How to Deal With a Narcissistic Leader

If you have ever worked with a narcissistic leader, you already know how difficult it is to deal with them.

Narcissists create cultures that are toxic and workplaces that are poisonous. Many don’t realize the damage they cause and the stress they create.

There are many circumstances that can cause someone to develop a narcissistic personality, but there are also a few basic practices that you can implement when dealing with just about any narcissist.

Here are some of the most common destructive traits of narcissists, along with solutions to help you cope — even overcome.

A sense of entitlement and superiority.

Narcissists who are focused on their own power are usually extremely insecure. Don’t allow your self-worth to depend on anyone else’s or get caught up in the narcissist’s world of entitlement and ego. Stay clear of their path as much as possible — and when you can’t, at least keep them out of your head.

A strong need for attention.

It can be easy to lose your sense of purpose and goals when you have a leader who wants all the attention all the time, but don’t allow your own priorities to be derailed. You don’t need to attend to everything this person wants and needs, even if they’re clamoring for attention. Instead, find a balance between moving ahead and dealing with your leader’s need for attention.

A single-minded focus.

Much like the need for attention, the narcissist’s insecurity and low self-esteem mean they are almost literally incapable of anything but taking. For them, it really is “all about me.” Keep your goals and expectations realistic and remind yourself of their low capacity for giving.

A lack of empathy.

A narcissistic leader lacks empathy. Expect them to have a hard time understanding other points of view, relating to what people are feeling, and communicating meaningfully. Frame what you have to say with caution and clarity, and never confide in them.

Constant criticism of others.

It may well be true that you will never be able to please them, but remind yourself that it’s not your fault they’re impossible to satisfy. Do your best and look to others for more valuable feedback.

High levels of aggression.

Many narcissistic leaders have a short fuse that can be ignited quickly, at least some (and maybe all) of the time. Remember that it is their need to feel better about themselves that makes them behave in ways that are sneaky and undercutting and aggressive. You may even be able to provide reassurance that will help prevent them from lashing out.

An unwillingness to hear feedback.

The narcissistic leader is not an open person, and listening to feedback is not on their agenda. They tend to assume that feedback is grounded in either jealousy or just contrariness, and will devalue your opinion even more as a result. Try to avoid confrontations, but if you have to say something and it’s important, frame it in a way that invites the narcissist to believe that they still have the upper hand.

Above all, keep a positive outlook when dealing with a narcissistic leader, and recognize that they may need professional help. Don’t get caught up in other people’s stories but do your best with the situation you are in. If all else fails, remove yourself before the toxicity does lasting damage.


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What Gets Between You and Your Greatness

After decades of coaching powerful executives around the world, Lolly Daskal has observed that leaders rise to their positions relying on a specific set of values and traits. But in time, every executive reaches a point when their performance suffers and failure persists. Very few understand why or how to prevent it.

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Lolly Daskal is one of the most sought-after executive leadership coaches in the world. Her extensive cross-cultural expertise spans 14 countries, six languages and hundreds of companies. As founder and CEO of Lead From Within, her proprietary leadership program is engineered to be a catalyst for leaders who want to enhance performance and make a meaningful difference in their companies, their lives, and the world.

Of Lolly’s many awards and accolades, Lolly was designated a Top-50 Leadership and Management Expert by Inc. magazine. Huffington Post honored Lolly with the title of The Most Inspiring Woman in the World. Her writing has appeared in HBR,, Fast Company (Ask The Expert), Huffington Post, and Psychology Today, and others. Her newest book, The Leadership Gap: What Gets Between You and Your Greatness has become a national bestseller.

  1. Brooke Borthwick-Moy

    20. Sep, 2021

    Thank you so much. After having an anxiety attack for days after having to deal with a narcissistic leader, I decided to google how to deal with it. I saw your website and it instantly made me fell empowered and reduced my anxiety attack instantly. I wanted to thank you so much for how much you helped me in such a short article. I am buying your book! I am hoping that I can help others in my same predicament to feel that they are not alone. Thank you so much.
    Brooke from Sydney Australia!

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