Donald Trump: The Unproductive Narcissist

Yes, Donald Trump is a narcissist. He puts his name—often in huge letters—on everything from buildings to a 757 airplane. He constantly brags about his wealth and business acumen, sometimes exaggerating his accomplishments.

Trump eschews the modesty that best-selling author Jim Collins identified in Good to Great as characterizing level 5 leaders; people who, with fierce resolve but a willingness to be in the background, lead their companies to incredible levels of performance. But then again, Trump helps make the case that we often seek leaders with qualities and behaviors quite different from what we claim we want.

Why Deception Is Probably the Single Most Important Leadership Skill

The world is awash in claims of the benefits of truthfulness, candor, and transparency. A Google search using the phrase “benefits of candor” returned 30,500 entries, with just six for the opposite phrase, “costs of candor.” The kumbaya nature of leadership advice shows through.

But before you run off and tell everyone precisely what you are thinking and feeling, here are a few pieces of evidence in favor of the opposite approach.

Expectation Effects

To Fix High Drug Prices, Stop the Merger Madness

Sky-high prescription drug prices have angered both politicians and patients, and for good reason. Medication prices rose by more than six times the rate of inflation between 2006 and 2013.

While drug pricing is a complicated issue, the co-occurrence of soaring drug prices and an all-time record year for mergers in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industry may be more than mere coincidence. 2015 saw the largest number and value of acquisitions ever in pharma and biotech—168 announced deals with 30 transactions exceeding $1 billion. The total value of mergers and acquisitions in 2015 was more than $300 billion, easily surpassing 2014’s record of $250 billion.

Great Leaders Do Not Need to Be Authentic

Ted Cruz has accused Donald Trump of, among other things, not being a “true conservative.” Instead, Trump seems willing to tack to the prevailing winds to garner support and, for that matter, to make deals. For instance, he has supported the Clintons and other Democrats in the past, has articulated somewhat ambiguous and possibly evolving positions on a woman’s right to choose (abortion rights), and while currently demonizing immigrants, Trump has hired plenty of them to work at his properties in the past.

All of this raises the question: Is Trump “authentic?” But that query raises an even more critical question: Should we even care about that?

Why ‘Modern’ Work Culture Makes People So Miserable

Dan Lyons’ account of his time at the software company HubSpot describes a workplace in which employees are disposable, “treated as if they are widgets to be used up and discarded.” And HubSpot is scarcely unique: The description of Amazon’s work environment is just one of many similar cases. An increasing number of companies offer snacks, foosball, and futuristic jargon to keep employees’ minds off their long hours and omnipresent economic insecurity.

Whether that works, and for how long, is an open question.

Sorry, Uber. Customer Service Ratings Cannot Replace Managers

The so-called “gig” economy is mostly filled with companies that have few to no employees who actually provide the companies’ primary services. Full-time employees at companies such as Uber, Airbnb, Postmates, Taskrabbit, and Doordash provide public relations and legal services, marketing, and of course the technical development and maintenance of the software platforms that make the in-home chefs, rides, or renting accommodations possible.

These platform-as-business-model enterprises raise an interesting question: If the people who provide the core services are independent contractors, and if these independent contractors have no supervisors or bosses, how are they managed so the companies can deliver the high quality service necessary to build a good reputation and strong customer retention?

Trump’s Next Painful Leadership Lesson? Being a Winner Excuses Abhorrent Behavior

The Trump phenomenon affords many (often uncomfortable) leadership lessons; for instance, that a brand is not an organization, so Trump would have trouble in caucus states where having a ground game matters, and that what people say they want in leaders is often the opposite of what they select. Now, Trump is demonstrating one of the most important lessons in power and leadership: that winning excuses almost everything as people rush to associate with powerful winners.

Why the VC’s Are Alright—And Always Will Be

William Cohan’s recent cover story in Fortune argued that “a reckoning is coming in the tech world.” That prediction may or may not come true, as research shows that even expert forecasts are often wrong. But whether or not Cohan’s prediction is correct, high enterprise valuations and IPO problems won’t affect the VC or private equity industries very much.

That’s because investment managers long ago mastered an important skill—the ability to gather assets under a compensation structure that makes them money almost regardless of how their investments perform. Here’s how it works.

In 2015, Old Power Triumphed Over New Power, Again and Again

In 2015, “old power” people and tactics triumphed in politics and business around the world. Sometimes, good people behaving nicely did well and received deserved plaudits, but not often enough.

This year, there was lots of talk about transparency, holacracy, the power of social networks to constrain selfish or dishonest behavior, and so forth. Meanwhile, the facts of leadership and power remained anchored in a social dynamic that Machiavelli would easily recognize.

This is Why Donald Trump Will Lead the Polls Far Longer Than You Expect

Many pundits such as David Brooks expect the Trump bubble to burst and his support to fade as voters get more serious about the election and give Trump and his rhetoric and policy positions a closer look. But supposedly knowledgeable observers have been predicting Trump’s fade for months. Meanwhile, recent polls show him leading the field with more support among Republicans than ever. Here are some social psychological principles that make sense of the “Trump phenomenon.”