This is a blog comes from an idea in my forthcoming book (April 2018) on Authentic Leadership. And it seems appropriate under the current political environment in U.S. Specifically, the idea comes from the chapter that discusses how a leader can use the concept of relatableness to empower those around them. Or, they can use their charisma for evil. This blog post is about the evil part….


Dr. Michael Maccoby, President at The Maccoby Group in Washington, D.C. is a frequent Harvard Business Review contributor and writes on narcissism and leadership. In his 2000 Harvard Business Review article titled, Narcissistic Leaders: The Incredible Pros, the Inevitable Cons, Maccoby describes what I call the “Trump Effect.” Now, when I read this I couldn’t stop thinking about what appears to be a collision of American ideals from the left and right resulting in hollowing out the much-needed middle on both sides of the isle.

The Trump Effect is a leader who leads by pretenses and uses their natural charisma to manipulate those around them to achieve a goal that results in a less desirable outcome. Here is how Maccoby describes these leaders. “Despite the warm feelings that charisma can evoke, narcissists are typically not comfortable with their own emotions. They listen only to the kind of information they seek. They don’t learn easily from others. They don’t like to teach but prefer to indoctrinate and make speeches. They dominate meetings with subordinates. The result for the organization is greater internal competitiveness at a time when everyone is already under as much pressure as they can stand. Perhaps the problem is that the narcissist’s faults tend to become even more pronounced as he becomes more successful.”

We all know a leader who on the surface appears to have it all. They are outgoing, quick witted, and can sway the masses, etc., etc….. However, after awhile they begin to smell like rotten fish, and they stink. Cracks in their charismatic armor begin to appear, especially in the moments of stress or push back from those in their inner circle. Overtime, their integrity, and compassion are compromised and their followers start to defect.

Maccoby uses eight (nine, but eight for this) overarching attributes of a leader who uses charisma and narcissism for evil. In the following list, see if you can think of someone who has some of these attributes. These are just some quotes from a leader.

  1. Sensitive to Criticism“As everybody knows, but the haters & losers refuse to acknowledge, I do not wear a “wig.” My hair may not be perfect but it’s mine.”
    2. Poor listeners“I cherish women. I want to help women. I’m going to be able to do things for women that no other candidate would be able to do … ”
    3. Lacks empathy“Happy New Year to all, including to my many enemies and those who have fought me and lost so badly they just don’t know what to do. Love!”
    4. Distaste for mentoring — “I alone can fix it [The U.S.]. I will restore law and order.”
    5. Intense desire to compete“Ariana Huffington is unattractive, both inside and out. I fully understand why her former husband left her for a man — he made a good decision.”
    6. Finds a trusted sidekick “People have given me credit for having great chemistry with all of the leaders, including [Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah] el-Sissi.”
    7. Indoctrination of the organization“If I were to run, I’d run as a Republican. They’re the dumbest group of voters in the country. They believe anything on Fox News. I could lie and they’d still eat it up. I bet my number would be terrific.”


8. More interested in controlling others than disciplining themselves “Believe me.”

Pause for a minute and think of someone, anyone who fits this and stated those quotes….