7 practices to avoid becoming a self-absorbed, narcissistic leader

Last blog I shared 4 early warning signs about narcissism in my own life and leadership.  Here are 7 practices I have learned to keep a tender heart and avoid my natural tendency to become self-absorbed:

1.  Be a continual learner.  I need to stay humble and hungry to learn, especially from and with others.

2.  Be open to engage, listen, dialogue with even difficult people.  If I remain curious, I will adjust my mindset and view resistance as feedback and a valuable resource to me.  Blaming resisters to change only puts valuable relationships in jeopardy, encourages an “us vs. them” mindset, and squanders an opportunity to engage skeptics to come up with a better plan.

3.  Guard against attitudes of entitlement.  It is easy to slip into the mindset that I deserve some compensation or special perks for the exhausting work and suffering of leadership.

4.  Cultivate thankfulness.  Thankfulness helps me to engage my environment and take part in activities that are adaptive. Ray Wheeler says, “Gratitude engenders organizational transformation and performance by encouraging positive emotions that reverberate through others.”  Read Ray’s blog: Mom was Right, Gratitude is Necessary for Success  for more reasons to cultivate thankfulness.

5.  Monitor your frustration levels.  I find it ironic that leaders, who often have a dissatisfaction with the status quo are leading others who are pretty comfortable with the way things are.  This is a frustrating setup for either authoritarianism or burnout.

6.  Embrace betrayal as part of your character growth.  I have no control over others who may abandon or criticize me; I can however avoid seeing myself as a victim when I embrace what God might be trying to teach me about my leadership and my character through the circumstances.

7.  Practice openness, acceptance, trust, forgiveness on the way to serving others according their “service language”.  The thesis of Elmer (2006) is that service is ultimately defined by the one being served, not by the leader/servant.  We honor others when we serve them according to their needs.

What would you add to this list?  What has helped you keep a tender heart toward God and others when you have betrayed?

Related posts:

Next blog:  Keeping a tough hide and leading with courage in the midst of betrayal.



Allender, D. (2006). Leading with a limp: Turning your struggles into strengths.  Colorado Springs, CO: Waterbrook Press.

Elmer, D. (2006). Cross-cultural servanthood: Serving the world in Christ-like humility.  Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

Ford, J. and Ford L.  Decoding Resistance to Change.  Harvard Business Review, April 2009, pages 99-103.

Wheeler, R. http://raywheeler.wordpress.com/2011/11/11/mom-was-right-gratitude-is-necessary-for-success/  accessed on March 8, 2012.

About Steve Morgan

I work in Global Leadership Development with Cru with my wife, Terry. We have been married 34 years and have 4 grown children. I have a Masters in Global Leadership together through Azusa Pacific University. I generally write about 5 “L’s: Living Well, Loving Deeply, Learning Continuously, Leading Courageously and Leaving a Legacy. I occasionally write about Laughing Loudly. Subscribe on the right side to receive an email whenever there is a new post. I invite you to leave your comments so we can dialogue on the various topics and learn from each other. If you are new to the site, you might start with looking at some of the top posts or doing a search on the right side bar for one of the 5 “L’s” that interest you. Or you can view the blog archives for topics. Photo Credit: sarahjoellephotography.com
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4 Responses to 7 practices to avoid becoming a self-absorbed, narcissistic leader

  1. Andrea says:

    Corporate worship is essential for me– reminding me of God’s greatness, right-sizing my sense of self, and being part of the Body.

    • Steve Morgan says:

      That is something Terry and I are looking forward to in Orlando. We experienced this when we went to our daughters final chapel on her last day of camp last weekend. It felt so good to lose myself in worship, focus on God and see my right place. Thanks for the comment.

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