We have each probably worked for a CEO who we’d just as soon meet in a dark alley (without video surveillance), while carrying a nightstick and a taser. So when I saw Ed Moyle’s blog about Narcissistic CEOs, I was hoping it would end with “You’d better bring a mop. And a body bag.” Unfortunately Ed highlighted some research that these narcissistic douches adopt technology more aggressively (mostly due to their oversized egos) and are more likely to be successful. Humbug.

… We find strong support when testing our hypotheses on a sample of 78 CEOs of 33 major pharmaceutical firms, examining their response to the emergence of biotechnology over the period 1980 to 2008… our results suggest that narcissism may be a key ingredient in overcoming organizational inertia.

So the nice CEO, who isn’t a total prick usually can’t get the organization to move, and so is tossed out with yesterday’s garbage in favor of some objectionable human, who worries more about having cooler toys than the other CEOs in his or her golf group. Awesome.

But aside from my CEO bitterness (you might think, after almost 4 years, the road rash would have healed just a bit), Ed actually draws a conclusion that could actually be helpful.

As a pragmatist, my concern is mostly about how practitioners can leverage this. For example, rather than pitching a new technology on the basis of return to the organization, business enablement, cost savings, etc. – maybe harnessing executives competitiveness could be effective. So rather than saying, “this new cloud system will save us 50% over 10 years”, saying something like “Check out the attention our competitor is getting for being so innovative and forward thinking. I wonder if there’s a way for us to lead instead of them” might be more resonant if what these folks say is true.

That’s why I think security benchmarking is a good idea. Having a benchmark to compare your organization to another gives you the data to appeal to these ego monsters. And if you have to deal with these folks, at least use their personalities to get what you want.

Photo credit: “Hello My Name Is Narcissit” originally uploaded by One Way Stock