Could your CEO be a psychopath?

by Sarah Megginson22 Oct 2014
Fearless, impulsive and dominant: these are just a few common leadership traits that could also indicate psychopathic tendencies, according to new research.
Associate Professor Dr Katarina Fritzon from Bond University has conducted a study, which has confirmed that office psychopaths – made famous by fashion mogul Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada – do exist in the real world.
Fritzon’s research, a collaboration with Professor Simon Croom of the University of San Diego, studied the profession of logistic workers, across industries as diverse as retail, distribution, ticketing, shipping, freight and data entry.
Their findings indicated that 25 per cent of managers had higher levels of psychopathic traits, which is broadly defined as being incapable of feeling guilt, remorse or empathy.
“What we’ve found is these particular people have higher levels of psychopathy than the general population, and are actually similar to people in prison,” Fritzon said.
“There must be something about that particular type of work that may be attracting people with this personality.”
Fritzon added that research into psychopaths and the workplace had been limited thus far, and that her test – which scored participants based on their answers to 156 questions – wasn’t all bad news for organisations.
“The characteristics we measured in terms of psychopathy include being fearless, being quite dominant over other people, being willing to take risks and make bold business decisions that might come at a cost of personal relationships,” she said.
“Some aspects of these personality disorders can have positive impact and function well in business context. [For example] being narcissistic, if you were a CEO, you might need to present yourself that way.”
Other traits of psychopathic leaders include being ruthless, manipulative, cold-hearted and self-involved.


  • by Catherine Cahill 22/10/2014 6:19:22 PM

    Fritzon certainly hasn't uncovered anything new here! I highly recommend the book "Snakes in Suits" (Babiak and Hare) which is a detailed account of psychopaths at work.

  • by Nancy 23/10/2014 3:42:08 PM

    Agreed Catherine - nothing knew here. 'Snakes in Suits's is an eye opener. I work with at least two I'm sure.

  • by Valerie Panayiotou 24/10/2014 9:55:39 AM

    I also agree with both Catherine and Nancy. I find that these types also seem to end up in the education and not-for-profit sector as there appears to be less scrutiny than you would find in the corporate sector. I personally know of a lady who has no qualifications but declares to everyone she not only has multiple qualifications from overseas, but that she is currently a PHD candidate as well! Why don't we speak up? Those of us who have read 'Snakes in Suits' know there is no easy way to make these people accountable and often there is a backlash which then impacts us and those around us more than it impacts the culprit. Better to keep a safe distance.

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