The Narcissistic vs the Compassionate Leaders

In the recent years, companies have been focusing their efforts on modifying their company mission and values to be more employee-focused rather than emphasizing only on profits. This boosts employee morale, satisfaction, and motivation to work harder. Our paper will analyze the exceptions in which prove that employee-driven companies do not always lead to successful companies as it creates an unnecessary drain on resources and hinders a company’s ability to create more value in a market. Rather, we want to prove that narcissistic leaders actually lead to more successful companies in the long run. While there have been uncommon incidents where a caring leader has led to a company’s success, this is not commonly seen.

One of the most known ones is the success of Starbucks driven by its founder, Howard Schultz. His transformational leadership style allowed Starbucks to grow as a global brand that many would come to admire and follow the footsteps of. Schultz engaged in two classical leadership practices, the use of intellectual stimulation and delivering a clear vision. He was not afraid of challenging the status quo by advertising Starbucks as a “third place” between home and work. Rather than following the average route of making coffee a grab-and-go action, he redesigned retail locations with inviting decor, serene background music, and speedy Wi-Fi so customers would feel as comfortable as they would if they were at home. Being able to stimulate people in making a coffee shop feel like their “home away from home” was something no other coffee chain had ever attempted but had proved to be a bold move (Biel).

In addition, Schultz had a motivation to not only create a successful company but also delivered a clear vision to ensure his employees were prioritized. He initiated new programs to provide additional benefits to his subordinates like health benefits for part-time workers, tuition assistance, the hiring of veterans, and an employee stock purchase program, many of which were uncommon at the time (Biel). Schultz transformational leadership style has led to Starbucks becoming one of the world’s most valuable brands. However, this is only one of very few cases in which an employee-focused company leads to rewarding results for a company. Looking at long-run sustainability, narcissistic leaders are the most fit to lead companies to new heights. Besides the exception of Howard Schultz from Starbucks, most companies need to be aware that excessive focus on employees will not be viable in the long run.

One of the most prominent leaders in the world was Steve Jobs, the CEO, Chairman, and co-founder of Apple, a multinational technology company. Through his arrogant and overbearing supervision over his employees, Jobs led Apple to be known as the leader in innovation and created countless products that people use on a daily basis. Known for his controlling personalities and his quest for perfection, Jobs controlled almost everything regardless of the scope. Larry Ellison, former CEO and co-founder of Oracle, even referred to Jobs as “a bit of a control freak” (Svetlik). For instance, even though Jobs was overloaded with this own work, it was typical for Jobs to spend his entire day with Jony Ive, Apple’s chief design officer, in the design studio to discussing minor details of the products like the physical curves or the tactile quality of a product (Segall). By always engaging in these behaviors and having to take part in every single step of the process, it is clear that Steve Jobs had a very controlling personality.

Based on the leader behavior approach, Steve Jobs utilized initiating structure by trying his best to engage in each and every process in order to ensure that everything is completed at the best degree it can be (George & Jones 341). Specifically, Jobs set a rule that each executive was required to meet with himself to discuss and make a specific plan for each week (McInerney). By doing this, he could ensure that he would have the opportunity to not only oversee the entire process, but also intervene when necessary. This created a culture of strict accountability as Jobs would fire employees or managers that were not reaching his expectations.

Furthermore, Steve Jobs was a task-oriented leader, one who wants their subordinates to perform at a high level and accomplish all of their assigned tasks to the best of their abilities. They prioritized task accomplishment and push subordinates to make sure they get their job done efficiently and effectively (George & Jones 346). Leaders like Steve Jobs are willing to describe their least preferred co-employees negatively and think of this classification of employees with few redeeming qualities. Jobs minced no words when somebody did not impress him since getting work done was his first priority (Alore). When his subordinates could not perform at his expected standards or made mistakes, Jobs always labeled these people as “bozos” and would fire them shortly after if they did improve upon their performance levels (Alore). Some of his colleagues described Jobs as a hostile and cruel manager because he was brittle and never took into account other people’s feelings.

Once he nonchalantly fired the head of the team who created MobileMe, which was Apple’s first attempt at cloud service, in a public meeting in front of his team and his subordinates (Rosoff). Also, for instance, Jobs’ biographer, Walter Isaacon, said that one of his subordinates spent an entire night coding but still had some bugs to fix. Rather than addressing it with consideration, Jobs directly reprimanded the employee saying “You are doing this all wrong! It is horrible” (INQUIRER). Even though Steve Jobs was a narcissistic leader, Apple’s success is undoubtedly traced back to him. Even Tim Cook, the current CEO of Apple, said at a press conference that Apple has to give a big thank you to Steve Jobs (Umoh). The reason for Apple’s development into becoming the most valuable brand in the world is due to its history of innovation. Jobs made sure that Apple wasn’t afraid to scrap an idea and move on to the next product (Umoh). His harsh, yet effective, narcissistic leadership style has allowed Apple to continue to constantly evolve in the ever-changing technological sector.

A similar narcissistic leader to Steve Jobs is Bill Gates, the former CEO of Microsoft and co-founder, who is known to be authoritative. Leaders who adopt an autocratic leadership style, like Gates, usually have a high need for power, defined as a strong desire to exert emotional and behavior control or influence over others (George & Jones 52). These leaders love to keep everything under their control in many different ways. In an interview with the BBC, Bill Gates indicated that he would memorize employees’ license plates in order to monitor their performance by knowing the time when they arrived and left the company (Brandon). The distinctly extreme hobby of his demonstrates his evident controlling personality which he does not consider odd for an entrepreneur. Bill Gates was also known for being an office bully with his bad temper at the workplace. He would regularly interrupt employee presentations, challenge their ideas, and criticize them in front of their coworkers (Hofman).

Entrepreneur Joel Spolsky recalled his first meeting with Gates where Gates constantly used profanity while there were a number of other managers in the room. Spolsky concluded that “Bill doesn’t really want to review your spec, he just wants to make sure you’ve got it under control. His standard M.O is to ask harder and harder questions until you admit that you don’t know, and then he can yell at you for being unprepared” (Hofman). In regards to personality traits, Gates has a high need for achievement, the trait in which a person has a rigorous criterion on self-management for the purpose of performing challenging tasks well or meeting his or her own personal standards for excellence (George & Jones 52). These characteristics are inevitable elements which have led to his success with Microsoft. Gates has an established goal-setting system for himself and would put in a lot of effort in order to achieve his goals. However, such personal habits could generate negative consequences when he imposes these same strict expectations on everyone else. Paul Allen, co-founder of Microsoft, complained a lot about working with Gates. He described the company as a high stress environment where Gates “drove others as hard as drove himself” (Holley). Allen mentioned one of his co-workers, Bob Greenberg had worked “81 hours in four days, Monday through Thursday” to work on a project (Holley). After an immensely packed four day week, Greenberg had planned to take the Friday off.

However, Gates was reluctant to grant him a day off because he did not understand the rationale for his request since Gates did not believe in vacations and would always work on weekends. In an interview, Gates admitted, “I had to be a little careful not to apply my standards to how hard they worked” (Brandon). Nevertheless, Allen said that he has seen cases like this happened over and over again. According to the goal setting theory, an effective goal should be specific, challenging but attainable (202). Although, Gates did set clear goals, they were often unreachable for many of his subordinates. The work he assigned to Greenberg is a fitting example, as Bill Gates is such an achievement-driven leader, he cares more about the results rather than the means to accomplish them or whether the task is assigned within a feasible time limitation (Holley). This easily leads to lower job satisfaction, resulting in negative feelings and beliefs people have about their current jobs, just like what Allen and Greenberg have experienced (71).

However, a positive to Gates leadership style is that he gives a high level of feedback, referring to the fact that Gates provides employees with clear information about his or her effectiveness (Team & 187). It is evident that although narcissistic leaders may seem relentless and controlling, these types of leaders are the ones that drive corporations to new heights unseen of before.