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Description: What does it take to be a great leader? No, really, think about that question for a minute. Are great leaders visionaries who have figured out how to do something better than other people? Are great leaders people who can get other people to buy in and follow their vision? Now if you answered yes or even maybe to those questions, consider this question: might great leaders be a bit sociopathic (Antisocial Personality Disordered according to the DSM-5)? Looking back into Psychology, what sort of egos do great leaders have? According to Freud, our ego is the manager of reality working between the blindly self-serving demands of the Id and the must and ought demands of the Superego. Since Freud, there has been a lot of work in western Psychology looking at how we manage ourselves in a world comprised of others who are doing the same, managing their own self-interests. This tends to lead towards a view of a great leader as one who is better at this that others, whose ego is stronger and more effective than others. The problem is that such a view starts to sound like leaders are a bit or a lot “egotistical” (or narcissistic or self-involved). Are there things about this perspective that do not sit well with your hypothesis about what makes great leaders great? If so and even if not, read the article linked below for some reflection on these questions and, while doing that, think a bit about what the reflection might suggest about Psychology’s general assumptions about the how we study individuals.

Source: The benefit of silencing our own egos, Harvey Schachter, Managing, The Globe and Mail.

Date: March 7, 2020

Photo Credit:  Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Article Link:

So, how does the combination of leadership and humility strike you? Perhaps as a way of starting to see that much of how we excel and achieve in the world involves relating with others and developing trust and respect? All of which comes more easily if we dial our egos back from egotistical to humble. We have a Psychology of individuals which is working to better understand how we need and must have others to properly understand how we move ourselves forward in life. Thinking about how dialing your ego back might make you a better leader is part of this sort of self-defining rethink.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. In what ways might it make sense to hypothesize that some successful leaders might have aspects of Antisocial Personality Disorder?
  2. How might successful leadership and humility be strongly linked?
  3. What might the idea of dialing back one’s ego suggest about the sorts of approaches Psychologists might take in studying effective leadership?

References (Read Further):

Maidique, Mitch (2011) Are You a Level-Six Leader? Working Knowledge, Harvard Business School, accessed March 8, 2020,

Kaufman, Scott Barry (2018) The Pressing Need for Everyone to Quiet Their Egos, Beautiful Minds, Scientific American, Accessed March 8, 2020,

Leary, Mark R. The curse of the self: Self-awareness, egotism, and the quality of human life. Oxford University Press, 2007.

Tesser, A. (2001). On the plasticity of self-defense. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 10(2), 66-69.

Perry, C. (2015). The” Dark Traits” of Sociopathic Leaders: Could They Be a Threat to Universities?. Australian Universities’ Review, 57(1), 17-25.

Adams, J. (2017). Representations of CEO narcissism in films by Ethan and Joel Coen. Frontiers of Narrative Studies, 3(1), 122-141.

Wayment, H. A., Bauer, J. J., & Sylaska, K. (2015). The quiet ego scale: measuring the compassionate self-identity. Journal of Happiness Studies, 16(4), 999-1033.