The Narcissist Running Your Company

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A post on Fame, Narcissism & MySpace on the quirky Apophenia blog made me stop and think. The post describes studies that show that young people are more narcissistic than ever before. And how American Idol, MySpace and their ilk are an intricate part of the narcissism problem.

If I think of narcissists, I immediately picture the here-today gone-tommorrow pop stars, minor reality TV celebreties and those awful party girls. But pretty quickly I start to picture many of our current business leaders too. We all know who I mean.

But are narcissitic CEOs a problem for the companies they run?

Chatterjee & Hambrick discuss this in a paper about It’s All About Me: Narcissitic CEOs and their Effects on Company Strategy and Performance. They show that the although the performance of high tech companies run by narcissistic CEOs is no different from that of other companies, there is a much wider and more volatile spread of performance. That means more wild successes and more disastrous failures. And more ups and downs for staff to cope with. This puts a premium on the resilience of the company to cope with these extreme changes.

Ed Batista over at the Executive Coaching & Management blog has a similar take in a post on You’re OK, I’m Fantastic: Management and the New Narcissism. He suggests that narcissistic CEOs are likely to increase in numbers and that this will lead to an increase in the large scale change and acquisition programmes that narcissistic CEOs like to start. History shows that the majority of these programmes fail to deliver value for shareholders. This puts a premium on the value of robust coaching & feedback programmes to keep narcissistic CEOs’ feet firmly on the ground.

Perhaps the best advice is from Eric Jackson in a post on Narcissistic CEOs at his Breathrough Performance blog. He suggests that CEOs “take risks, change the world, but keep eating their lunch in the company cafeteria”.

What do you think? Is the narcissist running your company driving it towards risky business? Or is he simply fantastic?

Post a comment and get the conversation going.

Graham Hill

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