Breaking Our Habit of Hiring Narcissistic CEOs

Everyone wants a CEO who is visionary, humble, self-aware, and effective on many levels.  In Jim Collin’s book, “Good to Great,” we even learned to lust after “Level 5 leaders: thought to be the best of the best. Why then do we too often keep hiring CEOs who are narcissistic, self-serving, and over-confident? Some would argue that narcissism is almost a pre-requisite for strong leadership, but I contend that we are confusing our desire for charisma with the darker side of leadership which will turn direction to dominance and assertiveness into abuse.

To combat this and starve your desire to hire someone who is powerful in destructive ways, be clear about what you want. Hire on values first, which you can’t change, and then on competence and personality. Put your prospects in a real situation, like dinner with your search committee, and see how they handle the social setting. Dig deeply and carefully into reference checks. Practice evidence-based talent management or suffer the consequences of cycling through another bad relationship.