Narcissistic Leadership: Traits And Real-Life Examples

Narcissism has long been studied in psychology and leadership, as it can significantly affect how leaders act and their effects on their followers. Narcissistic leaders often demonstrate a sense of entitlement, grandiosity, and an excessive need for admiration.

 Here, we will explore some famous examples of narcissistic leaders and the traits they demonstrate. 

Through this analysis, we can understand how to recognize and better understand selfish behavior in leaders.

 We’ve all heard of narcissism and its adverse effects, but have you ever wondered what narcissistic leadership looks like in the workplace? Egocentric leadership is a form of leadership where the leader prioritizes their own needs and desires above the needs of the team or organization. 

What Does Narcissistic Mean?

In personality disorders such as narcissism, there is excessive self-importance, a need for admiration, and a lack of empathy for others. 

People with narcissistic traits tend to be boastful and arrogant and take advantage of others. 

They also tend to be highly sensitive to criticism and often react with aggression or contempt when their ego is threatened. 

Narcissists are often driven by a need to be admired and can become quite manipulative in their attempts to get what they want. 

As a result, they usually have difficulty forming meaningful relationships and maintaining healthy social connections.

Narcissistic Leadership Traits

Narcissistic leaders are often characterized by their strong desire for power, admiration, and lack of empathy. 

They also tend to be highly ambitious and goal-oriented. Here are some of the traits commonly associated with narcissistic leaders:


Narcissistic leaders believe they deserve special treatment and recognition, expecting others to defer to them. 

They may display grandiosity, believing themselves to be superior to everyone else.


Narcissistic leaders use manipulation tactics to get what they want, often taking advantage of those around them. They may use guilt-tripping or other forms of coercion to get their way.


Narcissistic leaders like to be in control of situations and people, often feeling threatened when someone else is making decisions. 

They may try to micromanage their team or give orders rather than ask for feedback.


Narcissistic leaders are highly self-centered, focusing on themselves and their own goals while disregarding the needs and opinions of others. 

They may also lack empathy and compassion, expecting others to conform to their expectations.


Despite their exterior confidence, narcissistic leaders are often deeply insecure.

They may try to hide this insecurity by acting domineering or superior, using aggression or intimidation to control their environment.

Exploitation of Others

Narcissistic leaders manipulate and exploit others to achieve their goals.

They may take credit for their team’s work, use them as scapegoats, or exploit their vulnerabilities to advance their own agenda.

Need for Constant Admiration and Attention

Narcissistic leaders crave attention and praise.

They demand constant admiration, often expecting their subordinates to fulfill their need for validation, which can create an unhealthy power dynamic.

Manipulative Behavior

Narcissistic leaders are skilled manipulators.

They use charm, flattery, and deceit to control and influence others, leveraging relationships and situations to their advantage.

Sense of Entitlement

Narcissistic leaders believe they deserve special treatment and privileges.

They have an entitlement mentality, expecting others to cater to their needs and desires without considering the team or organization’s needs.

Fragile Self-Esteem

Despite projecting a confident image, narcissistic leaders have fragile self-esteem.

They are highly sensitive to criticism and may react strongly to any perceived threat to their ego, often resorting to defensive or aggressive behavior.

Inability to Handle Criticism

Narcissistic leaders struggle to accept criticism or feedback.

They may become defensive, dismissive, or even retaliate against those who challenge their authority or question their decisions.

Lack of Accountability

Narcissistic leaders often avoid taking responsibility for their actions.

They deflect blame onto others, deny any wrongdoing, or downplay their mistakes, undermining trust and hindering personal and organizational growth.

Narcissistic Leadership Examples

Narcissism has become increasingly prevalent in today’s leadership circles. It is a characteristic of a narcissist to have an inflated sense of self-importance and seek admiration from others. 

Narcissistic leaders can be found in all areas of life and often use their power and influence to dominate or manipulate their followers. Some examples of narcissistic leaders include: 

Donald Trump 

A former president of the United States, he was known for his combative style and grandiose displays of wealth and success. 

Trump often sought praise from his supporters, referred to himself in glowing terms, and sought to discredit his opponents.

Kim Jong-un 

North Korea’s supreme leader has been accused of engaging in cruel and oppressive tactics to maintain power, including killing dissidents and imprisoning those who do not support him. 

He also tends to flaunt his wealth and authority through lavish displays of military parades and great gifts to foreign dignitaries.

Vladimir Putin 

The President of Russia has been accused of using his power to undermine democracy and punish political opponents. 

He is known for his authoritarian rule, grandiose public speeches, and willingness to flaunt his country’s military strength at every opportunity.

Steve Jobs 

The late Apple CEO was known for his obsessive attention to detail, unyielding perfectionism, and tendency to seek complete control over his company’s operations. 

Jobs’ leadership style was often seen as a reflection of his larger-than-life ego, with many employees saying he exhibited narcissistic tendencies.

Oprah Winfrey 

Though known for her generous and inspirational leadership style, Oprah Winfrey has been accused of exhibiting narcissistic traits due to her strong-willed attitude and tendency to seek control over her empire. 

She is also known for her exquisite displays of wealth, such as expensive jewelry and cars.

Narcissistic leaders can be found in many areas, from politics to business and entertainment. 

They often possess an inflated sense of self-importance that leads them to crave admiration from others while also exhibiting traits such as a need for control, perfectionism, and grandiosity. 

Though they may be successful in the short-term, long-term success depends on their ability to temper their narcissistic behaviors and focus on creating a culture that fosters collaboration, respect, and innovation.

Key Takeaways

  • Narcissistic leaders exhibit traits like entitlement, grandiosity, and an excessive need for admiration. They prioritize their own needs above their team or organization.
  • They seek admiration, employ manipulative tactics, and often lack empathy for others.
  • Examples of narcissistic leaders include Donald Trump, Kim Jong-un, Vladimir Putin, Steve Jobs, and Oprah Winfrey. They seek praise, flaunt wealth or authority, and exert control.
  • Traits of narcissistic leaders include entitlement, manipulation, control, self-centeredness, and insecurity.
  • Long-term success depends on their ability to temper narcissistic behaviors and foster collaboration, respect, and innovation. Recognizing and understanding selfish behavior is crucial to mitigate negative impacts on organizations and followers.


Can narcissistic leaders be successful in the long term?

Long-term success for narcissistic leaders depends on their ability to temper their narcissistic behaviors and create a culture that fosters collaboration, respect, and innovation.

How can organizations mitigate the negative impacts of narcissistic leadership?

Organizations can mitigate the negative impacts of narcissistic leadership by promoting a culture of open communication, encouraging feedback, setting clear expectations, and fostering a supportive and inclusive environment.

How do narcissistic leaders impact organizations and followers?

Narcissistic leaders can have negative effects on organizations and followers, such as creating toxic work environments, hindering collaboration, suppressing innovation, and diminishing employee morale and well-being.

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