Have you noticed that people in general are more wrapped up in themselves than ever before?
Whether in words or pictures, they document and share what they eat, where they go, what they do and with whom they do it, not just with their friends and known acquaintances, but with the world in general.
An article in the Harvard Business Review caught my eye and, in view of the recent election, resonated.
…narcissism levels have been rising for decades, which means that our world is increasingly self-centered, overconfident, and deluded.
And the next sentence really rang a bell.
Furthermore, these increases appear to be exacerbated among leaders, since those in charge of judging leadership potential often mistake confidence for competence.
Our politicians aren’t the only place where narcissism is running wild.
Narcissists are found at the helm of more and more companies of all sizes, but are especially prevalent in the financial sector and in tech.
In 2008 financial bosses with more confidence than competence brought the global economy to its knees.
Tech abounds with narcissistic founders and very few of them will stand the test of time, as have Jobs and Bezos.
Nor is narcissistic behavior limited to top bosses; it is found at every level of management, as well as every level of contributor — from new grads through the most senior contributor.
And lets not forget kindergartners through college.
We cannot make it alone, but we care too much about ourselves to genuinely care about others. This tension between our desire to get along with others and our desire to get ahead of them represents the fundamental conundrum of human affairs.
Much as I loathe the hype around “leaders,” it’s up to the positional leader to manage the get along/get ahead dichotomy if they are to have a successful organization.
I find it ironic that so many of those who preach the importance of data sets and evangelize data-based decisions, again, especially in tech, manage to ignore the hard data on what type of leader succeeds best.
Unfortunately, our admiration for charismatic leaders comes at a price: perpetuating the proliferation of narcissistic leaders. And while the existence of incredibly successful CEOs, such as Steve Jobs and Jeff Bezos (and Rockefeller, Ford, and Disney before them), may suggest that narcissism is a beneficial leadership quality, most overconfident, entitled, and egotistical CEOs are not just ineffective but also destructive — even when they manage to attain a great deal of success. For example, narcissistic CEOs overpay when they acquire firms, costing their shareholders dearly. Their firms tend to perform in a volatile and unpredictable fashion, going from big wins to even bigger losses. They are often involved in counterproductive work behaviors, such as fraud. They are also more likely to abuse power and manipulate their followers, particularly those who are naïve and submissive.
Whether you are a boss or a worker, read the article; it’s short and will provide insights into your own actions, as well as those of your boss or the boss with whom you are interviewing.
Image credit: QuoteAddicts