Thursday, July 7, 2016

Study: Why Rich Kids Grow Up to Be Bad Bosses

Like a lot of people, I read the "Nanny Diaries" and watched "The Devil Wears Prada."

What I took away from those experiences: Rich people are cra-cra.

OK, maybe not crazy, but they definitely operate in a different world. I had my first job at 15 (washing communion cups) and haven't stopped working since. My days are not filled with lavish parties or private jets or business meetings in Paris.

I may not have those experiences, but I have worked for bosses who have lived such lives. They were born wealthy. They attended boarding schools, went to Ivy League schools and got their first job with a big paycheck because "mummie and daddy" knew the CEO.

What was it like working for such people? I wouldn't say it was fun. It was interesting, however, just observing how they related to colleagues and subordinates.

That's why I found a recent study on wealthy bosses so interesting.

In a nutshell, here's what the researchers found:

"We found that parental income is significantly related to adult levels of narcissism, a trait characterized by grandiose self-views, impulsive tendencies, and low empathy. We also found that those levels of narcissism were associated with people’s engagement (or lack thereof) in important leadership behaviors and various measures of effectiveness," researchers say.

I'd say that's pretty straightforward: Rich kids can grow up to be narcissistic leaders who don't inspire loyalty and aren't seen as very effective.

Researchers say that growing up with (lots of) money can give someone the impression he or she is independent. While that may be correct, it also comes with a sense that he or she is more talented or special, so no one else's ideas are really needed -- or wanted. Other research shows that kids who grow up wealthy can have lower concern and compassion for others and have lower tendencies to help others.

While such narcissists may attract people in the beginning and their confidence appears to be a good leadership trait, that quickly fades once everyone gets to know this person better. In the workplace, that means that these narcissistic leaders get old real fast as they constantly put themselves ahead of others. 

For companies struggling to find good leaders that engage employees and propel good outcomes through a sense of teamwork, handing the baton to someone born with a silver spoon in his mouth might be worth reconsidering. As researchers say, "our findings suggest that people from humbler backgrounds often can succeed and perform just as well as people from greater wealth because they may not be prone to the same level of narcissistic tendencies."

As research on narcissism and leadership grows, this is a "cautionary" tale that companies would be wise to heed, researchers conclude.

"Companies should try to standardize formal practices that can mitigate narcissism, including highlighting and prioritizing compassion and care for others in the workplace and creating a culture that recognizes and rewards service to others," they write.

Makes sense, doesn't it?

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