Why Many Successful Founders Are Narcissists

How to pursue your inspiring vision without crossing the line.

We all have narcissistic tendencies, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Some narcissistic traits — such as having a clear vision or the ability to attract others — may make you a better leader. But there are plenty of similar characteristics that can make you unbearable.

Founders — and many of their investors — are likely to place highly on the narcissist spectrum, along with many of our great leaders, like Barack Obama, Abraham Lincoln, and even Gandhi.

Narcissistic leaders

In his documentary, DICKS: Do you need to be one to be a successful leader?, Max Joseph interviews leadership expert Michael Maccoby about the pros and cons of narcissism, concluding that:

‘Narcissists reject the world as it is and instead have a vision of how it should be.’

The most common traits of narcissists include undeniable charisma, unshakeable conviction, a habit of listening only to themselves, mild paranoia, an over-controlling nature, lack of empathy, and even occasional cruelty — not because they want to be cruel, but simply in relentless pursuit of their vision.

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Why Many Successful Founders Are Narcissists was originally published in The Founder Coach on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.