Is Your Boss A Psycho? The Link Between Leaders & Psychopaths…

psychopath leader

When we hear the word ‘psychopath’ we immediately think of murderers behind bars, but what you might be interested to know is that ‘psychopath’ is actually just a term for a person with a collection of traits that we all show some sign of ourselves in everyday life.

A psychopath is someone who acts without conscience in order to fulfil a certain goal. This lack of conscience could take form in someone who for example, gives the slow worker the sack without hesitation or takes complete credit for the combined efforts of his team.

Many psychopaths are in prison, as you’d expect, but what you might be surprised to hear is that the psychopath on the street is four times as likely to be found in senior management than any other career path. It’s these ‘psychopaths’ we’ll look at further in this post below.

Psychos and Suits, Briefcases and Nutcases: The Link between Leadership and Psychopaths…

According to Kevin Dutton in his book ‘The Wisdom of Psychopaths’ (a good summer read if you enjoy this post!) CEOs host the most psychopathic employees in the world, coming shortly ahead of lawyers and surgeons.

None of these careers are particularly provoking to the budding serial killer, but it’s true that all three use various psychopathic traits to get the job done.

Think about it. How effective would a surgeon be if he panicked whenever something went wrong in theatre? How prestigious would a lawyer be if he refused to bend the truth, or use a little charm? How successful would the entrepreneur be if he couldn’t take a risk in the board room? You get the idea. Being without conscience or emotion doesn’t make you a serial killer, but it can speed up your progress in the world of work and success.

But if this sounds like you, don’t worry. Most ambitious people display these traits as some point in their lives and the criminality associated with this term is just a misconception.

The truth is that the ‘impulsive nature’ which psychopaths display doesn’t have to be exerted in criminal offence. In business environments this nature can be applied more usefully (and less dangerously) through organised control of the board-room, risk in financial sectors or simply by charming your way to the next big promotion.

The truth is that all leaders have had to use charm and manipulation to achieve success in the work place, just as most bosses detach themselves from their emotions or take impulsive risks just to get that little bit higher on the ladder.

It doesn’t mean that all buisnessmen and women are insane. In a working environment especially, we see these traits as useful products of sheer ambition and drive and in this sense it is surprising that the qualities we admire in a leader are also common traits of the psychopath.

Other Useful (and Not So Useful) Traits of the Psychopath…

psycopaths Leaders

The only difference between a CEO and a murderer is that the CEO is putting these traits into a much healthier place. Below are some of the pro’s and con’s of psychopathic mindsets.

Charm & Deception

Deception in particular is key to psychopathic nature and business. In a bid to achieve, the ambitious person will do anything and everything to get the job done. And if this means a little white lie or a few charming smiles here and there… so be it! That’s business. That’s life.

Understanding people and what makes them work, is key in business and industry because if you can charm and persuade people, people will want to work for you. And this is a valuable skill to learn from the psychopath, not just for the business inclined, but for anyone who wants to achieve big things.

Emotion Control

The truly psychopathic minded of people, your CEO bosses for example, may also have the added bonus of a good control of emotion. This trait, as I described earlier, is most useful to the medical profession but it can also help people in entrepreneurial fields make tough decisions concerning the future too.

The ordinary worker’s choices will, naturally, be coloured by their humanity. But the psychopathic worker will instead do only what’s best to get the job done and in this sense, their decisions will be made much quicker and in better directions.

The Drawback to Charm

However, although these abilities make it much easier to take risk in business and build credit for impressive accomplishments (again two traits that will no doubt help the psychopath reach a truly powerful position) you must also consider the alienation that can come from this too.

There is only so much charming we can do to keep the peace and if people know that you always put the work first… chances are they won’t want to collaborate with you in future; thus leading to missed opportunities.


confidenceWhen asked what makes a good leader or boss most people would list ‘confidence’ as one of the most significant and valuable traits.

Not only does it allow you to organise teams to your favour, but it also makes it much easier to inquire about opportunities or promotions on offer.

Again ‘confidence’ is a key trait demonstrated by the psychopath and a key quality in all business leaders.

Psychopaths believe in themselves and everything they do, meaning they find it much easier to write good applications and ask more of the people below them – not a bad thing.

A Conclusion: What makes a good leader?

The above psychopathic traits (deception, confidence, lack of emotion, and charm) are just four of many extremely valuable qualities in the ambitious worker. Whether you’re a businessman, surgeon, lawyer, writer, artist, or musician, if you have big dreams then an eccentric nature can work in both advantage and disadvantage to the entrepreneur’s hand.

Confidence, drive, lack of emotion and charm are all traits demonstrated by the best leaders in any field but it’s also important to remember that, although most demonstrate these traits at some point in their career, being someone who frequently demonstrates them will eventually become disliked too, something which can then slow you down in the long run instead.

Most of their traits are products of an insane drive. And an insane drive is great for independent work, but not always in the work place. No matter how talented you are, having people and funding and opportunities behind you will help.

Steve Jobs used to say ‘don’t let them call you crazy’ because he believed that a little eccentricity can lead to a lot of innovation. I agree with him, to a point, but essentially, to be a good leader, you are much better off gathering a balance.

Take risks and be impulsive, but don’t be stupid with your money. Be confident and believe in the work you do, but remember you can also make mistakes and you should accept responsibility for them. Be logical and don’t let people slow you down but also recognise your colleagues as people (and potential collaborators) too.

If you do this then being a psychopath can actually work in your favour, but Crazy is also subjective. Never be afraid to stand out there and declare something different. Because ‘something different’ might be the key to your One Life Success.

Wrote by Aimee Hall