Are CEOs and Entrepreneurs psychopaths? Multiple studies say “Yes”

Either it is the sign of our times, where success is almost akin to mental sickness, or our generation has a rather unfair share of mentally sick individuals.  Because some of the findings on the world of business seem rather strange.

A news research study by Australian School of Business at the University of NSW suggests that psychopathic tendencies can also make for good entrepreneurs.  The behavior of psychopaths and entrepreneurs is not very different.  Their modus operandi seems seems very similar in how they handle things.

“Psychopaths commit an offence, go to prison, then come out and commit the offence again, because they fail to learn from the prison experience,” said PhD student Benjamin Walker.  “Our study showed the novel result is that participants high in entrepreneurial intentions showed the same pattern.”

This particular research comprised 605 participants across three laboratory studies.   Mr Walker and Professor of Business Psychology Chris Jackson found that people with either psychopathic or entrepreneurial intentions persisted through adversity in a risk-taking task in a very similar way.

But this study is not the only one which suggests that entrepreneurs or those at the helm in business have psychopathic tendencies.  Even British journalist Jon Ronson has discussed similar findings in his latest book discussing the psychopathic tendencies of the CEOs.

British journalist Jon Ronson immersed himself in the world of mental health diagnosis and criminal profiling to understand what makes some people psychopaths — dangerous predators who lack the behavioral controls and tender feelings the rest of us take for granted. Among the things he learned while researching his new book, “The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry”: the incidence of psychopathy among CEOs is about 4 percent, four times what it is in the population at large.

In another study psychologist and Executive coach Paul Babiak found that One in 25 Business leaders are psychopaths.

One in 25 bosses may be psychopaths — a rate that’s four times greater than in the general population — according to research by psychologist and executive coach Paul Babiak.

Babiak studied 203 American corporate professionals who had been chosen by their companies to participate in a management training program. He evaluated their psychopathic traits using a version of the standard psychopathy checklist developed by Robert Hare, an expert in psychopathy at the University of British Columbia in Canada.

There was a time when successful and rich people were known by the amount of charity they did for the society.  But it seems that as the stock markets rule the world of business and what the CEOs do every day and every month, traits insincerity, lack of truthfulness and lack of remorse and shame become second nature.

Traits of psychopathsdefined below.

The following characteristics of a psychopath, defined by Hervery M. Cleckley in 1941 in the bookMask of Sanity include:

  • Superficial charm and average intelligence.
  • Absence of delusions and other signs of irrational thinking.
  • Absence of nervousness or neurotic manifestations.
  • Unreliability.
  • Untruthfulness and insincerity.
  • Lack of remorse or shame.
  • Antisocial behavior without apparent compunction.
  • Poor judgement and failure to learn from experience.
  • Pathological egocentricity and incapacity to love.
  • General poverty in major affective reactions.
  • Specific loss of insight.
  • Unresponsiveness in general interpersonal relations.
  • Fantastic and uninviting behavior with drink, and sometimes without.
  • Suicide threats rarely carried out.
  • Sex life impersonal, trivial, and poorly integrated

Featured Image Credits: Flickr / Stephen McCulloch

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  • MDSEBACH

    Politically motivated demonizing psycho-babble by ideological, altruist, moral subjectivist, pseudo-scientific, socially dangerous demagogues. There, I said it.

  • RWFG

    This sounds a lot like Obama, except Oloser hasn’t run a successful business for a day in his life.

    • Randall Burns

      I think you’ll find serious mental health issues among elected officials. The ancient Greeks had a real point when they chose leaders by lottery instead of by election. I’ve seen reports claiming that alcoholism is 2-3 times as common among members of congress than the general public. In the US we test for many other drugs-but not chronic alcohol abuse–even though tests of average alcohol consumption the last 90 days exist. Low level employees can be fired for testing positive for smoking cannabis/ganja on the weekend, but unless an employee is visibly impaired from alcohol, it is unlilkely any comment will be raised-and for elected officials that standard is even missing. Obama admitted that he used cocaine when he was younger. That substance is highly addictive and linked to sociopathic behavior. Because the POTUS is exempt from drug testing we have no real idea whether he has used since he has been in office.

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  • April Pray

    I have worked for many small business owners who were these exact descriptions. Anyone who decries these studies is either ignorant or a psychopath themselves.

  • Randall Burns

    I worked on the investigation of the Riscorp CEO for illegal campaign donations in the late 90′s. I came to conclusion that all officers of publicly traded companies should be subject to mandotory drug/alcohol testing and psychiatric examinations so investors and employees can make informed choices. I think if any licensed mental health professional had been left alone in a room with the subject of our investigation for a few minutes they could have provided information that would have been quite valuable to investors and employees. These mental health issues can be fairly minor in smaller companies but they become quite pathological when we are talking someone managing large sums of other people’s money. http://www.heraldtribune.com/article/20091015/ARTICLE/910151092


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