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Are You Vain Enough to Get Ahead?

You don't have to be a total narcissist to be a successful executive - but a solid dash of ego can help.

Self-aggrandizing individuals with a need for impact and power are slightly more likely to become leaders than the general population, according to a new study from researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the University of Nebraska at Lincoln and personality testing firm Hogan Assessment Systems. But while a dose of self-confidence is necessary to raise your hand for the top job and steer a big corporation, too much can cause a leader and company to falter.

The study, set to be published in the journal Personnel Psychology, analyzes 54 prior studies touching on narcissism. Some of those studies relied on surveys, which asked leaders whether they identify with statements like, 'If I ruled the world, it would be a much better place' or 'I think I'm a special person.' Others analyzed clues in shareholder letters: the number of self-references, for example (is it just a string of 'I, I, I'?), or the size of the executives' photos.

It's helpful to think of narcissism as distributed along a spectrum. On one end, self-doubt isn't a useful characteristic in a leader-they can look weak or have trouble making decisions, according to Peter Harms, one of the study's authors and a management professor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. But individuals on the other end don't take feedback well and can make reckless choices, he says.

Examples of too much self-confidence abound in the world of politics. Harms cites Jonathan Edwards, the former North Carolina senator and presidential candidate who spent lots of time grooming his hair and had an extra-marital relationship on the campaign trail, as displaying the vanity and self-centered nature emblematic of narcissists.

Another researcher went on the hunt for CEOs that display humility. Analyzing earnings call transcripts - comparing the number of times executives said 'me' and 'mine' versus 'we' or 'our,' for example - an Australian management expert compiled a list of the least narcissistic American CEOs. The line-up included Target's Gregg Steinhafel, PepsiCo's Indra Nooyi and Bank of America's Brian Moynihan.

Rodney Warrenfeltz, who administers personality tests to high-level leaders as a managing partner at Hogan Assessments, uses what he calls 'the bold scale' to measure where the corporate executives he works with fall along the continuum. The test incorporates statements that participants have to check off as true or false, such as, 'I could get this country moving in the right direction.'

Warrenfeltz says a bold score of 70 to 90 on the 100-point scale signifies someone is truly confident. Anything above that can indicate arrogance or entitlement.

'When things go wrong, they blame other people,' he says of those who score at the very top of the scale. 'When things go right they take the credit.'

In addition to narcissism, Harms, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln professor, studies other 'dark traits' like Machiavellianism and psychopathy. (A 2010 study found that psychopaths are more likely to be found in the corner office than on the street.) At lower levels, these attributes can be useful in the corporate setting, he says-a little psychopathy often translates to being brave. A bit of Machiavellianism is really just political skill, being able to manipulate coworkers or sell people on an idea.

    蛐蛐英语 www.qqenglish.com

Harry Kraemer, a former CEO of the health-care company Baxter International Inc., says being able to influence people is a crucial part of effective leadership. He also thinks executives need 'true self confidence,' a mentality where positive thoughts abound: 'I know I'm good, I know I can add value, I'm going to make good decision, I'm going to get a lot of stuff done.'

But he also says humility is key. If an executive's ego gets out of hand, employees won't follow him or her.

Unless, of course, you're someone like former Apple chief Steve Jobs- so intelligent and brilliant that the rules don't really apply.

'If you're that one-in-10-million person, even though you've got a mammoth ego, even though you don't treat people very well, you're so unusual that maybe people are willing to put up with it,' Kraemer says.


伊利诺伊大学厄巴纳-香槟分校(the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign)、内布拉斯加大学林肯分校(the University of Nebraska at Lincoln)和性格测试机构霍根测评体系(Hogan Assessment Systems)的研究人员所开展的一项新研究显示,有影响力和权力需求的自高自大之人,稍微比普通人更有可能成为领导者。不过,尽管适当自信在谋求最高职位、执掌一家大公司的过程中必不可少,过度自信却会阻滞领导人自己和公司。

这项即将发表在《人事心理学》(Personnel Psychology)杂志上的研究,对过去54个涉及自恋心理的研究项目进行了分析。那些研究项目中,有一部分是通过问卷调查方式进行的,询问领导者是否认同诸如“如果我来统治这个世界,世界会变得更加美好”或者“我认为自己是一个与众不同的人”这样的表述。其它项目则是对致函股东的信件进行了线索分析:比如说自我指称的次数(是否只是一连串的“我,我,我”?),或者高管照片的尺寸大小。

我们可以试着把自恋看成是呈图谱状分布的东西。在图谱的一端,领导人不会发现自我怀疑是一种有用的性格特质──按照该项研究报告的一名撰稿人、内布拉斯加大学林肯分校管理学教授彼得·哈姆斯(Peter Harms)的说法,他们可能会显得软弱或者缺乏当机立断的能力。但他也说道,身处图谱另一端的人不善接受外来反馈,很可能做出轻率的选择。

过度自信的例子在政界比比皆是。哈姆斯以那位花大量时间梳理头发、在竞选过程中还发生婚外情的前北卡罗来纳州参议员、总统候选人乔纳森·爱德华兹(Jonathan Edwards)为例,说他表现出了自恋者特有的虚荣心和以自我为中心的特质。

另一位研究人员搜寻的是表现谦逊的首席执行长(CEO)。在对业绩发布会的文稿进行分析──比如,比较高管说“我”和“我的”以及“我们”或“我们的”的次数──之后,一名澳大利亚管理学专家列出了一张美国自恋情结最少的CEO名单,榜上有名的人包括塔吉特百货公司(Target)的格雷格·斯坦哈菲尔(Gregg Steinhafel)、百事可乐公司(PepsiCo)的卢英德(Indra Nooyi)和美国银行(Bank of America)的布赖恩·莫伊尼汉(Brian Moynihan)。

身为霍根测评机构管理合伙人的罗德尼·沃伦费尔茨(Rodney Warrenfeltz)负责对高层领导性格测试的管理,他使用了自称的“自大尺度”(the bold scale)来测试与他配合的公司高管在线性刻度上属于哪一个级别。测试中包含受试者必须验证是否属实的判断性陈述,比如:“我可以让这个国家朝着正确的方向发展。”



内布拉斯加大学林肯校区的哈姆斯教授除了研究自恋心理之外,还对马基雅维利主义(Machiavellianism)(权术主义──译注)和精神病态等“阴暗特征”(dark traits)加以了研究。(2010年的一项研究发现,转角办公室里比大街上更容易出现精神病患者。)在低一点的职位上,这些特征对企业打造可能有好处,他说──小小的一点精神病态经常可以转化成勇敢的心理。少许的马基雅维利主义实际上只是政治手腕,让人能够操纵同事,或者说服人们赞同某种意见。

医疗保健企业百特国际有限公司(Baxter International Inc.)的前CEO哈里·克雷默(Harry Kraemer)说,能够影响他人是有效领导的重要组成部分。他还认为,公司高管需要“真正的自信”,即一种充满积极想法的心态:“我知道我很优秀,我知道我可以让公司增值,我会做出正确决断,我会完成很多事情。”


当然,除非你是前苹果公司首脑史蒂夫·乔布斯(Steve Jobs)那样的人──聪明过人、才华横溢到规则都不适用于他的程度。




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