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Some people want to be the king. Their personality patterns suggest the future.



Bill Eddy LCSW, JD, Via Psychology Today

“Presidents are not kings,” wrote Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson on Monday, in requiring a White House lawyer to testify in response to a congressional subpoena.1

Last month, The Nation reported about British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson: “The allure of supreme personal power has always been strong for Johnson. As a child, he told a family friend that it was his ambition to be ‘world king.’”2

An oped in the Wall Street Journal last month was titled, “Putin Is the New King of Syria.”3 Not too long ago, a book was published called The New Tsar: The Rise and Reign of Vladimir Putin.4 Similar books and articles are being written about at least a dozen other world leaders.

Is there a “Wannabe King” personality? Did all of these leaders want to be a king since childhood? If so, what is their personality pattern of behavior? Can we predict some of their tendencies for the coming year?

I believe we can. The following is based on the research I did on a dozen world leaders for the book Why We Elect Narcissists and Sociopaths—And How We Can Stop!

Fantasies of Unlimited Power

Wannabe Kings appear to have one and only one goal: unlimited personal power. This is one of the traits in the DSM-5 for Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD).5 It is not an unusual characteristic, as many people in families, communities, and at work will recognize it.
Yet as world leaders, they appear to take it to an unusual extreme. They co-opt a political party—on the far left or far right—and give the appearance of having like-minded policy agendas in order to gain followers on their road to power.

Yet they have no loyalty to party or policy. When they get into power, their policies are based on what will gain them more power and their whims along the way to demonstrate how powerful they are.

In 2020, expect seemingly inconsistent, unpredictable, and at times whimsical policies, yet each of which is designed to ultimately give the Wannabe King more power.

Targets of Blame

In order to gain power, Wannabe Kings are preoccupied with blaming others—their targets of blame or fantasy villains. They consciously select these targets based on several characteristics, including that the targeted individual or group is somewhat familiar but relatively few in number, and politically weak, yet alleged to be secretly powerful.

Historically, examples of fantasy villains were Jews (Hitler), Kulak peasants (Stalin), and Communists in the federal government (McCarthy), to name a few. In modern times, they have been drug addicts (Duterte in The Philippines); gay people (Putin); journalists (Erdogan, Trump); and immigrants (Orban, Johnson, Trump, and several others)—even though immigrants are the weakest group, with no political power and little wealth.

In 2020, expect Wannabe Kings to increase their blaming of old and new targets in speeches, tweets, and Facebook posts that sound realistic and masquerade as political issues to be endlessly debated. Yet as we have learned about all high-conflict people, “The issue’s not the issue—the personality is the issue.”

Taking Over Legislative and Judicial Power

Wannabe Kings try to take over the functions of the legislature and the judiciary, so they can rule without restraint. Maduro of Venezuela replaced the National Assembly with his own legislature, filled with loyalists, who were empowered to re-write the constitution. Orban of Hungary forced the retirement of senior supreme court justices (who were opposed to his power grabs) to make way for his own appointees. Putin took over most of the power to fire governors and appoint legislators in his first few years in office. Boris Johnson suspended parliament this year, although the British Supreme Court overruled him. And Donald Trump has worked to sweep in a one-party judiciary, with hundreds of conservative judges appointed who are more likely tolerate the expansion of presidential power.

Wannabe Kings will not stop after unsuccessful power grabs. but will try one political issue after another. When they win, they gain power, and when they lose, they quickly announce a victory and move on to the next pursuit.

Fantasy Crises

All Wannabe Kings claim there is a terrible crisis that needs a heroic leader to fight against an evil villain. This is how they gain wide public support: fear of this villain. This is a typical con artist maneuver of distraction; the crisis tends to be a fantasy that they pump up with dramatic, highly exaggerated, or non-existent details.

Hitler used the Reichstag Fire (a small, non-threatening fire) to claim a crisis that convinced the parliament to give up all their power to him. Stalin used a grain crisis (which he primarily caused) to help him force peasants off of farms to collectivize the Ukraine and Russia. Putin said there was a crisis of politicians who were pedophiles, which he used to attack his opponents while making the public think this was a real issue. In the U.S., there has been the border wall to be built against a fantasy immigration crisis. In 2020, there will be new fantasy crises which will look like real political issues to debate on the surface, but the real goal is increased power for the Wannabe King.

Elimination of Those Around Them

Like kings of old, Wannabe Kings demand loyalty but give little in return. In fact, they attack those who have helped them when they become inconvenient or unwilling to bow down fully to their power. In extreme cases, they kill off their associates, like Hitler, Stalin, and Mao did, as well as Pol Pot in Cambodia and Idi Amin in Uganda in the 1970s.

In modern times, Putin is widely believed to have disposed of some of his former associates and critics this way, and Kim Jung-Un is widely believed to have killed his half-brother. Donald Trump is well known for turning against numerous associates and cabinet appointees, dismissing them via Twitter and publicly humiliating them.

In 2020, expect a further narrowing of decision-making and schemes to a small group of like-minded associates working directly out of the Wannabe King’s office.

Lying to the Public

Wannabe Kings lie constantly and successfully. What most people don’t realize is that such chronic lying and conning is a characteristic of antisocial personality disorder (ASPD), and not narcissistic personality disorder (which mostly involves exaggeration). In fact, the DSM-5 states that deceitfulness is a characteristic of ASPD and not NPD.6

While most people recognize traits of narcissism in Wannabe Kings, they usually miss the antisocial traits, which explains why they are highly aggressive risk-takers who lack remorse, may enjoy others’ pain, and are generally persuasive con artists. This dangerous combination of narcissism and antisocial behavior in leaders has also been called malignant narcissism by Erich Fromm and many others.7

In 2020, the lies of these Wannabe Kings will increase for two reasons: They are empowered by getting away with it, and they feel threatened by the limits that their nations are beginning to set on them and the questions that their followers are asking, so they lie more to support their previous lies. They will work hard to recruit an army of loyal followers to fight the ever-widening number of people who realize how dangerous and deceitful they are. They have so many secrets that more are bound to be revealed in 2020.


2020 will be a very interesting year for Wannabe Kings and those who want to understand them. People with personality awareness will be less surprised and more able to make wise decisions—as voters, public figures, and associates of Wannabe Kings. We will see which nations realize that “the political issue’s not the issue, the personality is the issue” and will take power away from them, rather than giving them more.