Psychopaths lack empathy, are pathological liars, have an enormous sense of self-worth, are impulsive, irresponsible and won’t accept responsibility for their own actions.

They make up 1% of the total population, 25% of the criminal population. But do you recognize the traits.  Perhaps in the upper reaches of your corporation or our Governments?

The Psy-Fi Blog in their blog Is your CEO a Psychopath? puts a strong case for as high as 4% of corporate boardrooms have psychopaths as inmates.

Here are some traits to watch out for, or maybe aspire to if you want to make it to the top of the corporate world.

  • They have superficial charm: They are a smooth talker and very charming.
  • They are self-centered and think they are way more important than others, even if in reality they aren’t.
  • They have a need for stimulation and is prone to boredom.
  • Their behavior is deceptive: They lie and cheat without difficulty. They don’t mind being caught.
  • They manipulate others for personal gain.
  • They show little remorse or guilt. Sometimes They’ll say there sorry, just so others will stop bugging her/him.
  • Their emotional response is shallow.
  • They are callous with a lack of empathy. They feels no pity.
  • They lives off others or has a predatory attitude.
  • They have poor self-control.
  • They are promiscuous.
  • They had behavioral problems at an early age already.
  • They lacks the ability to set realistic long term goals.
  • They have an impulsive lifestyle. They are a risk-taker.
  • They behave irresponsibly.
  • They always blame others for their behavior.
  • They can only commit to short term relationships.

As this presentation from the UK’s Institute of Risk Management suggests there are a range of possible problems with psychopaths in the boardroom.  These include risky decision making, unethical behavior and a lack of loyalty to the company and stakeholders: does this sound familiar?  One of the problems with these people is they’re very good at managing upwards – they charm superiors, manipulate peers and abuse subordinates.  Once they get in senior positions it’s easy to see how problems could escalate.

So the argument is that the rise of the mantra of value maximisation, increased corporate instability and the ever increasing turnover of staff has allowed corporate psychopaths to flourish, further reinforced by the desire of the media to find ‘media-friendly CEOs.  Recent examples are the late Steve Jobs, Larry Ellison, Richard Branson and Alan Sugar who by all accounts are not cuddly, empathetic leaders. They are ruthless and driven.

And it appears it is fine line between the focused, driven leader and the psychopath.

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2 thoughts on “Psychos in the Boardroom (or Government). Fascinating stats.

  1. As a Navy officer, I was the head of the Clemency and Parole Board’s Parole branch. In that capacity, I had to spend time with the staff at Leavenworth in Kansas, the US Military’s only maximum security prison. At that time, they were going through a learning evolution around psychopathy and the issue that the more you ‘reform’ a psychopath, the more they become really, really good at hiding their true nature.

    It was fascinating. As you say, a high percentage of people in prison fit in this category, but a significant percentage are also in leadership roles because it ‘fits’ their character to be in charge.

    The key to avoiding promotion of a psychopath: Make you leadership choices on more criteria than the ability to ‘win’ and earn. Those who win ruthlessly won’t ultimately make the company a good place to work. A psychopath won’t collaborate well, so make that a career enhancing trait.

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