By Seth A. Rosenthal
This article appeared in the 2006 issue of Working Papers
It is clear that a significant number of world leaders have rigidly grandiose belief systems and leadership styles. Often, the authors who recount the “psychohistories” of these leaders connect both the leaders’ assent to power, and their ultimate (and seemingly inevitable) downfall, to their narcissistic grandiosity.
While not every author employs the term “narcissism” to describe the leader in question, across the board they reliably depict individuals whose aspirations, judgments, and decisions, both good and bad, are driven by unyielding arrogance and self-absorption.
The pantheon of purportedly narcissistic leaders ranges from the great tyrants of recent history including Hitler, Stalin, and Saddam Hussein (Glad, 2002), to lesser-known malevolent leaders like the founder of the American Nazi Party, George Lincoln Rockwell (Miliora, 1995) and cult leader Jim Jones (Zee, 1980), great historical figures such as Alexander Hamilton (Chernow, 2004), business leaders of all stripes including Steve Jobs (Robins & Paulhus, 2001), Michael Eisner (Sankowsky, 1995), David Geffen (Kramer, 2003), and Kenneth Lay (Kramer, 2003), and an eclecticand sometimes surprising list of current political leaders such as Benjamin Netanyahu (Kimhi, 2001), John McCain (Renshon, 2001), George W. Bush (Krugman, 2005; Suskind, 2004), and both Jimmy Carter and his mother, Lillian (Glad & Whitmore, 1991).
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