From Goleman’s Social Intelligence, pp 120-121:
Unhealthy narcissists typically lack a feeling of self-worth; the result is an inner shakiness that in a leader, for example, means that even as he unfurls inspiring visions, he harbors a vulnerability that closes his ears to criticism. Such leaders avoid even constructive feedback, which they perceive as an attack. Their hypersensitivity to criticism in any form means that narcissistic leaders don’t seek out information widely; rather, they selectively seize on data that supports their views, ignoring disconfirming facts. They don’t listen but prefer to preach and indoctrinate.
An entire organization can be narcissistic. When a critical mass of employees share a narcissistic outlook, the outfit itself takes on those traits, which become standard operating procedures.
Organizational narcissism has clear perils. Pumping up grandiosity, whether it is the boss’s or some false collective self-image held throughout the company, becomes the operating norm. Healthy dissent dies out. And any organization that is cheated of a full grasp of truth loses the ability to respond nimbly to harsh realities.
2 thoughts on “Quoted Without Comment”
Here are comments by people who claim to have worked with Obama when he was at a company called Business International. I was particularly struck by this comment:
“I remember trying to explain the nuance of (interest rate swaps) to him in the cramped three Wang terminal space we called the bull pen. In contrast to his his liberal arts background, I had a degree in finance and Wall Street experience, so I knew what I was talking about.
But rather than learn from a City College kid, the Ivy Leaguer just sort of rolled his eyes. Condescendingly. I’ll never forget it. God forbid he leave the impression that a mere editor like myself knew more about something than did Barack.
He was like that.”
If this is true, it is pretty damning, and shows a man who is so into his own status that he refuses to learn from people who he perceives as lower-status. This kind of thing can permeate and cripple an organization, as Goleman suggests.
Whether or not these specific stories about Obama are correct, narcissism and arrogance are certainly exemplified by Joe Biden.
Obama seems the sort of “Cosmopolitian” creature that was featured in an article I read years ago which examined the contrasting lifepath trajectories of Ivy League educated “coastal” types with their similarly educated brethren from the mid-west. Those from the coasts, once educated at one of the Seven Sisters of the Ivy League, tended to head straight to Washington to work in government or to NYC to work in the corporate world. Those from the mid-west were just as likely to return home to become a housewife or run the family tire re-capping store(s), content to put down roots in their hometown ,marry, raise a family and generally remain detached from the corporate or political national power structure. For “coastal” types this is, as the article pointed out, “to think the unthinkable.” I would posit that, given Obama’s relatively cosmopolitian background,
he would fit in quite well with the “Coastal” typology which
the article I read claimed forms their entire persona, coalescing as it does around their educational status and the sense of superiority that accrues from having such an educational background. And emanating from that sense of superiority a sense of entitlement to go along with it.
The sort of “Coastal” personality described in the article I read would seem to be totally congruent with the person in the story David Foster relates.
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