Power, masculinity and narcissism
DIRK JAN VERSLUIS
Powerhouses in the boardroom
It surely is one of the ugliest things people can say about you. At least if you care what people think of you.
That you are a narcissist.
Quasi-diagnostic idiom for: a self-centered asshole.
There is a big difference between the deep inner tragedy of narcissism in both men and women on the one hand, and the things that are popularly said about it in daily life. You won't be the first man to be called an autist or narcissist, nor the first woman to be called a "borderliner" or "drama queen."
But how can you properly distinguish between masculinity, strength and narcissism? How can you as a leader or director use strength in a constructive way? And how do you stay out of patterns of dominance, oppression and destructiveness?
The many faces of power
Strength or power can be a beautiful thing! It can be constructive and empowering, it gives willpower, creativity and the ability to realize breakthroughs.
However, power also has important downsides, which you can see everywhere in the corporate world and in world politics. Dictatorial tendencies, abuse of power and oppression are as old as humanity and all involve destructive displays of power. A famous, to Abraham Lincoln attributed quote says:
Yet a great deal of inner strength is indispensable for leaders and entrepreneurs. In recent years I have worked a lot with extremely powerful business people who possess great personal strength in the most natural way. They only have to look at you and you can feel it, and everywhere they go they immediately have a major impact on their environment, their organization or their people. But precisely these people often encounter the dark sides of strength in their lives.
As a result, on a personal level everything is a struggle, you lose the connection with yourself and others and you see that much of your work is broken down while you watch.
Masculinity and power
Power is like FC Bayern Munich's attacking play: straight and all ahead. This aspect is often associated with masculine or masculine energy. It is very different from love, patience, vulnerability and sensitivity, aspects that are often associated with feminine or feminine energy.
You can see these energies not only on a personal level, but also in organizations or even in countries and cultures.
Egocentrism and Narcissism
Are you a powerful leader? Then you will always touch and trigger people. Strength also gives a deep confidence, in yourself, but also in others. This power is easily mistaken for arrogance, egocentrism or narcissism by people possessing less power.
It is very simple to distinguish these.
Strength is constructive, and naturally gentle and confident. It naturally entails centralization: straightforwardly focusing on the one core that is important. Wonderful virtue for true leaders.
Does power become excessively dominant and oppressive? Then it doesn't build things up, but breaks things down - literally or figuratively speaking.
Do you recognize arrogance or self-centeredness in yourself? Then there is actually a lack of strength and a lack of 'self', and you are continuously roaring down that gaping hole in yourself.
Nowhere is this dynamic so strikingly drawn as in the drama of narcissism. A deep wound of 'not being allowed to exist', 'being unwanted' or 'not being good enough', made completely invisible by a large narcissistic hot-air balloon with all kinds of distracting outward features.
Narcissism therefore has nothing to do with strength, but with a deep powerlessness against existence itself.
Power doesn't need to be destructive!
Inner power makes born leaders.
Do you want to make sure that you use your strength in a constructive way, and do not get stuck in destructive or oppressive patterns?
Essential challenge is than that you learn to:
- Recognize the ego stuff within yourself (controlling, compulsiveness, powerlessness) and deal with the wounds and blind spots that keep you imprisoned in patterns like this;
- Recognize when you are BUILDING and when you are breaking down;
- Apply your power to the right things and purposes (dare to think big on this, and do not get stuck in futile things distracting you from what's most important).
Does all of this touch something essential in you?
Please give us a call.