist would have higher Interpersonal Sensitivity than the Bully and appear outwardly warm along with high Sociability exercising great charm and wit. They, too, would have a high Risk Factor for Egotist. The Seductive Egotist pulls you in with their charisma, care and charm and then suddenly pounce or “dump you” when you think the relationship is going just fine. This is also what we have experienced with leaders we have coached and refer to as the “Jekyll & Hyde” profile. Suddenly, the Seductive Egotist turn against colleagues or staff without warning and transforms into a person who is not recognizable from the warm and seemingly caring person they thought they knew.
The Know-It-All Egotist
By definition of this Risk trait, the Egotist is a know it all. They are smarter, brighter, more capable than those around them – or so they think. Here is the definition from the CDR Leadership Risk Assessment:
Egotist - This scale reveals the leader who: is self-centered, has a sense of entitlement, takes credit for others' accomplishments, is viewed as a hard-nosed competitor, has a sense of superiority, and expects to be looked up to. Egotists betray trust by stealing credit, create dysfunctional work environments because of their self-obsession; and lack objectivity in decision making. Examples: Putting personal agenda ahead of the needs team; refusing to admit mistakes or pay attention to feedback; and, behaving like a dictator or as a pompous member of royalty.
The Vindictive Egotist
Egotists of all stripes can become vindictive when crossed. By the nature of the risk factor, they reject feedback and criticism. After all, they see themselves as flawless and they are often very thin skinned. However, the most dangerous Vindictive Egotists tend to also have Risks as a “False Advocate” and “Rule Breaker.” The False Advocate operates behind the scenes and undermines others without their knowing until it is too late. So, revenge behind the scenes is common with the False Advocate/Egotist/Rule Breaker. Next, having the Rule Breaking Risk equips the Vindictive Egotist to ignore rules, limits or code of ethics so that they can do whatever feels right to them for self-preservation or to get back at perceived threats. So, when someone outshines or goes against the Vindictive Egotist – watch out. Keep in mind, a perceived threat could be as simple as disagreeing in public (or at a meeting) with the Vindictive Egotist. Vengeful acts may well be brewing behind the scenes with attacks, negativity and even scheming to get back at the perceived threat or offender.
DEALING EFFECTIVELY WITH EGOTISTS
In how to deal with Egotists, a good starting place to read Kathy Caprino’s article in Forbes about Extreme Narcissists. Also, you may want to order Dr. Burgo’s book to be released on September 12, 2015, The Narcissist You Know: Defending Yourself Against Extreme Narcissists in an All-About-Me World and see his blog, AfterPsychotherapy.com.
With Egotists in leadership roles, the key is holding them accountable for their behaviors. It is important to identify the Egotist behaviors through comprehensive, well constructed assessments (that measure personality-based Risks) and also with 360 feedback. When hiring executive coaches, be sure that that they have the tenacity, directness, and courage to deal directly and appropriately. Egotists will pick up on any lack of confidence or overdone kindness and this would be like blood in the water for their shark-like instincts to begin manipulating the coaching process.
Recently, we published a blog post titled: “3 Traps & Tips for Coaching Egotist Leaders” which may be helpful. Also, we will be publishing a follow up article with suggestions to deal effectively with Egotist Leaders.
One last piece of advice is that for those who are highly caring, warm and sensitive and who may possibly have a Risk Factor as a “Pleaser”. Do not work for an Egotist. This would quickly become a dysfunctional relationship that is akin to the sycophant-narcissist duo. The problem with individuals with extremely high Interpersonal Sensitivity and the Pleaser risk is that they have difficulty setting boundaries, saying no, or in being frank and candid. These traits make the person vulnerable to the ardent Egotist who may use and abuse them.
Note: The 5th Extreme Narcissist type described by Dr. Burgo is the “Addicted Narcissist” and this is not a characteristic that we measure or identify in our assessment tools.
©2015, CDR Assessment Group, Inc., Tulsa, OK, All rights reserved.
Nancy Parsons is President and Co-founder of CDR Assessment Group, Inc. (CDR) providing break-through assessments and consulting services for global client to enhance their leader development and talent management initiatives. Nancy provides coaching services for C-Suite executives and key leaders from global organizations across all sectors. She facilitates strategic executive team development and custom authentic leadership workshops for clients. Nancy also devotes significant time to coaching/mentoring, training and certifying executive coaches. She is also a member of The Alexcel Group, an elite international group of executive coaching and leadership experts.