A Vainglorious Leader

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We are diverse. We speak many languages, practice many religions, eat different kinds of food, and wear varieties of costume. Yet our some actions are similar: we complain less, we do not vet our leaders, and we trust our leaders and follow them patiently.

We followed Prime Ministers Nehru 16 years (first PM and remained PM until his death), Indira Gandhi 15 years (assassinated), Rajiv Gandhi five years (assassinated), Narsimha Rao four years, Atal Bihari Vajpayee six years, and Man Mohan Singh 10 years.

Is it good for a prime minister (or a state’s chief minister) to remain in office for a long time?

No, writes Calvin Coolidge, the 30th President of the USA, in his book The Autobiography of Calvin Coolidge:

It is difficult for men in high office to avoid the malady of self-delusion. They are always surrounded by worshipers. They are constantly and for the most part sincerely assured of their greatness. They live in an artificial atmosphere of adulation and exaltation which sooner or later impairs their judgment. They are in grave danger of becoming careless and arrogant.


Is it good to follow a leader for a long time?

History shows it is wise not to follow mass leaders for any length of time if they admire themselves a lot or brag about their abilities or use ploys to come to, or to remain in, power.

What is narcissistic leadership?

Alexander Burgemeester studied Neuro-Psychology at the University of Amsterdam and specializes in neurodegenerative disorders, personality disorders, and emotional disorders. He writes in one of his essays on narcissistic leaders that:

Narcissists have vision; but then again so do people in psychiatric hospitals...narcissistic leadership is a leadership style in which the leaders’ main goal is serving self-interest at the expense of their people or group members. Narcissists tend to be appealing and quite adept at attracting followers. They often do so through language and believe that their inspiring speeches can influence people….A narcissist seek and indeed, needs praise and admiration from his admirers….Unfortunately, the admiration that a narcissist demands can have a negative effect. As he grows in power, he listens even less to words of caution or advice from his subordinates or from his people. He does not try to persuade those who disagree with him but instead he ignores them (or their advice) or in the case of some dictators, has them deposed or otherwise gotten rid of. The result is sometimes brazen risk taking that can lead to catastrophe of historical proportions….Narcissistic leaders are intensely aware of which people are “with” them unconditionally and which ones are not. They know whom they can use and they don’t think twice about being callously manipulative.

Who was Alexander the Great?

Alexander the Great statue in Istanbul Archeology Museum Photo: en.wikipedia.comBorn in 356 B.C. at Pella, the capital of ancient kingdom of Macedon (now Macedonia), and a student of Aristotle, Alexander the Great was narcissist. He was twenty when his father was murdered; and he became king of Macedon after eliminating several of his rivals out of his way.

But the kingdom proved tiny for Alexander the Great, so he set out to conquer more nations. In next 13 years, and before his death at 33, he and his army captured Greece, Persian Empire (now Iran), Egypt, Syria, Turkey, and penetrated into that part of India that we now call Punjab.

Alexander the Great’s victories came at the expense of his soldiers’ lives – but he had no empathy for them. He issued coins with his images on them. He got his statues unveiled. And he named many cities after him, the most famous being Alexandria in Egypt.

Who is a narcissist among us?

A narcissist could be a boss, colleague, friend, neighbor, pundit, spouse, teacher – or you name it. But it’s the vainglorious mass leader, elected or appointed, who could ruin us and whom we may not want to follow.

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