Study: CEO Signature Size Indicator Of Narcissism

Study: CEO Signature Size Indicator Of Narcissism


Does your boss have a big signature? Better watch out for an even bigger ego. A new study that compared the signatures of 605 US CEOs found larger signatures are a good indicator of narcissism. The study, conducted by three professors at the Kenan-Flagler Business School at the University of North Carolina, also found CEOs with larger signatures are also more likely to run a company into the ground, yet “enjoy higher compensation, both unconditionally and relative to the next highest paid executive at their firm.”

The study’s authors—professors Charles Ham, Nicholas Seybert and Sean Wang—define narcissism as a type of egotism associated with conceit and a disregard for others. They not only have a heightened opinion of themselves and their own abilities, but also a tendency to belittle the abilities of others. They are also likely to reject or ignore feedback that could improve their own performances.

The authors obtained the signatures from annual reports filed by S&P 500 companies through July 2011. They then used a customized software program to impose a rectangle on each signature to measure its area, taking into account the number of letters in each signature. They also relied on findings from psychological literature that a bigger signature typically equates to a bigger ego.

But narcissism experts James Westerman and Jacqueline Bergman from Appalachian State University disagree with the study’s conclusions. They believe other factors, such as high self-esteem and an extroverted personality can also determine signature size. They also question how a CEOs large signature can predict a company’s poor performance. For example, if high self-esteem leads to an executive’s larger “John Hancock,” could that not benefit the company?

[Image via Shutterstock]

Samantha Lile