Narcissism and Destructive Leadership

Date: Friday June 16th 2017 (9-30am -> 4-30pm)

Venue: The Foundry, 17 Oval Way London SE11 5RR

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The idea that there are ‘narcissistic’ individuals who can wreak havoc when in positions of leadership and power has been receiving considerable public attention. Stories from  political arenas,  corporate boardrooms and public organisations tell of the damage done by particularly destructive individuals who gain positions of power.

Superficially at least, the fit between the clinical formulations of Narcissistic Personality Disorder and the behaviour of a number of prominent individuals seems strong. The seemingly overwhelming confidence in their own ability, the very grand sense of their own importance, alongside the disparagement, and aggression aimed at those who threaten their persona appears to fit well with the clinical accounts that emerged from psychoanalytic accounts of ‘narcissistic personality disorder’ some decades ago.

Of course, serious questions have been raised about the utility of such psychological concepts to understand what might be better understood as more complex sociopolitical phenomena. Should we also be thinking more about the attraction of such personalities, and the organisations and cultures that promote them? Perhaps we need further analysis of the sociocultural conditions that create or encourage such states of mind? It is now over 35 years since Christopher Lasch published his stinging indictment of ‘post industrial’ American society – Culture of Narcissism. How much relevance does that analysis of social conditions have today?

This seminar will examine the status and utility of conceptualisations of narcissistic personality disorder and narcissistic cultures.



  • Professor Mark Stein (University of Leicester)
  • Professor Elizabeth Lunbeck (Harvard University) ‘The Narcissistic Appeal of Donald Trump.’
  • Professor Paul Hoggett (Emiritus, University of West of England) ‘The Malady of the Ideal.’
  • Professor Barry Richards (Bournemouth University). ‘Malignant Leadership and its cultural supports.’
  • Dr Lindsey Nichols (London Southbank University). ‘ Bystanders; part of a perverse process in narcissistic leadership.’
  • Michael Maynard (Maynard-Leigh Associates)


This Seminar is being sponsored by the ESRC as part of a series in collaboration with the Association of Psychosocial Studies and Maynard Leigh Associates.