How to Distinguish Great Leaders from Other High Performers

by Harvard Business Review

Not every high performing all star is cut out to be a great leader. How do you know when someone can make the leap to CEO?

For Justin Menkes, consultant at Spencer Stuart, and the author of Better Under Pressure, it comes down to one driving factor: narcissism. “Those selected for development have one universal trait in common,” Menkes writes in this guest article for the HBR Blog Network. “They are by definition high achievers. But there is a difference between those superstar achievers that can make the leap to CEO and those that will implode… Only an individual who feels genuinely invigorated by the growth, development, and success of others can become an effective leader of an enterprise.”

Narcissists, on the other hand, often view the success of others as a threatening challenge, which leads them to seek out recognition of their own self-worth. “In leadership positions, this leaves colleagues feeling like collective efforts are being used to increase a single narcissist leader’s ego, rather than a team’s shared goals,” Menkes writes. But how do you determine whether an individual has narcissistic tendencies, and, if so, is there any way to help them adjust to a more leadership-appropriate approach?

Menkes cites four examples of questions from the Narcissistic Personality Inventory to further clarify individuals’ level of narcissism, and offers several mentorship tactics for helping them become great leaders who value their employees’ accomplishments as much as their own.