At first glance, it might seem worth it for a company’s shareholders to tolerate a narcissistic CEO’s abusive personality, given the outsized success that Jobs and others like him have achieved. But narcissistic CEOs’ rampant hubris also has a serious downside, [Charles] O’Reilly notes. Studies indicate that they’re more likely to engage in questionable tax-avoidance schemes, to manipulate accounting data, to overpay for corporate acquisitions, and to seek excessive compensation.
In an article published in Leadership Quarterly, O’Reilly and colleagues Bernadette Doerr and Jennifer A. Chatman of the University of California, Berkeley, show that narcissistic CEOs subject their organizations to potentially ruinous legal risks as well. Not only are they more likely to become embroiled in protracted litigation, but their personality traits make them less sensitive to objective assessments of risk. Narcissists are less willing to take advice from experts and to settle lawsuits — even when it’s likely that the company will lose.