Narcissistic Jerk-Wads Make the Best Leaders, Study Says


A study conducted by professors at IMD business school, Penn State, and Erlangen-Nuremberg University has led them to conclude that bosses who display narcissistic qualities often perform better than run-of-the mill executives. Frederick Allen, leadership editor of Forbes, writes that the study found “narcissism and hunger for attention lead to innovation and daring decision-making.” In addition, 80% of narcissistic leaders believe that Carly Simon has written a song about them.

The study “looked at how 78 CEOs at 33 major American pharmaceutical companies reacted to the emergence of biotechnology between 1980 and 2008.” The most interesting part of the process was how they determined whether a chief officer was an egomaniac or not:

They measured their narcissism by counting up how often the CEOs’ photos appeared in annual reports, how frequently they were named in press releases, and their cash and non-cash compensation relative to their seconds-in-command.

Are we to expect that these CEOs all had hands-on roles in the formatting and photo editing of their company’s annual reports? Maybe the most narcissistic CEOs didn’t have their photos plastered everywhere because they thought they looked fat or because they insist their image only be portrayed in the form of an oil painting of them crossing the Alps.

Either way, these factors were correlated to how “fast and intensely the CEOs had adapted to the rise of biotechnology.”

“Narcissists see the potential for acclaim where others see excessive risk, but it’s by no means always the case that in the end they get to hear the applause they crave,” says Professor Enders of IMD, “it’s just as easy to picture narcissist CEOs who agressively invest in new technologies that don’t pan out so well and who severely harm their firms as a result.”

The paper is not available in full yet because it has to undergo peer review, but Frederick Allen says it has already “won the Academy of Management’s 2011 Glueck Best Paper Award.”

Great, that’s going to go straight to the professors’ heads.

New Study: Egomaniacs Make the Best Leaders [Forbes]

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