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Great leaders are both humble and narcissistic

Updated: Jul 23, 2020

People tend to see humility as an innate virtue. Either you were born with it or not. But research has shown it is something you can develop or lose over time. A classic example of this is Steve Jobs. Jobs’ narcissistic tendencies and refusal to see a different

road for Apple other than the one he was intent on resulted in his dismissal as CEO in 1985. Twelve years later he returned to the company with a markedly different management style, more open to others’ ideas and willing to acknowledge past mistakes.


Humility does not take away the quintessential aspects of being a leader, it buffers or

counterbalances them from the extremes of narcissism. Humble leaders, like Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, listen to their team, recognise good ideas don’t necessarily come from the C-suite and are happy to share their organisation’s success.


IKEA founder Ingvar Kamprad is another example of how humility can offset arrogant tendencies. A self-focused man who ignored industry pressure to conform, he imbued his organisation with a philosophy founded on “our humbleness before the task and on the simplicity of our behaviour.”

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