In “The Mindset of Unquintessential Leadership and What It Looks Like in Action,” one of the characteristics that I identified as part of that mindset is bullying.

I think it’s fair to say that we’ve all been exposed to bullying at some point during our lives. However, not all of us have been victims of bullying. For a bully to succeed, the person being bullied has to give his or her power to the bully.

Not everyone who gives this power to bullies is inherently weak. Sometimes the surrender simply comes from long-term battle fatigue and being completely worn down over time.

It takes tenacity, an exceptionally-strong will, and a very thick skin sometimes not to give power to someone else, especially with threats that sometimes go as far as the possibility of losing one’s life.

Physical bullies can threaten physical life. Most insidious and reprehensible, however, in my opinion, are spiritual bullies who threaten eternal life.

The one thing that all bullies (and unquintessential leaders) have in common is that they are narcissists. Narcissism is an inflated view of oneself compared to everyone else that actually is the result of insecurity and being uncomfortable in one’s own skin.

Unlike quintessential leaders, who recognize their strengths and develop them, recognize their weaknesses and work continually to change them into strengths, and who acknowledge that no one is an island and alone each of us is incomplete in many ways, unquintessential leaders (i.e., narcissists) exaggerate their strengths, deny weaknesses, and believe they alone are the pinnacle of humanity and they have no equals, only inferior subordinates.

To perpetuate the myth of dominance and preeminence that narcissists create in their own minds, they are inveterate and relentless bulliers. Each person in their paths of life who succumbs to their bullying reinforces their narcissistic views of themselves. It’s a vicious cycle.

How can you tell if someone is a narcissist, and, therefore, an unquintessential leader? There are some tell-tale signs that make this very obvious:

  • narcissist bully unquintessential leaderEverything is about him or her. The words “I,” “my,” “me,” and “mine,” are underscored in everything he or she says, does, writes, is. There is no “we,” “our,” and “ours” to be found.
  • They give themselves self-appointed titles, functions, and positions to elevate their statuses. The reasoning is always the same: nobody else recognized how great I am, but I know how great I am, and this title, position or function shows everyone else how great I am.
  • They inflate themselves by denigrating others and repetitiously trying to show how unworthy others are in comparison to them.
  • They make claims of being “the one and only” in whatever endeavor or area of life they consider themselves to be proficient in.
  • They are fundamentally dishonest about everything.
  • Eventually, they go so deep into their own self-deception that their behavior and words become a bizarre and crazy sideshow that no one takes seriously.

A word of caution to counteract what may be perceived as an extremely harsh critique of narcissism, bullying, and unquintessential leadership.

The reality is that as long as we breathe for a living, we all have to fight narcissistic tendencies.

It’s tempting, at times, to get on a “Oh, look at me!” kick, especially when we’re successful and things are going well in our lives.

It is also tempting, at times, especially if we know we have the power, to try to force our ways onto others, especially if they’re resisting (perhaps for legitimate reasons) or they are as strong-willed as we are.

And fighting and overcoming those temptations are a core part of the character of quintessential leaders. It’s not easy. And we don’t always succeed. But when we fail, we apologize and we change immediately.

Quintessential leaders may forget occasionally the reality of where we fit in the big scheme of things (and that reality is what produces humility in us), but when we stray from our character, we’re always willing to take the fastest and most direct path back to it.

That’s a stark difference between quintessential leaders and narcissistic, bullying, unquintessential leaders.

It’s imperative, therefore, for each of us who are striving to be quintessential leaders, to conduct in-depth self-examinations on a regular basis to ensure we haven’t strayed from the quintessential leader path onto the unquintessential leader path.

The line between the two can be quite thin sometimes and stepping across it much easier than we might think. 

  1. alicia wollan says:

    This just dropped into my lap at a moment when I needed it!


  2. iammarchhare says:

    I don’t see anything to disagree with here, and I like the article.

    I would caution that sometimes leaders feel as though they must put on a strong face, and there may be times it is legitimate (combat comes to mind). However, such false bravado can be overdone and may even be perceived as narcissistic if overplayed.

    Your point about titles is the one that amuses & confuses me the most, and you’re likely aware of that. It truly seems not merely narcissistic to me, but downright childish almost always. I’m sure you can name as many examples as I of some pretty bewildering titles that people attempt to pin on themselves.

    Even legitimate titles can be abused, though. One might indeed be a “Doctor” but in a different field of study for example. I suppose it shouldn’t be surprising when such a one ultimately isn’t satisfied with such a minor deception after a time.

    Honestly, I think “unquintessential leader” is perhaps too mild of a term for some breeds of “leaders”.

    Good article; thanks for posting it.


    • Thanks, John! I was interested in the words “feel as though,” because not only does it mean that emotions are the engine (always a dangerous place to be), but it points to the insecurity that most narcissists have. I’m a strong person with a strong personality and I’m a strong leader, but I don’t have to get in everybody’s face and hold hammers over everybody’s head to prove that I am any of those things. In fact, the way I treat people will tell them a lot about how whether I’m a quintessential leader or a wannabe.

      And if quintessential leadership is the epitome of true leadership then unquintessential leadership is the opposite. In other words, it’s just a person who isn’t a leader at all! So, it’s an apt description. 🙂


  3. […] Because consistent jerks are predictable. They never change anything, even their patterns of behavior, no matter what setting they are in or who they are with. They are equal-opportunity bullies and tyrants. […]


  4. […] very much a symptom of narcissism and self-absorption, but it is also a symptom of insecurity and […]


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