The Achilles heel of Narcissus

Lack of empathy is a very distinctive feature of narcissistic directorship and, together with other common characteristics such as need for power and smugness, contributes to an inaccurate picture of leaders who may seem insusceptible to anxiety.  Quite ironically, self-absorption that gives a narcissist an “advantage” over those he views as emotionally vulnerable mortals is also his greatest frailty.

Non-delivery of admiration

A fragile, self-inflated ego requires regular shots of admiration, fainting groupies and hard-working cajolers. Any shortage of narcissistic supply, any “no,” not to mention criticism, will be perceived as a threat to the sore self-esteem.  This kind of narcissistic injury results in narcissistic rage and increases the sentiment of insecurity.  Narcissus-the-leader will expect that submission goes in pair with admiration.  If not, the dramatic exits and hissy fits will reveal a caricatural diva, pouting and stamping feet.

No pen and no phone

If self-aggrandizers climb a corporate or political ladder with pre-eminent determination, it’s because they view power not as a responsibility but as a mean of control, necessary to dominate others, and to feed their insatiable sense of entitlement.  Unplug the power cord, and this is the end, my dear fiend: not enough electricity to shine.  The disjoined ego can try to produce some sparks but will not cause fires.


Narcissists live in constant fear of disclosure.  They project a meticulously crafted fictitious ego for the world to applaud.  They can’t lose face, but they can lose mask, and this is their greatest concern.

Impossible mission

General George S. Patton used to say: “Wars may be fought with weapons, but they are won by men. It is the spirit of men who follow and of the man who leads that gains the victory.”  

The creed of American soldier is “I will always place the mission first.”  Every institution and organization that entrusts such a task to a narcissist should know that for him, putting an assignment first will be an impossible mission.  His grandiose, balloon-like ego will burst whenever cut off from the supply of power and admiration, and deflate when under real pressure of accountability.

Hand-picking a narcissist because of his ruthlessness might sound like a good idea, but even if arrogant enough to show the soles of his feet to the world, he will be simultaneously displaying his Achilles heel.

Illustration by Richard Terrell of Aftermath.