Australian researcher identifies least narcissistic CEOs in U.S.


It is alarmingly easy to come up with a list of narcissistic CEOs – Donald Trump, the late Steve Jobs, and Mark Zuckerberg are the first three that pop into my head, as do an endless number of banking and finance industry executives (full disclosure: I just saw the excellent The Wolf of Wall Street, so my feeling here may be a little skewed).

What about coming up with a list of the least narcissistic CEOs? That, it turns out, is a little more difficult. Fortunately, someone did it for me.

Alex Frino, the Dean of Macquarie Graduate School of Management in Sydney, content analyzed quarterly earnings call transcripts for the 100 largest companies in America and calculated the ratio of how frequently CEOs used the pronouns ‘I’, ‘me’, or ‘mine’ versus ‘we’, ‘our’, or ‘ours’. According to this metric, the three most humble CEOs in America are Pat Gelsinger (CEO of VMware), Gregg Steinhafel (CEO of Target), and Omar Ishrak (CEO of Medtronic).

You can check out a more complete list here.

As the article points out, the link between CEO humility and performance is possible, although uncertain – VMware and others are high performers in their categories, while Target and Medtronic are struggling. And, the story points out, there is a conspicuous absence of leaders from the tech or financial industries – hotbeds of high-performing companies lead by word-class narcissists.

“Many leaders dominating the workforce today possess narcissistic leadership traits, and in this era of constant change and innovation, it seems natural that charismatic, risk takers would take charge,” Frino said. “Is narcissism, generally viewed as a personality defect, actually a good thing? Does the world in fact need more narcissistic CEOs? Or is this a trait we should be actively teaching future leaders to avoid?”