Paying homage to narcissistic CEOs

November 2, 2015 admin

narcissistic CEOYou might think the headline on this blog post is just a hyperbolic ploy to draw attention to the body of this article and, hence, me. But that would be only partly true. There really is legitimate content behind that headline.

But even if I were strictly trying to draw attention to myself, so what? Narcissism has gotten a bad rap. Some of our favorite business leaders — Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and Jack Welch among them — have shown narcissistic traits and behaviors over the years, according to people who know much more about this personality disorder than I do.

Some people even admire Donald Trump, who is so narcissistic he gives narcissism a bad name.

Then again, given their track records as business leaders, there’s a lot there to love about these guys, even if it they are marinating themselves in self-love.

Keep in mind, though, there is more to narcissism than just plain old self-love. Narcissism involves extreme selfishness, with a grandiose view of one’s own talents and a craving for admiration.

But the more important thing in a business context is that narcissists make better CEOs than leaders without this personality disorder. Stanford University business professor Jeffrey Pfeffer has been drawing a lot of attention to himself lately by making this argument in his latest book, the high-handedly titled Leadership BS.

Ask your average professional what they want from their leaders, and they will tell you: honesty, modesty, authenticity and generosity. But if you look at the qualities possessed by the people who actually succeed at leadership, Pfeffer says, they are anything but that. Rather, successful leaders have a strong tendency to be self-centered, self-promotional, greedy and exhibit unwarranted self-confidence. In a word: narcissistic.

Pfeffer, who has been studying CEOs and the application of executive power for decades, used to write a regular column about leadership for me while I was editor of the San Francisco Business Times. I don’t recall exactly why Pfeffer discontinued writing for me, but to the best of my recollection he was attaining more success and notoriety and, perhaps, those columns became a time-consuming nuisance.

Let’s just say I knew talent when I saw it. But there is no accounting for loyalty.

No word yet on whether narcissists make better editors.

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MikeCfinalwebMike Consol is editor of Real Assets Adviser.

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