The Leadership Creep


It kind of feels like a dirty word. defines it as “inordinate fascination with oneself; excessive self-love; vanity”

Not a very positive definition and I don’t think most of us have any desire to be defined this way.  We at least know that we don’t like other people who are all about themselves.

And yet I think the creep towards narcissism is much easier than we realize.  In fact, I think it’s the creep that’s so dangerous.  We know we don’t want to be narcissistic and yet, are we aware of our tendency to drift there if we’re not careful?

Narcissistic leaders are always looking beyond their sphere of influence with visions of grandiosity far out of proportion to what is actually being given.  Ruth Haley Barton from Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership

In a time where self-promotion is becoming a cultural norm especially via social media tools (such as this blog), how do leaders effectively manage the tendency to creep towards narcissism?

Jesus said, “If your first concern is to look after yourself, you’ll never find yourself.  But if you forget about yourself and look to me, you’ll find both yourself and me.” Matthew 10:39 The Message

How do you fight the creep towards narcissism?

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  • Michael Warden March 18, 2010  

    Thanks for pointing us to this topic, Jenni. I think it's one of the most deceptive & seductive temptations church leaders are facing in our generation. And it's a tough one to spot in ourselves, because so often it sneaks up on us so gradually. Like the proverbial frog in the kettle, we end up in the hot waters of self-promotion without honestly quite knowing how we got there.

    I recently wrote a post about this as well…one of a series on "7 Common Ego Traps for Leaders." Here's the link:

    I've had my own struggles with this, and the bottom line for me is to stay intentional about pursuing humility, and filtering my choices in social media through Christ's admonition that leaders in His Kingdom are servants, that to follow His example is to "make yourself nothing," and that "the greatest among you will be the least of all." I have a long way to go in this, but do believe it's absolutely critical to the lasting quality of fruit our lives are producing.

    Thanks again for the post.

  • Aaron Shaver March 18, 2010  

    Thanks for the shot of honesty. I find myself guilty of this now more than ever. With the ongoing transition in my ministry position, uncertainty for the future, and a need to be valued… I find I’ve become almost TOO self-aware in leadership/ministry situations.

    I focus on how I appear/perform/take charge of the situation to the point of forgetting the purpose or people of ministry.

    Well said, Jenni.

  • Rodney Boyd March 19, 2010  

    Years ago I read a little book by Bob Mumford called HANDLING GOD'S GLORY. He talks about false humility in the guise of being humble. to the point of someone coming up to you and thanking yoiu for the message you just delivered… and you go on and on how it is not you but God…and how you give God the glory..etc. We should humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God…and He will exalt us at the proper time (not our time). Thanks for this insightful and timely word.