How to make a difference between a charismatic leader and a narcissistic one?

Many of us know some general things about a narcissist’s behavior. A narcissistic person is often obsessed with her appearance and feels a constant need of admiration and respect from the others.
Narcissism is an interesting construct that is built around the idea of having an elite status. These persons are sure about the fact that they are superior to the others and have no problem in considering that they do have superior qualities. If it’s about the first place, they will do all it takes to get there, because it’s where they belong. Also, they don’t feel the need to prove their value, because they think that everybody already realized how valuable they are.
These traits from the narcissistic class are also available for the construct of a leader personality and we often see them at the people we consider born leaders.
What is charisma? It can be a remarkable quality at different levels. Some persons can have sex-appeal, their presence creates a kind of energy that others feel, they attract the other’s attention even without wanting. A lot of persons who have been raised in a healthy way also have a high level of empathy. So, when you are near a charismatic person, the good mood can be contagious via empathy. Therefore, a charismatic leader can be an inspiring person that helps you believe in yourself.
What is narcissism? It programs the persons naturally to be obsessed with how they present themselves. A healthy level of narcissism helps with creating a good image that we show to the world, but an unhealthy level brings to focus on one’s own desires and ways to fulfill them, even though it implies using the others.
Narcissism includes a low level of importance for the others and deep feelings of superiority. It is ironic that the source of these feelings is a low self-esteem. Narcissistic persons are tended to present themselves as being better than in real life and what lies behind this tendency is the fear that they have nothing good and deep to offer. Different from the good feelings you have near a charismatic leader, the auto-absorption of a narcissistic leader and false charisma break the surface easily.
How do you make a difference from charisma and narcissism?
One of the best methods is asking yourself a few questions, like the following ones:
1. Is this person motivated by the tasks or by the final purpose?
2. Does he/she recognize my resources and cheers me up to grow as a person and as a member of this team?
3. Does he/she beg for validation or offers validation to the team members?
4. When the leader faces obstacles, does he/she blame the others, or he/she accepts that he/she might have some part of the guilt and tries to find a better way for the team’s success?
Narcissistic leaders are in big trouble when they must accept the failures and refuse to assume their own responsibility when they fail. But the charismatic leader will always look for right answers with the team. Their positive energy unites the team’s members, by showing his/her appreciation, recognizing their true value and looking for a team’s main purpose.
Author: Violeta Gudana


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Project co-financed by the European Social Fund Operational Programme Human Resources Development 2007-2013
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