Narcissistic CEOs hire people like them

Narcissistic managers can do more damage to a company than simply being difficult to work for. In fact, according to new research from a German university, narcissists are more likely to get hired month narcissists to work in leadership positions on their team, which can lead to “conflicts” and faster staff turnover.

According to the Mayo Clinic, people with narcissistic personality disorder have an irrationally high sense of their own importance. They tend to seek attention and want people to admire them even though they often lack the ability to understand other people’s feelings.

Previous research has shown the disproportionate number of narcissists in CEO positions compared to the general population. This trait is not always destructive, as many CEOs benefit from the self-confidence and charisma that often accompany it.

“While narcissistic CEOs and executives can create all kinds of problems and conflicts in an organization, they can also sometimes be very helpful,” said Lorenz Graf-Vlachy, professor of strategic management and leadership at the Technical University of Dortmund in Germany and leader of the latest study, he said Newsweek. “Their tendencies to make big, bold decisions can, for example, be useful in fostering innovation in companies.”

However, the impact of narcissistic CEOs on a firm’s structure has been less studied.

In a new study, published in Management magazineGraf-Vlachy and her team reviewed thousands of LinkedIn profiles to determine whether narcissistic CEOs tend to hire managers like them.

Narcissism is disproportionately present among CEOs, but their decisions can be detrimental to the structure of the company.


“We have shown that we can reliably measure managers’ narcissism from their LinkedIn profiles by analyzing the number of manager pictures, length of text in the ‘About’ section, and skills, certifications and career. listed steps,” said Graf-Vlachy. “Narcissists want to show a wider audience that they are superior.”

In all, the team analyzed more than 11,000 LinkedIn profiles of executives at major US companies and found that CEOs with a higher degree of narcissism, as indicated by their LinkedIn profile, tended to appoint members in their senior management teams with similar narcissistic tendencies.

“There are at least two reasons [for this]” Graf-Vlachy said. “First, there’s what psychologists call the ‘similarity-attraction paradigm.’ Simply put, it means we like people who are similar to us. Thus, a narcissistic CEO might see a narcissistic executive and recognize himself in the executive.

“Second, narcissistic people tend to make great first impressions. They are often perceived as strong leaders, are often great talkers, and are superficially charming. Perhaps surprisingly, these characteristics can be especially effective in a job interview with a Highly narcissistic CEO.—if a narcissistic executive is charming and sings the CEO’s praises, that’s exactly what a narcissistic CEO wants to hear because the narcissistic CEO is looking for precisely that kind of validation or “narcissistic supply.”

So why is this a problem?

“Narcissists want to dominate each other, which leads to conflicts on the board, and these in turn lead to more turnover in the executive team,” Graf-Vlachy said.

As a result, senior management teams led by narcissists can expect significantly higher turnover and potentially higher costs to the company.

Of course, a LinkedIn profile is not a foolproof method of determining personality disorders. “Our social network-based measure captures narcissism on average very well,” Graf-Vlachy said. “But I would be hesitant to make strong judgments about individual executives. That’s because there may be some outliers where executives have a LinkedIn profile that looks very narcissistic, but they actually listed, for example, many of the their abilities or include many of their self-images for reasons other than to satisfy their own narcissistic needs.”

Still, these results highlight the importance of unbiased interview screening and hiring candidates based on their suitability for the job rather than just their personality.

“Our research is important because it shows that more narcissistic CEOs hire more narcissistic executives on their management teams, but that narcissists collide with each other,” Graf-Vlachy said. “This shows how short-lived the initial attraction of narcissistic executives is […] Thus, whether voluntarily or not, managers leave the management team. Such turnover, of course, almost always hurts the company’s business operations.”

He added: “From a practitioners’ perspective, we need to be aware that narcissistic CEOs may not be aware of what they are doing. Our work therefore cautions CEOs to be aware of their own tendencies in hiring decisions. Perhaps more importantly, we also caution boards to watch out for the narcissistic tendencies of their CEOs and potential new executives.”