Narcissistic Leaders: The Dark Triad, narcissism, psychopathy and Machiavellianism

Narcissistic Leaders: The Dark Triad, narcissism, psychopathy and Machiavellianism


Lasse Wrennmark

Lasse Wrennmark


Lasse is a specialised consultant in culture change, leadership development, teambuilding and executive coaching. He has devised a number of transformation and culture change projects, strategy & refocusing workshops, coach the coach programmes. Lasse is an appreciated keynote speaker in the field of leadership and change. His ability to engage an audience with his authentic style and story-telling ability has led him to speak around the world including with and for the Mexican Government and top leaders in the Attorney General Office.

I think it’s time to talk about psychopathic, sociopathic and narcissistic leaders and the damage they do. Over the more than 20 years that I been working with global companies, I have for sure met a few that had been diagnosed for one of those traits. We still see them in business, but today ́s business leaders are evaluated throughout their carrier, so it becomes more difficult to climb the latter in the system if you have one of these diagnoses. In politics it seems to be easier. We are living in a very complex and incomprehensible world. In this world, it has become easy to thrive on fear or nationalism. Narratives such as “make our country great again”, “the West is going to invade us”, “we can do better by ourselves”, “let’s separate” are messages from many of these leaders.

At the same time, we have all experienced how interconnected we actually are after the pandemic. The scary scenario is that it’s so easy to manipulate the masses with simple solutions to complex problems or to create imaginary enemies. If your leaders have any of the above diagnoses, they’re not driven by the love for your country, people, brand or company. They’re driven by serving their own needs, nothing else. Any expert in the field has only one suggestion if you have any kind of relationship with a narcissist or psychopath, GET OUT.

If not, we will continue to see more wars like the one in Ukraine, the storming of the Capitol, and suffering for the masses. So, what could be a solution to this?

We need leaders in all part of society that are able to integrate different world views, not divide them. We need leaders that embrace diversity like nature does. The more diversity in a system, the more resilient the system is. We need more leaders who are able to lead from compassion and care for the whole.

In the short term, this will be a challenge. In the long term, it will be a possibility combined with the strong undercurrent of positive things that are happening in the world that we don’t see in the media.

Here is part of an article from a Swedish newspaper last week.

“In a 2020 study, researchers analysed the personalities of 157 world leaders – including 14 authoritarian, extreme conservative leaders referred to in the study as “strong men”, such as Vladimir Putin, Jair Bolsonaro, Donald Trump and Viktor Orbán – using more than 1,800 expert assessments. The analysis shows that the 14 share several personality traits.

For example, all 14 were more extroverted than average – but less agreeable. But the interesting part emerged when the researchers delved into their darker traits. They all scored high on just the Dark Triad, with Vladimir Putin among those scoring highest on narcissism – a cocktail of emotionalism, manipulative tendencies, lack of empathy and high self-esteem.”

The study: