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Narcissistic CEOs and executive compensation. (2013)

“..more narcissistic CEOs who’ve been with their firm longer receive more compensation … although their firms do not necessarily perform better.”


Charles A. O’Reilly III, Professor of Management, Stanford University
Bernadette Doerr, University of California, Berkeley
David F. Caldwell, Santa Clara University
Jennifer A. Chatman, University of California, Berkeley

The Leadership Quarterly, 6 November 2013


“Larry Ellison towered again among the top ranks of the highest-paid CEOs in 2013 with total compensation of $78 million. He is in plentiful company. Sixty-five chief executives took home annual pay of more than $20 million last year. What prompts boards of directors to grant such astounding sums? And why would individuals, who by any objective measure have all their needs satisfied, seek such exaggerated amounts?” (From an article written for Stanford University’s ‘Insight’s by Adrienne Sanders.)

According to this study, at least one of the contributing factors is narcissism

The project looked at 32 CEOs in prominent and publicly-traded high-technology firms. To measure narcissism, the researchers combined personality ratings prepared by employees, with data obtained from scanning CEOs’ shareholder letters and earnings call transcripts for an abundance of self-referential pronouns such as “I.”

They found that “more narcissistic CEOs who have been with their firm longer receive more total direct compensation (salary, bonus, and stock options), have more money in their total shareholdings, and have larger discrepancies between their own (higher) compensation and the other members of their team.”

“Narcissistic CEOs secure these pay contracts, at least in part, by winning over board members.”

Interestingly, the study found that “companies with highly narcissistic top bosses do not necessarily perform better than those led by less narcissistic chiefs.”

Download the PDF here: Narcissistic CEOs and executive compensation

Read the backgrounder article here (Adrienne Sanders in Stanford University ‘Insights’, 14 July, 2014): Narcissists get paid more than you do


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