No Image Available


Read more from TrainingZone

googletag.cmd.push(function() { googletag.display(‘div-gpt-ad-1705321608055-0’); });

Where egos dare – review


Title: Where Egos Dare – The Untold Truth About Narcissistic Leaders – and How to Survive Them
Authors: Dean B McFarlin and Paul D Sweeney
Publisher: Kogan Page 2002 Paperback
ISBN: 0 7494 37731
Price: £17.99

Buy this from the TrainingZONE - Blackwells bookshop.

Straddling academic sensibilities, gory corporate horror stories and self-help gusto, the book ends up sitting a little uneasily on the shelf. The subject matter is clearly defined – the narcissistic leader, driven by ego and unrestrained by morals – but the message gets a little lost along the way.

It makes a fair play at not being your average rant-at-the-management book. This examination of the ‘underbelly of leadership’ takes on an academic approach (both authors are professors at University of Dayton, Ohio, USA), being based on their field research and supported by many examples of the narcissistic leader in full flow.

It identifies six common telltale characteristics of the subject in hand and examines the implications of such characteristics on both a personal and corporate level. Rather than simply produce a collection of criticism, McFarlin and Sweeney aim to offer a collection of “tools and tactics” by which the reader can identify the narcissistic leader and respond to the ‘challenge’ faced by having such a rampant ego as your boss. The book builds towards “the search for constructive narcissism”, concluding that a little bit of narcissism isn’t a bad thing.

The arguments are well structured, the supporting case studies are (depressingly) illustrative of the problems encountered, and the identification tools are thorough and cogent.

But the book, for me, has a fatal flaw.

It’s hard to believe that anyone suffering a narcissistic leader as described here could really do anything practical about it, even having read this book. A thread that runs through many of the horror stories was that the put-upon individuals usually leave or get sacked. Indeed, the book warns specifically of how trying to minimise the effects of the narcissistic leader can backfire and make things worse

So, you’ve identified that the boss is a self-obsessed egomaniac who is hell-bent on world domination at any cost. Now what do you do? Probably get even more depressed and hope to jump ship before you’re pushed off the gangplank.

I’m not convinced that a great deal can be done to reform the narcissistic manager – as the authors suggest, such character traits can often be traced back to childhood upbringing. I don’t think a few smart academic ideas are going to reverse years of ingrained egotism.

Although the authors strive to make it more than the sum of its parts, it’s great fun to just cherry-pick the horror stories out of each chapter and revel in the David Brent-gone-evil type scenarios without really worrying about any underlying message.

Overall, an entertaining read for us cynics looking for a cheap laugh, but don’t expect too much truly practical advice on what to do if you’re up against a narcissistic manager. If that’s the case, you’re probably better off buying your local paper on recruitment day.

Simon H Johnson
Liaison Manager
Babington Business College


Get the latest from TrainingZone.

Elevate your L&D expertise by subscribing to TrainingZone’s newsletter! Get curated insights, premium reports, and event updates from industry leaders.


Thank you!