The Productive Narcissist: The Promise and Peril of Visionary Leadership

The Productive Narcissist: The Promise and Peril of Visionary Leadership

by Michael Maccoby, Charlie Conrad
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The Productive Narcissist: The Promise and Peril of Visionary Leadership by Michael Maccoby, Charlie Conrad

A provocative examination of the essential – and widely misunderstood--personality type of today's most innovative leaders.

What is it that Oprah Winfrey, Jack Welch, Martha Stewart, and Bill Gates all have in common? According to psychoanalyst, anthropologist, and consultant Michael Maccoby, it’s not just enormous success and celebrity – it’s narcissism. In The Productive Narcissist, Maccoby proposes a new paradigm of modern leadership and zeros in on one common character trait: the narcissistic personality. Challenging prevailing leadership theories, Maccoby argues that today’s most innovative leaders are not consensus-building bureaucrats; they are “productive narcissists” with the interrelated set of skills -- foresight, systems thinking, visioning, motivating, and partnering – that he terms “strategic intelligence.” Rejecting the negative stereotype of the individual who is destroyed by a pathological preoccupation with himself, Maccoby redefines the productive narcissist as the personality type who is best suited to lead during times of rapid social and economic change. At the same time, he makes clear that narcissistic leadership doesn’t always mean successful leadership and that narcissists lacking strategic intelligence are fated to crash and burn.

Beginning with an examination of the crucial role personality plays in the workplace and an analysis of the primary personality types (a questionnaire allowing readers to evaluate their own personalities is included), Maccoby makes an eye-opening case for how narcissism has been misunderstood and how throughout history narcissists havealways emerged to inspire people and to shape the future. While narcissism can be extraordinarily useful—even necessary—for effective leadership, Maccoby shows how it also has a distinct downside when narcissists become unrealistic dreamers and harbor the illusion that only circumstances or enemies block their success. Strategic intelligence is the hallmark of the productive narcissist, and by elucidating its key qualities – and how they can be developed – Maccoby illuminates both what it takes for narcissists to truly succeed and how to work with them most effectively .

Based on over thirty years of first-hand experience consulting with business leaders around the world, The Productive Narcissist redefines the way we understand and relate to today’s leaders.

From the Hardcover edition.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780767910231
Publisher: Broadway Books
Publication date: 04/08/2003
Pages: 320
Product dimensions: 5.78(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.08(d)

About the Author

MICHAEL MACCOBY, PH.D., is president of the Maccoby Group and director of the Project on Technology, Work, and Character, a nonprofit research center. A psychoanalyst, anthropologist, and consultant, Dr. Maccoby has advised leaders at numerous corporations, from AT&T to Volvo, as well as at institutions such as the World Bank. From 1970 to 1990, he led a research program on leadership and work at
Harvard's Kennedy School of Government. He is the author of the bestseller The Gamesman and author or coauthor of seven other books, most recently Why Work? Motivating the New Workforce. He lives in Washington, D.C.

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The Productive Narcissist: The Promise and Peril of Visionary Leadership 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
My home library shelves are cluttered with many of the best selling books that present varied and conflicting leadership theories. Very often, those best selling theories are presented in popular and simplistic terms that appeal to wishful thinking but are not very applicable in the workplace. Maccoby cuts through the leadership literature clutter with a very clearly reasoned and persuasively presented vision of leadership. It is a very insightful and integrated vision based on 30+ years of practical field research and experience as a consultant, anthropologist, psychologist and leadership coach. As a Director of Human Resources with 20 years of experience, I found Maccoby's description of the narcissistic leader and other personality types to be a useful aid to understanding CEOs, Presidents, Vice-President and other leaders who were difficult to relate to and eluded explanation. Maccoby's self-inventory and descriptions of Freud's and Fromm's personality types are also pragmatic tools for any managers and would be leaders who are interested in understanding themselves and in developing their ability to partner effectively with other personality types. Maccoby's elegant writing style and use of entertaining poignant illustrations from productive narcissists we know and love make his analysis of the personality types and strategic thinking entertaining, lively and dynamic... without losing sight of what is practical. What you learn from reading this book may not leave you feeling warm and fuzzy, but it is very useful.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Three stars is a compromise between the deeply flawed - and even dangerous - 'advice' offered by the author - and the impressive scholarly overview it is embedded in. The book purports to teach us how to harness this force of nature known as malignant or pathological narcissism. Narcissists are driven, visionary, ambitious, exciting and productive, says Maccoby. To ignore such a resource is a criminal waste. All we need to do is learn how to 'handle' them. As the author of 'Malignant Self Love - Narcissism Revisited', I had the chance to work with thousands of narcissists and their victims, including in corporate settings. Maccoby's prescription is either naive or disingenuous. Narcissists cannot be 'handled' or 'managed' or 'contained' or 'channeled'. They are, by definition, incapable of team work. They lack empathy, are exploitative, envious, haughty and feel entitled, even if such a feeling is commensurate only with their grandiose fantasies. Narcissists dissemble, conspire, destroy and self-destruct. Their drive is compulsive, their vision rarely grounded in reality, their human relations a calamity. In the long run, there is no enduring benefit to dancing with narcissists - only ephemeral and, often, fallacious, 'achievements'.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Michael Maccoby's fascinating book shows that narcissism is normal and productive in the visionary leaders he describes and analyzes. Even as a colleague who knows his other books, I can say honestly this is a bold and stimulating book. It is well written and enjoyable to read. He describes clearly why at this time of economic transformation these visionaries are playing such an important role in society, business, and science. Maccoby reveals key elements in the life stories and innovative work of such leaders as Jack Welch, Henry Ford, Bill Gates, Frank Lloyd Wright, Steve Jobs, Esther Dyson, Andy Grove, Steve Case, Craig Ventner, among others whose names are well known and in the media almost daily. Many books talk about people suffering from malignant narcissism who are so sick they could not lead corporations or make groundbreaking discoveries or creations. Michael Maccoby has written about normal narcissistic character like that of visionary leaders such as Napoleon Bonaparte, Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Charles de Gaulle, and Mohandas Gandhi. Maccoby shows why these leaders are effective, and also how to work with them. The book includes a survey which readers can take to understand themselves in terms of the four normal types of character, narcissist being one, the book also describes. Warren Bennis, Distinguished Professor, University of Southern California, an authoritative writer on leadership himself, says about this book: 'An original and insightful addition to leadership studies. Maccoby redresses a balance long needed to fully understand the practice of leadership.'