Retailers Paul Zahra and Mark McInnes among Australia’s ‘least narcissistic’ CEOs according to an analysis of speech patterns by the Macquarie Graduate School Of Management

Michael Bailey Deputy editor

Retailers Paul Zahra and Mark McInnes among Australia’s ‘least narcissistic’ CEOs. Which sector has the biggest egos?

Published 11 September 2013 11:44, Updated 12 September 2013 07:32

They might operate at the more glamorous end of the economy but David Jones chief Paul Zahra, and his predecessor turned Premier Investments boss Mark McInnes, are among the 10 least narcissistic CEOs of ASX-listed large companies, according to an analysis of speech patterns by the Macquarie Graduate School Of Management. The MGSM measured the personal pronoun use of 100 CEOs, among Australia’s 140 largest listed companies, in the Q&A sessions of analyst briefings used to discuss their company’s earnings during the reporting season just past. The narcissism score for each CEO was the ratio of first person singular pronouns to total first person pronouns used in their speech. To avoid embarrassment and lawsuits, the MGSM has not named Australia’s most narcissistic CEOs, but have named the least egotistical bosses. In ascending order they are:91 Westfield Retail Trust (WRT) Domenic Enio Panaccio

92 Orica Limited (ORI) Ian Kingsley Smith

93 Treasury Wine Estates Limited (TWE) David C. M. Dearie

94 David Jones (DJS) Paul A. Zahra

95 Tabcorp Holdings (TAH) David Robert Henry Attenborough

96 Fortescue Metals Group Limited (FMG) Neville Power

97 Premier Investments Limited (PMV) Mark McInnes

98 Duet Group (DUE) David Bartholomew

99 Ansell Limited (ANN) Magnus R. Nicolin

100 Amcor Limited (AMC) John Kenneth Norman MacKenzie

It may not surprise that one of the sectors to feature strongest among the most narcissistic CEOs was financial services, including the banks. Materials was the other home of big egos.

The heads of five of the top 20 companies were among the biggest 20 self-aggrandisers, while none featured in the bottom 20. There are only four female CEOs included in the study, and their rankings are between 59 and 85.

MGSM’s research team, led by the dean, Professor Alex Frino, is developing a new natural language technology to identify narcissism, as well as other personality traits, by analysing CEOs’ verbal communications.

The team will use the data to examine whether narcissistic CEOs build better performing management structures, if they are able to extract higher pay from their remuneration committees, generate greater shareholder returns and are better communicators.

The study ultimately aims to quantify leadership qualities as predictors of company performance in the market, as well as informing strategies to better educate the company leaders of tomorrow.

“Many leaders dominating the workforce today possess narcissistic leadership traits, and in this era of constant change and innovation, it seems natural that charismatic risk-takers would take charge,” Frino says.

“Is narcissism, generally viewed as a personality defect, actually a good thing? Does Australia in fact need more narcissistic CEOs?”

Professor Frino said the study would directly inform MGSM curricula.

“I’m in the business of creating the next wave of elite businesspeople,” he says. “This is an innovative top-down approach to identifying what personality traits typify successful executives, so we can work that knowledge into the way we teach and mentor our students.”

Narcissism is only one of many personality traits that are to be examined by the team, who are also developing a natural language technology platform to extract personality traits through the impromptu communications given by CEOs.

About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (, the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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