Narcissism and Codependency in Leader-Follower Relationship
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Narcissism and Codependency in Leader-Follower Relationship

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PPoint presentation of literature review completed in M.A. program Regent University

PPoint presentation of literature review completed in M.A. program Regent University

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  • @JudyLyoness thank you for your feedback @JudyLyoness. I believe at its very heart, leadership is a spiritual undertaking, not just in the Church, but in all relationships. Yes, our loving Creator is always for us ... your perspective is very much appreciated.
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  • I appreciate the spiritual part, especially about how God does not want the leaders to devour the sheep (ordinary people). God does care about how goovernemtns operate, because he is on teh side of the little guy.
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  • Thank you for your feedback Greek. The presentation was submitted in partial fulfillment of requirements for the Masters in Organizational Leadership at Regent University. Project submission guidelines included a spiritual applications requirement. Slide 24 is fulfillment of that requirement from a biblical perspective. Perhaps that helps to clarify. I appreciate your otherwise positive remarks. Have a great day.
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  • What the hell is slide 24 about? It seems to be apropos of absolutely nothing.... spiritual applications? It spoils an otherwise very informative presentation.
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  • 1. The dark sides of leadership and loyalty
    Exploring the Relationship Between Narcissism in Leadership and Organizational Codependency:
    A Review of the Literature
    Mary A. Ross
    Regent University
    School of Global Leadership and Entrepreneurship
    May, 2008
  • 2. Contents
  • 3. Introduction
    “From antiquity to the postmodern era, literature, history, and folklore…chronicle the folly of leaders who after a gain of rarified positions of power, prestige and status, topple into the abyss of failure”
    (Allen, 2006).
  • 4. The Problem is Three-FoldFirst…
    57,000 corporate failures in 1986 (Hogan, Curphy & Hogan, 1994)
    Incompetent leadership
    Changes in Labor and Market Environments
    Majority of organizations are unhealthy (Aguirre, Howell, Kletter & Nelson, 2005)
    Exhibit behaviors that resist meaningful change
    Inability to turn decisions into action
  • 5. Second …
    Culture in America is collectively a culture of narcissism(Fullbright, 1966; Lasch, 1979, Wallis, 2005; de Tocqueville, 1838)..
    and a culture marked by the dysfunction of codependency (Baker & Jones, 1996; Baker & Newport, 2003).
    “a pattern of traits and behaviors that signify infatuation and obsession with oneself to the exclusion of all others and the egotistic and ruthless pursuit of one’s gratification, dominance, and ambition” (Rapier, 2005, p. 4)
    “The learned habits of a dysfunctional system…compulsion to control and rescue others by fixing their problems” (Springle, 1995).
  • 6. Third…
    Current Leadership and Organizational development research focuses on the bright side of leadership.
  • 7. Insight
    It is from a culture of
    Narcissism & codependency
    leaders and followers
    Are drawn …
    the heart & soul of the
    American organization
  • 8. Rationale
    Research supports a positive relationship between leadership and organizational health (Meredith, 2007; Senge, 1990; Gini, 2004).
    Literature supports the leader-follower relationship as a reciprocating process (Gini).
    Healthy leadership begets health in organizations (Baker & Jones, 1996).
    The processes between leader and led are determinative (Kets de Vries, 2004).
    Research posits a positive relationship between organizational health and productivity (Fordyce & Weil, 1971; Aguirre, Howell, Kletter & Neilson, 2005; Kets de Vries, 2004).
    Individual and organizational behavior is determined by the inherent traits of an organization; behavior drives results (Aguirre, et al., 2005).
  • 9. Purpose
    The phenomena of interest in this research are:
    The dark side of leadership
    as evidenced in the narcissistic leader; and
    The dark side of loyalty
    as evidenced in the codependent organization
    This research explores
    the relationship between the two
    through a review of the literature.
  • 10. Methodology
    The methodology used in this research is the Stand Alone Literature Study and Review.
    Through a process of internet and library database searches, the author has compiled a range of related and relevant works form different sources including:
    Scholarly journals
  • 11. Research Questions
    Do narcissistic leaders foster codependency in the organizations they lead?
    Does codependency support or enable narcissistic leadership?
    Is the narcissist-codependent relationship one of cause and effect or simply two sides of the same coin?
    What are the traits or behaviors in U.S. organizations that identify it as ‘unhealthy’?
    Are those traits and behaviors associated with either phenomenon – narcissism or codependency?
    What are the outcomes of the narcissist/codependent relationship for the organization?
  • 12. Narcissism in Leadership
    Healthy narcissism originates with the infant notion that one is the center of the world and that individual needs take priority over all others.
    The child matures and this notion matures into an attitude of positive self-regard and confidence.
    The gauge, however, between healthy narcissism and unhealthy narcissism is:
    The individual capacity for empathy – the ability to consider others (Goleman, 2006: Williams, 2006; Rapier, 2005).
  • 13. Unhealthy Narcissism - Characteristics
    Infatuation and obsession with oneself
    Regular exclusion of others (unconcerned with feelings and opinions of others)
    The egotistic ruthless pursuit of one’s gratification, dominance, and ambition.
    Absence of interest in and empathy of others
    Eager to obtain admiration and approval from others.
    Compulsive need for power
    Prone to anger and rage – “narcissistic rage”, a reaction to feelings of helplessness due to inability to control others.
    Devalues others
    Argumentative and jealous
    Note: Some amount of narcissism is normal for all leaders.
    (Rapier, 2005).
  • 14. Rapier (2005)
    Research study of 11 participants: CEO’s, chairmen, or presidents of organizations based in the U.S.
    Compare and contrast executive character and leadership style with character traits of narcissism.
    Methodology: Mixed methods of Literature review and personal interview(qualitative).
    Identified a ‘type of executive character’: charismatic, neurotic, driven, hubris, extremely expansive, dysfunctional, and narcissistic.
    An “important distinction was made between largely effective narcissistic executives who go to productive extremes and significantly flawed narcissistic executives who go to destructive extremes (p. 3).
    Confirmed presence and “preoccupation with dreams of glory, power, status, and prestige” presenting as “…a need to create a sense of specialness …to …regulate self-esteem”(p. 128).
    Postulates “methods can be developed and cultivated to understand and diminish …nonproductive and …disruptive behaviors” resulting from narcissism (p. 1).
  • 15. Kets de Vries (2004)
    Individuals are not “just a conscious, highly-focused maximizing machine of pleasure and pains, but also a person subject to many wishes, fantasies, conflicts, defensive behaviors, and anxieties – some…beyond consciousness” (p. 184).
    Acknowledges the “plethora of highly destructive actions” of “…business and political leaders,” suggesting that “given these observations, business scholars and leaders need to revisit” questions concerning the leader as a “logical, dependable human being” (Ibid).
    That the reactive narcissistic leader is caught in a legacy of “deprivation, insecurity and inadequacy” (p. 189).
    That organizations as systems have a life of their own, both conscious and unconscious, rational and irrational.
    That organizations can be psychologically healthy or unhealthy.
    “Organizations the world over are full of people who…unable to recognize repetitive patterns in…behavior become dysfunctional…stuck in a vicious, self-destructive circle” (pp. 187-188).
  • 16. Codependency
    Paradox: while attempting to control others and situations, the codependent is actually being controlled – gaining self-worth or significance from the approval of the dysfunctional individual or system(Springle, 1993).
    Compulsion to control and rescue others, to ‘fix them’ and their problems.
    Occurs when the individual needs for love and security are not met.
    Three core perceptions / behaviors:
    Lack of objectivity
    Warped sense of responsibility
    Control (being controlled and controlling others)
    Enablers; without them the systems supported by them are “likely to flounder and fail” (McMillan & Northern, 1995).
    They often “front for, cover up, and pick up the pieces for other members of the dysfunctional system” (Ibid).
  • 17. Codependency - Characteristics
    Three core perceptions / behaviors:
    Lack of objectivity
    Warped sense of responsibility
    Control (being controlled and controlling others)
    Three emotional results:
    Loneliness (alienation/isolation)
    Hurt & Anger
    Denial and secrecy (closed systems) are key to survival
  • 18. McMillan & Northern (1995)
    Mixed methods research
    Data from 7 organizations in southeast U. S. over five year period.
    Study results and/or findings:
    Posits that “Codependency” is “…the creation of unholy alliances” that distort healthy interdependence and serve to impoverish all human systems.
    That “the cultural pressures toward codependency…were consistent across groups.”
    Organizations operate as miniature societies; argue that the influences on the culture are reflected in its human institutions.
    Codependents practiced the “art of restricted or managed communication…to suppress any message or behavior that might upset the …balance of their dysfunctional family systems”
    Creation of a ‘closed system’ – cutting off of outside influence
  • 19. McMillan & Northern (1995)(continued)
    Three primary communicative practices of codependent organizations revealed:
    Limited expression of communication
    Indirectness – to not convey true thoughts or feelings, but to communicate what they perceive is acceptable or safe
    Reactive communication - externally referenced communication that is nonassertive, non –confrontational.
    This study posits “the organization as the enabler of the dysfunction” of codependency and communication as the vehicle of codependency.
  • 20. Summary of Findings
    A review of the literature suggests a possible positive relationship between Narcissism in Leadership and Organizational Codependency
  • 21. Outcomes for the Organization
    Unhealthy organizations
    (fordyce & Weil, 1971)
    Organizational codependency (McMillan & Northern, 1995)
    Members operate on a superficial level – look to leaders to solve problems rather than working together
    Thoughts and opinions of the general membership are not respected by the leadership
    Personal needs and feelings are secondary
    Members compete instead of collaborating; distrust and mean-spiritedness reigns
    Members withdraw or cast blame in a crisis; conflict is covert
    Learning is difficult; feedback is avoided or not helpful
    Relationships are jeopardized by self-interests; members feel alone and lack concern for one another; undercurrent of uncertainty and fear
    Leadership tightly controls resources and processes; demands excessive justification; allows little freedom for mistakes
    Innovation is not widespread or encouraged
    Members swallow their frustrations or refuse to play an active part in rescuing the organization
    Codependents in the organization practice the art of restricted communication
    Messages that may upset the balance of the dysfunctional system are suppressed
    Fosters learning disability – inability to think and interact in ways that enhance
    Results in a ‘skilled incompetence’ fostered by the organization
    Limited expression of communication
    Indirect communication – to not convey true thoughts or feelings but to communicate what is perceived as acceptable or safe
    Reactive communication – externally referenced; non assertive; non confrontational
    Creation of a closed system, cut off from outside influence
    Culture of denial, confusion, dishonesty, self-centeredness, and perfectionism
    Creation of ‘unholy alliances’ that distort healthy interdependence
  • 22. Implications
    There is a need for balance in the study of leadership overall; a model of leadership that examines both the bright and dark sides of leadership.
    Especially in the leader-follower relationship identified in this study: Narcissistic Leaders and Organizational Codependency.
    The current discussion of leadership tends toward the glorification of leaders.
    “It almost seems by definition that bad people cannot be good leaders [yet] …flawed leaders are everywhere” (Kellerman, 2004).
    The current romanticizing of leadership gives rise to the denial of the dark sides of leadership and loyalty.
    Understanding the dark side of leadership is the key to understanding leadership failure (Kaiser & Hogan, 2006).
  • 23. Final Words
    America needs an intervention.
    Organizations that emerge within this culture are replete with larger-than-life narcissistic leaders addicted to power, control, admiration, and themselves. They prey on those in relationship with them as a means of satisfying their own selfish needs.
    The prevalence of codependency within this culture guarantees a supply of individuals who will enable and support the narcissist as a means of satisfying their own insecurities, drawing their significance and worth from the one on whom they are codependent.
  • 24. Spiritual Application
    Israel’s spiritual leaders failed to lead them properly and instead led for the satisfaction of their own personal needs and the people suffered (McIntosh & Rima, 2007).
    The prophet Ezekiel delivered God’s message of judgment on one such leader:
    “Behold I am against the shepherds, and I will demand My sheep from them and make them cease from feeding sheep. So the shepherds will not feed themselves anymore, but I will deliver My flock from their mouth, so that they will not be food for them (Ezekiel 34:10).
  • 25. References
    Allen, V. L. (2006). Moral failures of exceptional leaders: a qualitative study. Unpublished dctoral dissertation. Regent University School of Leadership Studies. Norfolk, VA.
    Baker, J. S., & Jones, M. A. (1996). The poison grapevine: how destructive are gossip and rumor in the workplace? Human Resource Development Quarterly (Vol. 7, No. 1, Spring
    1996). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
    De Toqueville, A. (2006). Democracy in American, volume 1 (of 2). The Project Gutenberg EBook of Democracy in America. David Reed and David Widger (Eds.). Retrieved from
    Fullbright, J. W. (1966). The arrogance of power. New York, NY: Random House.
    Goleman, D. (2006). Social intelligence: the new science of human relationships. New York, NY: Bantam Deli.
    Hogan, R, & Hogan, J. (2001, March/June). Assessing leadership: a view from the dark side. International Journal of Selection and Assessment, 9, 40-51.
    Hogan, R., Curphy, G. J., & Hogan, J. (1994). What we know about leadership: effectiveness and personality. American Psychologist. (June 1994).
    Hogan, R. (2004). What we know about leadership. Review of General Psychology (June 2004).
    Kaiser,R., & Hogan, R. (2006). The dark side of discretion: leader personality and organizational decline. Retrieved March 23, 2008, from
    Kellerman, B. (2001). “Evil” manifested in destructive individual behavior: A senior leadership challenge. Journal of Management Inquiry (Vol. 10, pp 221-226, 2001).
    Kellerman, B. (2005). Bad leadership: what it is, how it happens, why it matters. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Business School Press.
    Kets de Vries, M. (2004). Organizations on the couch: a clinical perspective on organizational dynamics. European Management Journal. (Vol. 22, No. 2, pp. 183-2000, April 2004).
  • 26. References
    Lasch, C. (1979). The culture of narcissism: American life in an age of diminishing expectations. New York, NY: Norton.
    McIntosh, D. L., & Rima, S.D. (2007) Overcoming the dark side of leadership: how to become an effective leader by confronting potential failures. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.
    McMillan, J. J., & Northern, N. A. (1995). Organizational codependency: the creation and maintenance of closed systems. Management Communication Quarterly (Vol. 9, No., 1,
    pp. 6-45, August 1995). Sage Publications, Inc.
    Rapier, M. L. (2005). An interview study of narcissistic executives: piercing the corporate veil of narcissism in the workplace. ProQuest Dissertation and Theses. (UMI No. 3212939).
    Springle, P. (1995). Codependency: A Christian perspective. Houston, TX: Word//Rapha.
    Springle, P. (1993). Conquering codependency: A Christ-centered 12-step process. Nashville, TN: LifeWay Press.
    Wallis, J. (2005). God’s politics: A new vision for faith and politics in America. San Francisco, CA: HarperCollins.
    Williams, D. F. (2005). Toxic leadership in the U.S. army. Unpublished dissertation. U.S. Army War College. Carlisle Barracks, PA.
    © Mary A Ross 2008