Are narcissistic CEOs good or bad for family firm innovation?

Paola Rovelli, Alfredo De Massis, Luis R. Gomez-Mejia

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Despite anecdotal evidence showing that some CEOs possess narcissistic personality traits, research on this individual characteristic is still lagging behind. Though the literature has established that narcissistic CEO traits may affect firm performance, it is not clear whether they act as constructive or destructing forces in family firms. This is particularly important given family firms’ attention towards the preservation of socioemotional wealth. A question thus arises: Can family firms benefit from narcissistic CEOs or should they avoid appointing individuals with this personality trait? Our analysis of unique data from Italian CEOs – collected through a survey and a psychometric test – reveals that CEO narcissism is lower in family firms, and among family CEOs. Nevertheless, in family firms, more narcissistic CEOs tend to exploit greater innovation opportunities by fostering higher top management teams strategic decision comprehensiveness. Our findings advance our understanding of narcissism in leadership positions, highlighting its importance for family firms’ innovation and providing meaningful contributions for research on CEO personality, family business and innovation, as well as for practitioners.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)776-806
Number of pages31
JournalHuman Relations
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2023


  • CEO
  • family firms
  • innovation
  • socioemotional wealth
  • top executives
  • top management team

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • General Social Sciences
  • Strategy and Management
  • Management of Technology and Innovation


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