CEO humility, narcissism and firm innovation: A paradox perspective on CEO traits

Hongyu Zhang, Amy Y. Ou, Anne S. Tsui, Hui Wang

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

185 Citations (Scopus)


We examine how two seemingly contradictory yet potentially complementary CEO traits—humility and narcissism—interact to affect firm innovation. We adopt a paradox perspective and propose that individuals can have paradoxical traits and that, in particular, humility and narcissism can coexist harmoniously, especially among the Chinese, whose philosophical tradition embraces paradoxical thinking and behaving. CEOs that are both humble and narcissistic are hypothesized to be more likely to have socialized charisma, to cultivate an innovative culture, and to deliver innovative performance. Two studies using multisource data involving 63 CEOs, 328 top managers, and 645 middle managers in Study 1 and 143 CEOs and 190 top managers in Study 2 support the hypotheses and point to new directions for studying CEO traits and their effects on firm outcomes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)585-604
Number of pages20
JournalLeadership Quarterly
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Firm innovation
  • Humility
  • Narcissism
  • Paradox
  • Socialized charisma

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business and International Management
  • Applied Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management


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  • ANZAM Best Paper Award

    Ou, Yi (Recipient), 2016

    Prize: Prize (research)

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