Welcome to The SHAPE of a Leader. I write this blog with the SHAPE leadership development program (for women pastors) I lead in mind, but it is for all who are interested in leadership, faith, and the intersection of the two.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Am I a narcissist?

I was with a group of (mostly) young leaders recently.  In a group conversation about healthy leadership, one person raised his hand and said, "I'm wondering if I'm a narcissist?"  How would you know?

The dictionary's definition for narcissist reads:
1.  A person who is overly self-involved, often vain and selfish.
2.  Psychoanalysis:   a person who suffers from narcissismderiving erotic gratification from admiration of his or her own physical or mental attributes.

My first thought, not knowing this young man, was that if he's honestly and vulnerably asking the question, he's probably not a narcissist, even if he's exhibited those self-involved tendencies sometimes (haven't we all?)!  And my second thought was, bravo that he's truly wanting to look in the mirror and examine that question.  

I think about Jim Collins and his concept of Level 5 Leadership.  Level 5 leaders are always humble.  They don't take credit for anything (after all, isn't there always someone else to whom credit can be bestowed?) and they don't deflect by blaming.  They are not overly self-indulgent. Through this humility, these leaders naturally empower and build confidence and loyalty in those around him or her.

And, I think about Jesus and the idea of servant leadership, which really is Level 5 Leadership at its pinnacle.  Jesus led by serving, by humbling himself for the sake of others. 

Truly, is there a person alive who hasn't been overly self-involved for at least moments?  No, I'm quite sure not.  Moments are different, however, than a pattern or way of life.  I've learned that when I'm feeling selfish or overly self-involved, I ask myself the question that my friend Barb is famous for: "what's my motive?"  What's going on right now that I'm feeling and acting this way?  In examining it, maybe I can correct it for the next time.


  1. Great column Mary Kay! If I always think you write your columns about me, does that mean I'm a narcissist? :)