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  • Narcissism and Leadership

    Posted by David Foster on July 9th, 2012 (All posts by )

    Two interesting articles:

    Narcissism and the difference between high achievers and high leaders

    The effect of CEO narcissism on corporate behavior and performance

    (first link via Newmark’s Door)

     

    12 Responses to “Narcissism and Leadership”

    1. Bill Brandt Says:

      Interesting articles abnd to me the obvious question – while Obama seems to fit the classic definition of a narcissist is he demanding frequent affirmation and applause from us?

    2. David Foster Says:

      Obama’s extreme narcissism is very clear. Remember the quote from 2008:

      “I think that I’m a better speechwriter than my speechwriters. I know more about policies on any particular issue than my policy directors. And I’ll tell you right now that I’m gonna think I’m a better political director than my political director.”

      Steve Jobs was not a humble man and was known as a micromanager, but I doubt he ever said “I know more about logistics than Tim Cook, I’m a better electrical engineer than (whoever the top EE at Apple might be). And I’m gonna tell you right now that I think I’m a better CFO than my CFO.”

      Obama’s level of narcissism is plainly pathological and would be very destructive to any organization so unfortunate as to find itself under his leadership.

    3. David Foster Says:

      One of the articles mentioned the excessive use of the term “I” by executives as a sign of narcissism. Among business-to-business salespeople, an individual will generally tend to repeatedly use either “I”, “we,” or “they” in talking with clients/prospects. For example:

      “We have a new higher-powered gerbilator I think you might be interested in,” or
      “I have a new higher-powered gerbilator”
      “They have a new higher-powered gerbilator”

      The sales rep who uses the “they” terminology is rarely any good. (I’m talking here about company salespeople, not independent reps.) The “I” guy, in this particular context, is not necessarily narcissistic. But one interesting test is how he phrases it when he has to deliver disappointing news:

      “I’m afraid I’m not going to be able to get you that special gerbilator that runs on 12-phase power that you wanted”

      or does he switch it

      “They’re not going to do the 12-phase gerbilator that I requested for you”

    4. dearieme Says:

      I loath the avoidance of “I”, whether it be by the south of England “one” or the American “we”.

    5. David Foster Says:

      I think “we” is entirely appropriate when spoken by one in a leadership position.

      CEO of Universal Entities: “We are going to deliver the high-powered gerbilator by the end of the 4th quarter.”

      Should he say “I” instead? He’s not going to design it, or manufacture it, or sell it. The “we” in this case seems much better than “I”.

    6. David Foster Says:

      Related: Laura Rittenhouse, head of an investor relations consulting firm, says her research demonstrates a link between clarity vs jargon in CEO letters to shareholders, on the one hand, and future company performance, on the other.

      https://chicagoboyz.net/archives/5759.html

    7. Sgt. Mom Says:

      To me, using the term “we” is a marker – of someone aware that an organization is a team effort. Using “we” invests everyone on the team with at least some portion of responsibility, the mind-set that “we” are all in this together. Constantly using the “I” “I” “I” sends another message entirely – that “I” is king, and all the rest of you are just disposable peons.

    8. ringo Says:

      I’m not so sure. I heard a sound clip of Obama last week in which I was quite sure he intended the royal we. I suspect in his case it derives from the idea that as head of the executive branch of our government he feels that he is the “boss” of the whole country. Not so, and not acceptable, but I think he believes that.

      He likes “our” too. I wish I could find a quote, but so far google has failed me.

      When he does it, it sounds something like, “In the last few days news has reached us that our manufacturers, our teachers, and our alligator ranchers are in deep distress. As of this morning, we have begun a new program in which our manufacturers have been directed to build devices which will allow for our teachers to be automatically fed to the alligators on our alligator ranches. This will usher in a new era of prosperity for all Americans, not just the wealthy few.”

      In fact, that pretty much sums up how everything Obama says sounds to me…

    9. dearieme Says:

      You miss my point: I object to the avoidance if “I” i.e. to saying something else when “I” is the accurate pronoun. Of course a firm, or a team, or a board of directors, is “we”. But when I hear somebody talking about when “we” are going to retire, or the like, I could throw things. But even more, I could throw things when “we” is used as a way of evading responsibility – which it commonly is.

    10. Jonathan Says:

      when “we” is used as a way of evading responsibility

      A classic example of this is when a brokerage firm says something like, “we think XYZ stock has the potential to double”. They are trying to have it both ways by implying a consensus of experts while diffusing responsibility.

    11. Bill Brandt Says:

      Dearieme – or when the waiter/waitress comes up and asks “How are WE doing? ;-)

    12. Jeff the Bobcat Says:

      I cringe when I hear one member of a couple, either the man or the woman, say “We are pregnant!”. No, she is pregnant. He might be responsible but is most definitely not pregnant.