The boards of big companies—really BIG companies—are obsessed today with identifying superachievers in the executive corps who can make the LEAP! to CEO.

And the people who advise them, like Justin Menkes, author of Better Under Pressure and a seasoned “C-suite” headhunter, keep telling them that the one psychological quality in potential superleapers that they want to avoid at all costs in selecting their top leaders is narcissism.

Blogging for Harvard Business Review the other day, Menkes suggested keeping an eye peeled for tell-tale signs of the narcissism disease (and it is a psychological sickness) by asking questions like these:

—Are the person’s relationships with others honest and direct or are they intended to reinforce the person’s role as a “hero”?

—Does the individual obsess on how his or her star qualities outshine those of their peers?

—Is it critical that the person be the center of attention?

—Is “getting the respect that’s due me” a central feature of the person’s worldview?

For executive coaches engaged by narcissism-infected superachievers to help them deal with their costly “inner shark,” Menkes suggests helping them see that giving others constant credit for forging a win will make talented people want to work with them. And that it is in their best interest to change self-aggrandizing behaviors if they want to get ahead. And that if they really can’t remain psychologically stable around others who are succeeding, they probably need professional psychological interventions to get to the heart of their insecurities.

For Menkes’ blog item, go here. The self-scoring Narcissistic Personality Quiz is here.

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