I came across a quiz the other day that tested if you could identify if a quote was from Kanye West or Jean Ralphio Saperstein from Parks and Rec.  I only got six correct.

In pop culture, narcissism is funny.  In the church, not so much.

Here are Five Warning Signs of Narcissistic Leadership:

1. Exudes Self-Importance

Leaders that cannot see their organization functioning without them at the helm are at risk of becoming narcissistic. Look at Moses. Multiple books of the Bible are centered on his leadership journey, but when Deuteronomy 34 rolls around, his death gets four verses before the story turns to Joshua. Matt Chandler once said, “The man goes in the ground and the message moves on.” The leadership of your church is its greatest asset but also its greatest liability. The degree to which a leaders is self-important determines that scale.

The leadership of your church is its greatest asset but also its greatest liability. Click To Tweet

2. Acts Entitled

Narcissistic leaders feel they are the exception, not the rule. Human resource guidelines that apply to everyone else don’t apply to them.  When everyone else is hustling on a project, they’ve got an important meeting.  The narcissistic leader’s family time is protected more than the rest of the staff.  Scripture teaches that leaders should be exceptions, but not for their own gain. Biblical leaders are exceptional servants, taking the harder road even when the easier path is open to them.

Biblical leaders take the harder road even when the easier path is open to them. Click To Tweet

3. Uses Generalizations

Narcissistic leaders exaggerate to achieve their goals. They say “always” and “never” to enhance their perspective. Just enough facts root their generalization  in reality. They use the shield of positional authority to shut down opinions.  Generalizations can do more emotional damage to team member than almost anything a leader can use. A leader’s words are powerful, and they can be poison.

A leader's words are powerful, and they can be poison. Click To Tweet

4. Needs Adoration

Everyone wants to be liked.  Most people will change behavior to some degree if they believe it will make them better liked.  Narcissistic leaders need adoration.  When they receive criticism, especially from staff or colleagues, they tend to react in two ways.  First, they may become defensive and reactionary.  Perceived offenses are met with negativity and bullying. This won’t make the offender like them, but it might make them fear the leader–which is often an acceptable substitute. Conversely, the narcissistic leader may respond emotionally.  The leader employs tears, pleas, and emotional manipulation so that the critic feels bad for speaking up. He or she will think twice the next time.

5. Lacks Empathy

Most characteristically, the narcissistic leader lacks empathy.  His chief concerns are their goals, mission, and reputation.  Narcissistic leaders are willing to sacrifice people on the altar of ego. Unfortunately, most of the time they don’t even realize that there is a trail of emotionally damaged people in their wake.  As a church leader, this is the most dangerous aspect of narcissism. God has called us to love one another.  When we filter our lives through the lens of ego, we become blind to the spiritual need that demands our full attention.

Narcissistic leaders are willing to sacrifice people on the altar of ego. Click To Tweet

Narcissism is easy to see in others but hard to see in ourselves.  However, the success of our leadership depends on our ability to know ourselves, so step back.  Think objectively. Are you showing any of the five warning signs?

Not sure? Try a 360-degree evaluation through a coaching session to get an outsider perspective.

Your leadership may depend on it.

In pop culture, narcissism is funny. In the church, not so much. Click To Tweet