One researcher discovered that one in 25 CEOs studied exhibited enough signature traits to qualify as a psychopath.
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
The arrest this week of the California man police believe may be the "Golden State Killer" reminded me that pop culture did an abysmal job of showing us what psychopaths are actually like.
Psychopaths aren’t all bloodthirsty serial killers, nor are they inherently cruel or violent; some, actually, are actually in a position to use their particular traits to get ahead in life, whether which means seizing political power, accumulating wealth and social prestige or, sometimes, creating excellent businesses.
Related: How to prevent Hiring a Psychopath
Actually, as this Psychology Today article highlights, some psychologists argue that the thought of a “psychopath” is flawed and really should be discounted altogether, and only more precise medical diagnoses, just like the diagnosis for antisocial personality disorder.
Still, let’s assume that psychopaths do exist, at least inside our historical knowledge of them. Do they lead to better entrepreneurs?
Traits of psychopaths
The original methodology for identifying a psychopath has been the Hare checklist, a diagnostic tool that evaluates a patient’s exhibition of certain traits. It has since been updated as the PCL-R (the Hare Psychopathy Checklist-Revised), but a lot of the traits it checks for remain the same. Many of the most notable include:
- Glib and/or superficial charm
- A grandiose view of the self
- A constant dependence on stimulation
- Lying, to a pathological degree
- The tendency and capability to manipulate others
- Too little remorse or guilt
- Limited emotional responsiveness
- Too little empathy
- Behavioral problems early in life
- Too little responsible, realistic long-term goals
- A parasitic lifestyle
- Sexual promiscuity
- An inability to simply accept responsibility for his or her own actions
Related: 5 Signs Your Boss May be a Psychopath (Your Emails Might Contain the Biggest Clues)
You often will see where a few of these traits might can be found in handy for entrepreneurs. But what does the study say?
The target findings
A 2013 study from the Australian School of Business at the University of New South Wales discovered that entrepreneurs and people with psychopathic tendencies whose behavior was analyzed tended showing similar strategies in risk-taking tasks. Whether or not the execution of a risk-taking task was rewarded or punished, participants with psychopathic tendencies and the ones with entrepreneurial intentions both persisted past adversity, making repeated attempts without having to be deterred.
This is really an interesting study, nonetheless it treats psychopathy and entrepreneurship as distinctive concepts, and examines only 1 trait both groups have as a common factor: risk-taking behavior.
Still, this study wasn’t alone in its attempts to investigate the partnership between entrepreneurship and psychopathy. Jon Ronson, writer of the book The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry, reveals that the incidence of psychopathy among CEOs is approximately 4 percent, which is four times greater than the incidence rate for the overall population. This claim was bolstered by a 2011 study by psychologist and executive coach Paul Babiak, who discovered that one in 25 CEOs studied exhibited enough psychopathic traits to qualify them as psychopaths.
Articles by Babiak and Mary Ellen O’Toole, meanwhile, discussed one possible reason corporate psychopaths succeed so consistently. Their capability to callously manipulate other folks is certainly an advantage: Psychopaths completely control of their faculties could make extraordinary salespeople and frequently have little trouble obtaining a team to check out their commands.
Stimulation- and impulse-seeking behavior may lead these folks to take more risks, that may characterize them as bold and fearless in a competitive environment, or cause them to start businesses of their own. And, on top of that, psychopaths can use their cunning and manipulative tendencies to produce a charismatic façade, that may keep their coworkers and supervisors blind with their more threatening psychopathic tendencies.
In this article, Babiak and O’Toole also discussed the disadvantages of psychopathy for corporate leaders, such as for example an inability to create realistic long-term goals, though even this problematic trait could possibly be misinterpreted. In addition they discussed overly ambitious goal-setting, that could be observed as visionary; and the characteristic of too little emotion, which could be observed as staying calm under great pressure.
It’s perhaps worth noting herethat a related field, politics, comes with an increased probability of supporting professionals with psychopathic tendencies, and for most of the same reasons. Ruthless, risk-taking tactics and impersonal, logical decision-making might help a person popularity of practically any career.
A caveat on diagnosis
The message from all of this research appears to be straightforward: Psychopaths, regardless of the potential damage they are able to inflict on individuals in a organization, often make smarter entrepreneurs and corporate leaders. So, how about you? Do you exhibit enough psychopathic traits that you may gain an edge?
Before you answer, you should recognize that psychopathy isn’t a black-and-white issue; like the majority of psychological traits, it exists on a spectrum, and only a professional professional can accurately diagnose you. It’s unlikely that you exhibit all of the traits connected with psychopathy and it’s equally unlikely that you exhibit none of the traits connected with this diagnosis.
Related: Are Online Comment Trolls Actually ‘Psychopathic Sadists’?
Understanding how to harness the traits you do have, which can make you an improved entrepreneur, will help you define your leadership style and/or find your house in the organization world — if you understand the disadvantages and potentially harmful ramifications those traits may h