In Pursuit of Greatness: CEO Narcissism, Entrepreneurial Orientation, and Firm Performance Variance


Author Information : Tom Lumpkin (Whitman School of Management, Syracuse University)
William J. Wales (School of Business, University at Albany)
Pankaj C. Patel (School of Business, Villanova University)

Year of Publication : Journal of Management Studies (2013)

Summary of Findings : Entrepreneurial orientation helps explain why organizations or firms with narcissistic CEOs experience both strong and weak performance.

Research Questions : 1. Is EO positively correlated with CEO narcissism?

2. Is EO a mechanism that explains performance variability of narcissistic CEOs?

What we know : Prior research shows that narcissism is a leadership trait with both bright and dark sides.

Prior research shows EO is associated with both strong and weak performance (Wiklund/Shepherd).

Novel Findings : EO is a mechanism that explains performance variability of firms with narcissistic CEOs.

The research replicates Wiklund/Shepherd’s findings that EO is linked to strong and weak performance.

Implications for Practice : This has implications with regard to staff choices for leadership. For example, a firm may choose to give more voice to the CFO or the board to temper the characteristics and decision-making of a narcissistic CEO.

Implications for Society: A little bit of narcissism can be OK. It can animate an organization in ways that have a “bright” side.

Too much narcissism can waste firm resources and lead to negative outcomes.

Implications on Research: Extends Wiklund/Shepherd and suggests that the role of EO in firm performance variability is a useful area for future research. For example, in a situation with highly constrained resources, having some awareness that entrepreneurial behavior doesn’t always pay off may govern decisions on how to use resources.

Full Citations : Wales, W, J., Patel, P., & Lumpkin, G. T. 2013. In pursuit of greatness: CEO narcissism, entrepreneurial orientation, and firm performance variance. Journal of Management Studies, 50(6): 1041-1069.

Abstract : Building upon the perspective that narcissism is a leadership trait with both ‘bright’ and ‘dark’ sides, the present study examines the question of whether companies led by narcissistic CEOs exhibit higher levels of entrepreneurial orientation (EO). Moreover, this research examines whether EO partially explains why narcissistic CEO-led firms experience greater variability in firm performance. Using survey data collected from 173 CEOs, and an archival measure of firm performance variance, we find support for our model. These findings offer an improved understanding of how CEO narcissism influences performance variance, and why the firms they lead may even, at times, be viewed as on a path to success. Study implications are discussed.

Tom Lumpkin

Tom Lumpkin

Professor Lumpkin was the Witting Chair in Entrepreneurship from 2009 - 2016. His research interests include entrepreneurial orientation, social entrepreneurship, opportunity recognition, family business and strategy making processes.
Tom Lumpkin

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