I’ve been reviewing a study of the top 25 instances of corporate fraud between 1998 and 2005, and there are some fascinating lessons that still apply today. The research, by Kees Cools, a professor at Groningen University in the Netherlands affiliated to the Boston Consulting Group, accounted for $25 billion of corporate malfeasance. Some of the headlines:
Having read many case-studies of successful leaders who develop over-sized egos, and observed several at first hand over four decades, I can add a few points. Narcissism does not necessary lead to fraud – most of the big-headed leaders I’ve tracked stayed on the right side of the law. But they nearly all exhibited some clear danger signals:
Narcissistic leaders are not always bad news, but the risks are usually high. Sooner or later, they run out of luck and out of road. And, of course, narcissists are not confined to business.
Acknowledgement – the research quoted in the first half of this post comes from “The Dilemma of the Successful CEO” by Kees Cools in “Perspectives from The Boston Consulting Group 2005”.