What does the boss's signature reveal?

A new study says CEOs with larger signatures are more narcissistic and prone to making bad company decisions.

By Bruce Kennedy Feb 11, 2013 9:49AM

Image: Signing document (Vincent Hazat / PhotoAlto/Getty Images)Next time you discover a signed memo from the boss in your office mailbox, you may want to look more closely at the signature.


A new study suggests that the larger the signature, the greater the chance the boss is a narcissist -- someone with an inflated self-opinion who values their opinion over others, often to a company’s detriment.


The study, by the Kenan-Flagler Business School at the University of North Carolina, looked at signature samples on annual SEC filings from more than 600 CEOs at S&P 500 companies. It took into account factors that could influence signature size, such as age and gender.


It also defined narcissism as a personality trait rather than a psychological disorder -- as a conceit and disregard for others.


And using these guidelines, the study found the larger-signing CEOs were bad decision-makers. "The CEOs whose signatures are largest . . . are those most apt to overspend on R&D or asset acquisition,” says ABC News. "Their companies, in terms of financial performance, tend to be laggards."


Despite this relationship between large signatures and negative job performance, the study noted that the more narcissistic CEOs tended to get higher compensation, "both unconditionally and relative to the next highest paid executive at their firm."


Fast Company took the study one step further and recently compared the signatures of several CEOs. It noted that, for every additional one-tenth of an inch in a CEO’s average written letter size, that company’s dividends decreased by 10% -- while over-investment increased 50%.


The magazine also had a one-on-one comparison of two CEO signatures, Michael Dell of Dell (DELL) and former Hewlett Packard (HPQ) CEO Carly Fiorina, which showed that Fiorina had the larger scrawl.


“The science holds,” Fast Company proclaimed after comparing the signatures. “Throughout the pair’s tenures, HP made higher investments than Dell and got lower returns on its bets. And yes, Fiorina received the larger compensation package.”


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3Comments
Feb 11, 2013 11:07AM
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If this study is correct, Obama's signature must be gigantic!
Feb 12, 2013 12:30AM
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what a crock! These guys are idiots...

 

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