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Dr. Henry Cloud

Clinical Psychologist & Acclaimed Leadership Expert | Leadership University

Narcissism vs. Humility in Leaders

Published September 12, 2022

When people’s biggest desire in life is to be a leader, it usually comes out of some sort of narcissism. I would rather see people want to do important, great things that serve all of humanity, and really want to be the best that they can be.

Something invariably happens to that person—they get asked to lead. Why? Because they’re fruitful, good stewards, getting results, doing great things, and they haven’t decimated people in the process. People follow people like that.

People aspiring to be a leader for narcissistic reasons are some of the worst leaders in the world. On the flip side, great leaders are humble and honest. It’s hard to be arrogant when people see all of who you are. How can you brag about yourself when everybody sees all your thoughts, failures, struggles, and weaknesses along with your accomplishments?

It’s about being real, but also knowing what our reality dictates, and what we need to be working on. That’s part of humility—it’s being in a space where you can continually be honest about who you are, where you are, and what needs to get better.

Leaders must also be extremely curious about following, looking at, hanging around, and reverse engineering what great people do. One of the most important things to learn to be a better leader is how to look at the people who do things well—see the pieces in what they are actually doing and learn how to do that.

But what narcissistic leaders do is look at other great leaders and compare themselves, asking, am I good or am I bad? They judge themselves as better than some and worse than others, and it leads nowhere. But if you’re looking at people, not to compare yourself competitively but curiously—to learn and watch to a point where other leaders become models—that is a different story.

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About the Author

Dr. Henry Cloud

Clinical Psychologist & Acclaimed Leadership Expert Leadership University. Dr. Henry Cloud is an acclaimed leadership expert, clinical psychologist and New York Times best-selling author. His 45 books have sold nearly 15 million copies worldwide. He has an extensive executive coaching background and experience as a leadership consultant, devoting the majority of his time working with CEOs, leadership teams and executives to improve performance, leadership skills and culture. Dr. Cloud founded and built a healthcare company starting in 1987, which operated inpatient, and outpatient treatment centers in forty markets in the Western U.S. There, he served as Clinical Director and principal for ten years. In the context of hands-on clinical experience, he developed and researched many of the treatment principles and methods that he communicates to audiences today. After selling the company, he devoted his time to consulting and coaching, spreading principles of hope and life-change through speaking, writing and media. Throughout the same years and until the present, he has devoted much of his career to leadership performance and development, blending the disciplines of leadership and human functioning to helping CEO’s, teams, organizations and family entities. His book, Integrity, was dubbed by the New York Times as “the best book in the bunch.” In 2011, Necessary Endings was called “the most important book you read all year.” His book Boundaries For Leaders was named by CEO Reads in the top five leadership books of its year. His newest book, The Power of the Other, debuted at #5 on the Wall Street Journal bestseller list. Dr. Cloud’s work has been featured and reviewed by the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Boston Globe, Publisher’s Weekly, Los Angeles Times, and many other publications. Success magazine named Dr. Cloud in the top 25 most influential leaders in personal growth and development, alongside Oprah, Brene Brown, Seth Godin and others.

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