Four professors at IMD business school, Penn State, and Erlangen-Nuremberg University have collaborated on a study that finds that chief executives who are serious narcissists perform better than more normal top bosses.
They concluded that narcissism and hunger for attention lead to innovation and daring decision-making. However, Prof. Enders warns, “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. it’s just as easy to picture narcissist CEOs who aggressively invest in new technologies that don’t pan out so well and who severely harm their firms as a result.”
The paper has won the Academy of Management’s 2011 Glueck Best Paper Award, but it is not yet available to the public, as it is under review for possible publication in an academic journal. Its abstract says, in part (in acadamese, of course):
In this study, we adopt the logic of upper echelons theory to expand understanding of how executive personality shapes organizational responses to radical change. Specifically, we hypothesize that, due to their supreme confidence and craving for attention, narcissistic CEOs propel early and aggressive adoption of technological discontinuities by established companies. . . . In contrast to the typically negative portrayal of the narcissistic personality syndrome, our results suggest that narcissism may be a key ingredient in overcoming organizational inertia. . . .
This is believable, look at Steve Jobs! But the reason is more complicated than craving for attention. It has more to do with social psychology than psychology: guys like Jobs create an impression that they know what they are doing. The confidence passes from self to others.