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The Productive Narcissist: The Promise and Peril of Visionary Leadership [Hardcover]

Michael Maccoby
4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)

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Book Description

April 8 2003
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 have always 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.

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Product Description

From Library Journal

If you're leading a corporation, argues Maccoby, narcissism is good.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Review

“Maccoby makes a compelling case that the most effective leaders in times of disruptive change are those with the personality type that Freud called narcissistic.” –Harvard Business Review

“The implications here are not only relevant but should have a sense of urgency for all leaders.” –Houston Chronicle


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Most helpful customer reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Insightful, thought-provoking, intriguing Oct. 19 2003
Format:Hardcover
In these confusing and uncertain times, the cry goes out for more visionary leaders. We need men and women who can lead us out of the darkness of despair and short-term Wall Street thinking into the clear air of vision, goals, and high achievement. Enter the narcissistic leader. Narcissists admire themselves, they believe in themselves. They have complete confidence in themselves, even though they may think they can do more than they really can.
The dictionary tells us that narcissism is "a psychological condition characterized by self-preoccupation, lack of empathy, and unconscious deficits in self-esteem." Maccoby-a psychoanalyst, anthropologist, and consultant-takes us further. He explains that "narcissistic leaders are not a product of their time; rather, they are a product of their personalities, and are psychologically suited to rise, and fall, during disruptive times." Sometimes their grandiosity serves them-and their organizations-well...especially if they (or their organizations) are protected by counterbalancing aides or confidants. Sometimes that grandiosity can be their downfall.
In this enjoyable and education book, Maccoby describes several psychological styles and how they influence leadership behavior. He concentrates on the productive narcissist, results-focused aggressive leaders who can valiantly lead their organizations to the brink of destruction. The good news---bad news juxtaposition is explored in page after page, with enlightening examples from the lives of historical figures like Napoleon to today's leaders whom we read about in the newspapers daily. Not only does he name names, but Maccoby goes deep into who these leaders are, what they did, why they did it, and the impacts of their behavior.
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Format:Hardcover
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 narcisisstic 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.
Was this review helpful to you?
Format:Hardcover
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, anthroplogist, psychologist and leadership coach. As a Director of Human Resources with 20 years of experience, I found Maccoby's description of the narcisisstic 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.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Understanding Visionaries May 2 2003
Format:Hardcover
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 gives insights into the life stories and innovative work of such leaders as Henry Ford, Jack Welch, 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 the book also describes, narcissist being one. 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."
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