Top Menu

Narcissism – what’s that!

I am currently finishing an article on how some of our clients  – often the most successful ones – have a particular blindness regarding their behaviour and the enormous pressure they put on themselves and everyone around them.

“Narcissism includes the inability to accept failure and it brings with it a marked need for power and control; what the person actually feels is at the opposite end of the spectrum – he actually feels worthless, powerless and believes that he has not achieved enough; there is never ‘enough’ to compensate for what this person feels inside.  Driving the compensatory behaviours is the ‘injured self’, the  ‘little person’ inside who has been diminished at an early age, has not had sufficient endorsement from significant others and who tried to get love and affection through achievement. A leader with this type of psychological background usually tries to hide their true self from others, by identifying almost completely with achievement and very high standards.  Coaches may find this type of coachee almost impenetrable and slow to acknowledge their need to change. Classic work/life imbalance can be a signal to the coach here. And when a coach gets to know their coachee better, this client will often ‘confess’ to feelings of not being good enough, or of fearing that others will see through them and that, in spite of huge achievements, they have little sense of pleasure and even less sense of their own personal reality. These are all major indicators of a narcissistically driven person. They are likely to be present somewhere in every boardroom.”

 Coaches see behaviours associated with mild narcissistic personality disorder every day.  This is especially true when we work with successful, charismatic, driven individuals – the sort who work all hours and are hugely committed to their work and their organisations. They bring so much to the table, but often at great cost to themselves.

These clients usually have little sense of pleasure outside of work and can be oblivious to the imbalances that are characteristic of this type of leader – they are often leaders. Coaching to restore work/life balance and to invite the client to begin to feel, rather than remain numb to their own feelings, is a good way to begin  with them. It is also important to show up authentically and give genuine endorsement to the client.  Making a true, robust relationship is very important in order to provide a container in which the client can begin – without shame or fear – to share their thoughts and feelings.  It may be that you are the ‘first person ever’ that they have really been open with.  I’m sure that you recognise this ‘first person ever’ comment!


Watch this space for announcement of the completed article…………..


Edna Murdoch 2012