Biblical Perspectives on Narcissistic Leadership

I’m Number One!
Biblical Perspectives on Narcissistic Leadership
Marjorie J. Cooper, Ph.D.
Baylor University
Should “we” . . .
Business professors
Business practitioners
Human persons
Celebrate narcissistic leadership?
Star power
Leadership potential
Lust for power
Demands for unquestioned
• Sense of entitlement
• Lack of empathy
• Arrogance
DSM-IV Nine Characteristics of
Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD)
(Pick any five)
• Exaggerated sense of self-importance
• Fantasies of extraordinary success, power,
brilliance, beauty, or ideal love
• Belief that one is “special” and should only
associate with and can only be understood by
other high-status people
• Demand for excessive admiration from others
• A sense of entitlement
DSM-IV Nine Characteristics of
Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD)
(Pick any five)
• Objectification of others to achieve personal
ends and gratification
• Lack of empathy
• Envy of others or belief that others are
envious of oneself
• Haughty, arrogant, patronizing, or
contemptuous behaviors or attitudes toward
NPD is an Extreme
• Narcissism is a continuum of a severity of
• Narcissism also has various manifestations
The First Narcissist
• Ezekiel 28
• Isaiah 14
Four Motives
• To take over the rule and worship belonging
exclusively to Yahweh (Isa 14)
• To induce Adam and Eve to appropriate his
purpose rather than Yahweh’s purpose for them
(Gen 3)
• To induce Jesus Christ to worship him, thus
reversing the order of creation (Matt 4; Mark 1;
Luke 4)
• To rule this world as God (Dan 11:36-37; 2 Thess
Some Ancient Narcissists
• King Ahab (1 Kings 20-21)
• Nebuchadnezzar (Dan 3-4)
• Herod the Great (Matt 2)
Discredited Narcissists in Our Day
(some well-known ones)
Ken Lay of Enron*
Bernie Ebbers of WorldCom*
Dennis Kozlowski of Tyco*
Mark Hurd of Hewlett Packard
Ramalinga Raju of Satyam*
*Rosenthal and Pittinsky 2006
Today’s Narcissists . . .
• Have difficulty getting along with others
• Fail to envision perspectives other than their own
• Attack and abuse anyone who dares challenge
them (Campbell et al. 2005)
• Hold grudges, marking time until they can exact
retribution (Downs 1997, 37-42)
• Take more risks than others
• Exhibit more uneven and unpredictable
Today’s Narcissists . . .
• Favor bold actions that attract attention to
themselves (Chatterjee and Hambrick 2007)
• Are the source of long-term problems and the
proverbial “unintended consequences” (Campbell et
al., 2005)
• Do not wear well in the long-term, regardless of
good first impressions (Paulhus 1998)
• Say things like, “I don’t care how you do it; just
see that you get it done” and then blame
everyone else when “it” fails
Today’s narcissists exhibit the following
• Inflated egos and extreme sensitivity to
criticism (Downs 1997, 20-21)
• High-maintenance, needing constant
reassurance of superiority and unquestioning
allegiance (Kets de Vries and Miller 1997, 194-214)
• Ignore cautionary advice, prone to outbursts
of anger (Capps 1993; Downs 1997)
• The classic “empty self”
Left in Their Wake . . .
• Layoffs, leading to
– Job loss and inability to support one’s family
– Falsely inflated bottom lines
– Long-term negative organizational effects
– Loss of employee experience and expertise
– Low morale on the part of employees who are left
– Loss of business for the company
Left in Their Wake . . .
• The results of unethical behavior
– They are often charismatic individuals who attract
– They are prepared to take extreme measures to
protect the appearance of superior performance
– They will attack and get rid of any follower who
endangers their position
– “The rules don’t apply to me.”
– They are highly self-protective
How to catch them before you hire them
• Question how others have contributed to the
applicant’s success.
• Look for exaggerated assessment of their past
• Look for unrealistic and grandiose ambitions.
• “Test drive” their interpersonal skills with people
who can be of “no use” to them, people lower in
the organization who cannot help them further
their own interests.
• Have them interviewed by someone who has the
gift of discernment.
How to catch them before you hire them
• Is there evidence of the Fruit of the Spirit in
their lives? Beware of being dazzled by the
• Evidence of long-standing spiritual mentoring
and sustained Christian friendships?
• Evidence of a personal love for Jesus Christ?
• Able to recount instances of God’s discipline
and how they corrected course as a result?
What if you’ve already got one?
Assess evidence of salvation
Counsel from the Word
Make use of the spiritual gifts of colleagues
Cautiously: Consider guidelines for church
discipline. They tell you what to do in the
church as an organization. To what extent can
they be applied to other Christian
Does narcissism affect ethical sensitivity?
(material not available in the paper)
• Ethical scenarios – dependent variable
• Religiosity - independent
– Intrinsic
– Extrinsic social
– Extrinsic personal
• Orthodox Beliefs - independent
• Narcissism - independent
Cluster Analysis Profiles
(Means/Ordinal Placement)
Cluster 1
Cluster 2
Cluster 3
Int. Rel. Orientation
-1.23 (Low)
.08 (Moderate)
-1.78 (Low)
.35 (Moderate)
Ext. Rel.
-.15 (Moderate)
.58 (High)
Orientation (Pers.)
.89 (High)
.56 (High)
-1.00 (Low)
Ext. Rel.
Orientation (Soc.)
-.26 (Low)
.14 (High)
Effects for Cluster Membership on Ethical
Mean Ethical
Std. β
**p < .01, *p < .05
Effects of Narcissism on Ethical Tendency By
Shall we discuss?

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