There’s a conversation that keeps coming to mind today. I was driving home from an out of town event. Radio reception was inconsistent, except for the CBC.
I tuned in during the middle of an interview. The topics being discussed connected a lot of dots in my mind. Within minutes, I pulled over to the side of the highway to take notes and record as much as I could on my phone.
When the CBC interview came to a close, the guest was finally identified as Dr. Jessica Tracy.
Dr Tracy Jessica is a professor at University of British Columbia. She is a groundbreaking researcher on the dynamics of an emotion that is much more nuanced than its name. Pride.
At that point, I was seven years into my inquiry into what makes it possible for a leader – who is obviously toxic in hindsight – to rise to a position of influence and power.
Reading Jessica Tracy’s book Pride: The Secret of Success helped me understand something that a lot of people are asking themselves today:
Why do intelligent intuitive people continue to follow and support leaders who are toxic narcissists?
It’s a mistake to think the answer has anything to do with their intelligence.
Yes, some people follow toxic narcissistic leaders because their own success and status grow in the wake of the destruction. These people make the mistake of thinking that when push comes to shove they will be able to exercise some form of control.
Some follow because the narcissist supports an ideology they cling to.
Those aren’t the people I’m writing this for.
The people I want to reach are the intelligent people who under most other circumstances are able to perceive nuance. Because those people might choose differently if they understood what I learned from Dr Jessica Tracy:
We can’t always see it. The hubris. The toxic leader’s gross exaggeration of their own worth based on what they think of themselves.
The expression of authentic pride and the expression of hubristic pride – the pride of narcissists – are often indiscernible. In the absence of context or direct experience, they look and feel exactly the same to the observer. No matter how intelligent or intuitive, we are all susceptible to toxic narcissists.
It’s just a matter of time before things get out of control.
A few months after I read her book, I got up the nerve to invite Dr Tracy on Free Your Inner Guru®. She accepted. She was the first person I interviewed who I didn’t have a preexisting relationship with. Earlier today, someone asked me if there was a turning point when I realized the podcast was something more than a promotional tool for my coaching. This is that episode.
I’m listening to Episode 32 – Jessica Tracy: The Impact of Pride on Authentic Leadership today as a reminder. Because as responsible adults, we have to understand how this works.
Her book Pride: The Secret of Success is an eye opener. It should be recommended reading for anyone in a position of leadership, or in the position to choose or follow a leader.