You are here: Home / News Release Archives / 2013 / August / Narcissistic CEOs More Likely to Adopt Disruptive Technologies

Narcissistic CEOs More Likely to Adopt Disruptive Technologies

Revolutionary technologies have the potential to change everything about the way a business is run, but will your company be an early adopter?
August 6, 2013

Don Hambrick
Don Hambrick

Revolutionary technologies have the potential to change everything about the way a business is run, but will your company be an early adopter? New research from Penn State Smeal College of Business Professor Donald Hambrick, along with colleagues from the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg and IMD International, suggests that CEOs who exhibit narcissistic personality traits are more likely to embrace discontinuous, or disruptive, technologies than their less narcissistic counterparts.

The researchers describe discontinuous technologies as “[contradicting] the prevailing mindset in an industry, rendering existing organizational structures and processes obsolete, and diminishing the value of existing knowledge.” As such, existing firms are often seen as resistant based on the risk and the high level of resources that would be needed for implementation.

CEOs who exhibit narcissistic personality traits will likely be more willing to take the risks associated with early adoption of discontinuous technologies.

But not all existing firms eschew adoption of these technologies, according to the researchers. Their study shows that CEOs with narcissistic personalities are more likely to take the associated risks. Through investigating investments in biotechnology made my large pharmaceutical firms from 1980 to 2008, the researchers found considerable support for their hypothesis.

Narcissism, as a personality dimension on which everyone can be arrayed, refers to traits such as a “strong sense of superiority,” a drive to “dominate their environments,” a “high degree of restlessness,” a “lack [of] empathy,” and a “strong need for attention and applause,” the researchers write.

Narcissistic personality traits include a sense of superiority, a drive to dominate environments, restlessness, and attention-seeking.

CEOs who exhibit more narcissistic traits, then, are seen as more likely to adopt discontinuous technologies for several reasons. These CEOs’ sense of superiority gives them the confidence to take big risks. Their tendency toward restlessness makes them more open to change—even the radical sort that discontinuous technologies can bring. And they lean toward more dramatic decision-making with the understanding that their bold moves will garner attention among peers and in the press.

To this, researchers add two moderating factors: audience engagement—or, “the degree to which observers view a domain…as noteworthy and provocative”—and managerial attention—the level of focus that a firm’s senior managers place on a certain phenomenon.

CEOs will press their senior managers to pay more attention to discontinuous technologies when respected external audiences are engaged with those technologies.

“Bearing in mind that audience enthrallment with a technology can ebb and flow, and envisioning that managerial attention to a technology can similarly rise and fall, we anticipate that the narcissistic CEO will press for more attention at those times when a respected audience considers the technology as provocative and noteworthy,” write the researchers.

“CEO Narcissism, Audience Engagement, and Organizational Adoption of Technological Discontinuities” appears in the June 2013 issue of Administrative Science Quarterly. Its authors include Wolf-Christian Gerstner and Andreas Konig of the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg; Albrecht Enders of IMD International; and Smeal’s Donald C. Hambrick, Smeal Chaired Professor of Management.

Recent News
Penn State Smeal team finishes second in inaugural Smeal MBA Sustainability Case Competition 18 Dec Penn State Smeal team finishes second in inaugural Smeal MBA Sustainability Case Competition

A team of MBA students from the Penn State Smeal College of Business finished second in the inaugural Smeal MBA Sustainability Case Competition, which the college recently hosted in its Business Building on the Penn State University Park campus.

Rost Named Fall 2014 Smeal Student Marshal 15 Dec Rost Named Fall 2014 Smeal Student Marshal

The Penn State Smeal College of Business has named Daniel Rost as the student marshal for fall 2014.

Final Five Teams to Vie for $17,500 in Smeal MBA Sustainability Case Competition 01 Dec

Five teams of MBA students from programs in the U.S. will compete Dec. 5 for $17,500 in prize money in the inaugural Penn State Smeal College of Business MBA Sustainability Case Competition.

Businessweek ranks Smeal MBA Program No. 2 in ROI 17 Nov

The Penn State Smeal MBA Program ranks No. 2 in return on investment according to the latest Bloomberg Businessweek rankings.

Smeal Names Four New Members to Its Board of Visitors 31 Oct

The Penn State Smeal College of Business has named four new members to its Board of Visitors. Joining the board are Jon Grosso, ’89, executive vice president and director of stores for Kohl’s Department Stores; Ron Morgan, ’93, co-founder of MorganFranklin Consulting; Stephen Reeves, ’81, executive vice president and chief financial officer of Enviva Holdings; and Salomon “Sal” Sredni, ’87, chief executive officer of TradeStation Group, Inc.

More Recent News... More Recent News...