“I am apt to show off”: exploring the relationship between entrepreneurs’ narcissism and start-up innovation

  • Simona Leonelli
  • Federica Ceci
  • Francesca Masciarelli
Keywords: narcissism; innovation; market scenarios; start-ups; entrepreneurship


Purpose of the paper: In start-ups, innovation strategies are influenced by the entrepreneur’s personality. We aim to investigate such influence by exploring how entrepreneurs’ narcissism affects start-ups’ innovation.

Methodology: We integrated survey data on a cross-industry sample of 115 Italian entrepreneurs with secondary data consisting of patents, economic and financial information from a public database. The survey uses the NPI-16 scale to measure entrepreneurs’ narcissism.

Results: Results showed a non-linear relationship between entrepreneurs’ narcissism and start-ups’ innovation: high and low levels of narcissism are detrimental to innovation. Moreover, we found a substitution effect between market dynamism and start-ups’ innovation; the higher the level of market dynamism, the more negative the effect of entrepreneurs’ narcissism on innovation.

Research limitations: Being based on an Italian sample, the study does not address the impact of narcissism in other cultures.

Practical implications: Our study identifies the mechanisms through which entrepreneurs’ narcissism affects start-ups’ innovation and explores how the market scenario affects the relationship between entrepreneurs’ narcissism and innovation.

Originality of the paper: We show that narcissism might be positive for firms and identify how entrepreneurs’ narcissism affects start-ups’ innovation. We demonstrate that market scenario affects the relationship between entrepreneurs’ narcissism and innovation, while also showing that contextual factors can reveal important contingencies. From a methodological viewpoint, we applied the Narcissistic Personality Inventory (NPI) scale to a sample of entrepreneurs. Previous work mainly used secondary data consisting of business reports and interviews, or employed the NPI in samples of MBA students.


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