Narcissistic! That’s how it was described. I found myself staring at the report quite disbelievingly. But I should have known, the warning signs had already been there for years. You tell me, would you ever like such a person around you, especially as your superior – a person who dominates meetings, a pathetic listener, not at all showing empathy, with a clear distaste for helping others and one who believes in giving vainglorious visionary speeches? In fact, would you want your CEO to be a narcissist?
Well, I’ve seen such losers all around. This man was born to a teenage unwed girl, who gave him up for adoption! A dropout from the Illinois University, he’s known for his ultimate arrogance, and has not spared even his family members, what to talk about employees. The four times married – thrice divorced – man once boasted to BusinessWeek many years back, “As long as Stanford keeps turning out beautiful 23 year old women, I will keep getting married.” His best friend, not surprisingly, is Steve Jobs, another temperamental leader with many similarities [including being put up for adoption and being a dropout]. Till date, this man doesn’t know who his real father is. Another friend, Andy Grove, warns in the BusinessWeek report, “I would beware of him as a businessman,” while Gates adds, “His hype has expanded to fill his ego.” In 1977, he founded Software Development Labs. From 1986 till late 2008, he has made its shareholder wealth grow by 950% to a super $102 billion!!! His vision is stupendous. His objectives are as arrogantly audacious as his attitude. He’s the 14th richest person in the world. His company is better known as Oracle. He’s Larry Ellison, my vainglorious visionary, whose biography is titled, ‘The Difference Between God & Larry Ellison: God Doesn’t Think He’s Larry Ellison!’
But does one example prove the complete hypothesis? Unbelievably, ivy league research now supports the concept that visionary leaders are narcissistic. In fact, considered amongst the ‘Best of HBR’ is their 2004 report, ‘Narcissistic Leaders – The Incredible Pros...,’ that says, “Many leaders dominating business today have a narcissistic personality. That’s good news for companies that need passion and daring to break new ground.” The report confirms that productive narcissists – like Welch, Soros etc – have “the audacity to push through massive transformations..., and have compelling, even gripping visions” due to their intense desire to compete and – through their awe inspiring speeches – have the capacity to inspire scores of people, despite their being poor listeners, lacking empathy and hating criticism. Professors Chatterjee and Hambrick of Penn University proved in their spectacular May 2006 paper, ‘Narcissistic CEOs...’, that narcissism in CEOs “is significantly positively related to several company outcomes, including strategy dynamism...”
Think about it. From the sniggery “You’re fired!” Donald Trump to the volcano-headed Steve Jobs, from the shoot-from-the-hip Michael Eisner [Disney CEO, added 2747% to shareholders’ wealth from 1984 till 2005, when he quit] to the don’t-know-don’t-care Roberto Guizueta [CEO, Coca Cola, 7100% increase, 1981-1998], the world’s top CEOs have been atrociously egotistical. Which brings me back to the report I started with at the top of this editorial. Lest you be mistaken, the report did not pertain to my ego-state [Oh please, I’m married; not a visionary!]. It was my irritating cook’s. His annual checkup – on which my money got wasted – threw up what I always knew. The ego-maniac is pompous, cooks up visionary unpalatable dishes, hates criticism, is a pathetic listener, and goddammit, behaves like a CEO all the time!