Perhaps the worst sort of employee is a narcissist. A narcissist is in love with an image of himself that he sees, and that he has created. Though his behavior does not match the image — it can not –he can not or will not accept the damage he’s caused by insubordination and undercutting. The typical narcissist is always right, and is confident of being right, even when seriously wrong. He can take some advice because he sees himself as humble, but he rarely takes blame, and thus does not change. He can be charming in his love of you and your ideas. Still, you’ll notice his complete disdain for others and of ideas that (to you) look equally brilliant. And once he accepts your first idea as brilliant, he’s unlikely to change to accept your second, or modified version.
The Great Gatsby created an image of himself, and strove to live it. “He looked at you like the moon and the stars shone out of your eyes.”
The narcissist creates a positive mental image of those around him too, usually as kind, holy, smart people. The Great Gatsby was a classic example of this. It’s nice to be “seen as you’d wish to be seen, as if the moon and the stars shone in your eyes”. It’s an image the narcissist does his best maintain, both of you and of him, even if it kills you and him together. This is a damaging, false image in an underling, employee, but it has a tremendous up-side or two in a friend or boss. It’s nice to work with someone who sees you as God’s gift even if you know it’s false. Besides that, the narcissist usually has some general plan of action or knows how to get one (e.g. hire the best, consult the iChing, build a wall). The plan might not be great, but it’s usually better than having no-plan or waiting to consult the consultants at every turn. And unlike most folks, the narcissist knows he must stick to the plan or he looks like a loser. It also helps that he or she, by force of charisma, has the ability to make others stick to the plan. In times of trouble or confusion, that’s usually far better than hopeless floundering. It’s also good to have solid followers when leading a big organization where decisions are important. The leader can not hope to manage all the details here, but need to be able to lead with confidence. He needs to be able to rely on his loyal minions to get the details right.
There are few bigger organizations than government, and government has seen an uncommon concentration of narcissists. These narcissists have done rather well, considering. In the US and elsewhere some of the best (and worst) leaders have been Narcissists. Napoleon, FDR, Stalin, Churchill, Christ, Mohammed, Hitler, Bill Clinton, Gandhi, and Genghis Kahn; all narcissists as best I can tell. They all saw themselves as great, behaved accordingly, and got people to follow. They made grand plans and carried them out by convincing to go along, providing the necessary blood, swat, and tears, even death. Their approach may appall when seen in quiet times, but it’s absolutely necessary in troubled times when the normal alternatives are confusion and despair. Jimmy Carter, a more-normal type, folded in times of trouble; to the Ayatollah and to Idi Amin. Twice he started Iranian rescue operations, then called them off at the worst times. People died, friends lost hope. Carter was a normal person in a situation that required an egotistical narcissist. Meanwhile, the Ayatollah and Idi Amin did as narcissist do, for better or worse.
It’s been pointed out that Donald Trump is a narcissist (he is, congratulations). I strongly suspect that’s true of Cruz, and Sanders too. Trump’s narcissism is unusually blatant because his vision of himself is unusually brash. Cruz and Sanders, have quieter visions of themselves mixing feigned humility with their firm resolve. I don’t see these visions as better, just more normal. Brash visions can be a negative, of course, both in a US president, and in a corporate president, especially if taken too far. But no vision is worse. Apple computer seems to have no vision, and it’s floundering. Jeb seemed to have had no firm vision either, and he ended his run as washed-up flotsam. Fortunately the US government has the power to rein in any (I think) narcissist vision, via the constitution’s balance of power. Congress and the supreme court, if they see to use it, have the power to stop any excess of a narcissist president. The narcissist will fight but will eventually will bend to them; the one thing the narcissist does not wish is to see himself as, is as a loser, and they have the power to portray him that way.
Robert Buxbaum, April 10, 2016. I’m not a psychologist and might be dead wrong here, but how I see things at the moment is that Trump’s narcissism is manageable and perhaps advantageous. Besides, I’ve argued in favor of tariffs for some time, so we have some policy agreement. For April Fools day, last year, I described the duel of a famous narcissist president, Andrew Jackson, with his lawyer.