Blog Post

Are you a narcissist? Let's hope so…

Another great post from VC Fred Wilson, this one on one of our favorite topics: leadership.

Fred wrote Wednesday of a discussion he had recently with a colleague about “the classic visionary leader entrepreneur.” Their conversation turned to Sigmund Freud, the 19th century father of psychology, his classifications of major personality types, and which ones work best in leadership roles of various companies.

Fred writes:

…”there are three classic freudian personality types; narcissists, obsessives, and erotics. If self diagnosis is allowed, I am a narcissist. And so are the vast majority of the entrpereneurs we back. Narcissists are the visionary leader stereotype. Think Steve Jobs. Obsessives are the consummate executive. Think any top notch chief operating officer you know… What the visionary leader/narcissist needs at his or her side is a productive obsessive. Think Gates and Jon Shirley or Larry Ellison and Ray Lane.”

There are positives and negatives that come with each personality type, and Wilson refers you to this classic HBR Working Knowledge article for further reading, Narcissistic Leaders: The Incredible Pros, the Inevitable Cons (June 2000).

So what if you, the founder, are not a narcissist? What if your are a productive obsessive?, Wilson asks.

That’s fine if the company is operating in a relatively stable environment … But if you are operating in a dynamic environment when the risks are high, rapid decisions need to be made, and patience is not a virtue, find yourself a narcissist for the job and pair him or her with a productive obsessive.

Read the HBR article. Figure out what you are. If you aren’t a narcissist, think about putting one in place to head up your shop, since all startups are “dynamic” with “high risks.” But if you are lucky enough to call yourself Narcissist, then set out to find your self a Joe Productive Obsessive — and do it soon.

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