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  • Writer's picturePatrick Littorin

Executive – the hopeless job

Today's top manager and party leaders actually has an impossible job. The demands are becoming increasingly contradictory and it requires a special personality to meet all the expectations that are set. But why then, do you choose such a difficult job?

In the past, journalists wrote admired books about, for example, "Neutron Jack". Then leader of General Electric, the world's most valued company in the early 2000s. Hard pinches were just the first name. Every year the staff was evaluated, the 10% who performed the worst had to quit, regardless of how well their business was performing. Another highly respected business leader was "The Cost Killer" Carlos Ghosn, now featured on Viaplay in the series "The Last Flight". This billionaire and former CEO of Renault and Nissan is now internationally wanted for tax evasion and embezzlement. Or Sir Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group and one of the richest in the world. His latest project is to organize space tourism. In a biography of him, he is described as a psychopath.

The list can be made long of successful leaders with hard pinches and strongly deviant personality traits. But now maybe something is changing. It is no longer enough with charm, charisma, visions, self-confidence, hard pinches and being unscrupulous to achieve success. At least not according to several international researchers.

They believe that it has become increasingly important that our leaders also have social and interpersonal skills. The researchers believe that the change is due to the fact that a leader's work is increasingly about the ability to get involved and be able to communicate with more and more "knowledge workers". Nowadays, they are so dependent on IT specialists, technical developers and other kinds of specialists with cutting-edge knowledge. These are used to work independently and getting the respect they think they deserve.

Then it no longer works to just decide what to do. Instead, you have to explain the purpose and make them understand, sometimes even negotiate, to get their will through. The impression is that the larger and more international the organization, the more important the leaders' social ability to be able to convince these self-conscious “knowledge workers”.

Yet there still seem to be some common personality traits for our top leaders: They are intelligent and strategic, they dare to make controversial decisions, and at the same time they are charismatic and can get people involved. In addition, according to a survey, as many as 18% of them seem to have clear narcissistic characteristics. In the normal population, it is estimated that about 2-3 percent are narcissists.

So becoming a future top leader, whether you are a top politician or running a big company, requires some contradictory personality traits: On the one hand, you should be intelligent above average - without being able to decide over your employees what to do. In addition, you must want to compete with others and have a competitive spirit beyond the ordinary - without it being too visible. In addition, you should have a charismatic charisma and narcissistic disposition, which makes people believe in you - even if you do not always tell the truth. Who wants such a job – or put up with being such a person?


Title: Are narcissistic CEO:s all that bad? Authors: David F. Larcker, Charles A. O’Reilly, Brian Tayan, & Anastasia A. Zakolyukina October 7, 2021. Stanford University.

Title: CEO Behavior and Firm Performance. Authors: Oriana Bandiera, London School of Economics. Andrea Prat, Columbia University. Stephen Hansen, Imperial College Business School. Raffaella Sadun, Harvard University. Journal of Political Economy, 2020, vol. 128, no. 4. 2020. University of Chicago.

Title: Are CEO:s Different?

Authors: Steven N. Kaplan, University of Chicago and Morten Sorensen, Tuck School of Business. July 2020.

The Economist, november 13th 2021.

Title: The problem of pathocracy. Author: Steve Taylor.

The Psychologist, november 2021.

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