Research finds narcissistic CEOs more likely to adopt disruptive technologies

Aug 08, 2013

Corporate CEOs who exhibit narcissistic personality traits are more likely to embrace discontinuous or disruptive technologies than their less narcissistic counterparts, according to research by Donald Hambrick of Penn State's Smeal College of Business and colleagues from the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg and IMD International.

The researchers describe discontinuous technologies as "contradicting the prevailing in an industry, rendering existing organizational structures and processes obsolete, and diminishing the value of existing knowledge." As such, existing firms are often seen as resistant, based on the risk and the high level of resources that would be needed for implementation.

But not all existing firms eschew adoption of these technologies, according to the researchers. Their study shows that CEOs with narcissistic personalities are more likely to take the associated risks. The researchers examined investments in biotechnology made by large pharmaceutical firms from 1980 to 2008 and found considerable support for their .

Narcissism, as a personality dimension on which everyone can be arrayed, refers to traits such as a "strong sense of ," a drive to "dominate their environments," a "high degree of restlessness," a "lack of empathy" and a "strong need for attention and applause," the researchers wrote.

CEOs who exhibit more narcissistic traits, then, are seen as more likely to adopt discontinuous technologies for several reasons. Their sense of superiority gives them the confidence to take big risks. Their tendency toward makes them more open to change—even the radical sort that discontinuous technologies can bring. And they lean toward more dramatic decision-making with the understanding that their bold moves will garner attention among peers and in the press.

To this, researchers add two moderating factors: audience engagement—"the degree to which observers view a domain … as noteworthy and provocative"—and managerial attention—the level of focus that a firm's senior managers place on a certain phenomenon.

"Bearing in mind that audience enthrallment with a technology can ebb and flow, and envisioning that managerial attention to a technology can similarly rise and fall, we anticipate that the CEO will press for more attention at those times when a respected audience considers the technology as provocative and noteworthy," wrote the researchers.

"CEO Narcissism, Audience Engagement, and Organizational Adoption of Technological Discontinuities" appears in the June 2013 issue of Administrative Science Quarterly.

Explore further: Less-numerate investors swayed by corporate report presentation effects

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Altered brain structure in pathological narcissism

Jun 19, 2013

A far-reaching disorder of the self-esteem is denoted as a narcissistic personality disorder. Persons with pathological narcissism on the one hand suffer from feelings of inferiority, while on the other hand projecting themselves ...

In dating game, narcissists get the girl

May 31, 2013

(HealthDay News)—Men with high levels of narcissism—an unrealistically positive self-image coupled with feelings of entitlement—have an easier time than others attracting a potential mate, new German research says.

Professor defines connection between narcissism and envy

Feb 13, 2013

Understanding the relationship between narcissism and envy may provide some insight into sudden outbursts of aggressive behavior. Narcissism has long been associated with envy in the field of psychology, but an Iowa State ...

Recommended for you

Migrant employment on the rise

Oct 20, 2014

Skilled migrants are enjoying better jobs and higher levels of employment thanks to a shift in policy, according to a new study by the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research at the University ...

User comments : 0