Your Leader Might Be A Successful Psychopath

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“Psychopaths... people who know the differences between right and wrong, but don't give a shit.” ― Elmore Leonard

History Proves Again and Again...

The third Roman Emperor Caligula was renowned for his psychopathic tendencies. He enjoyed watching people being devoured by wild animals and having public sexual encounters with his own sisters. Ivan IV was a Tsar in Russia, who earned the name of Ivan the Terrible for his cruel behaviors, including killing his own son and beating his pregnant daughter-in-law. Vlad Tepes was the Prince of Wallachia and was known for cutting off the breasts of women and forced their husbands to eat them. He earned his psychopathic fame for impaling close to twenty thousand men in the city of Amlas and burning, hacking, chopping small children, and then, feeding them to their mothers.

When I was a little child, a friend of the family would try to “jokingly” encourage us to behave or Mao Zedong (Mao Tse Tung) would show up at night. Thank goodness, at the young age I had no clue who this Mao really was, but his name sounded ferocious nevertheless. Later, I learned that he was a leader of the Chinese Communist party who was responsible for the deaths of millions of his followers.

Some refer to Mao as history’s greatest psychopathic murderer. He demanded recognition of his absolute power and was well known for his total disregard of human life. When millions of people were forced into the collective communes, they were exposed to terror and starvation. People were starving and dying because they were forbidden to cook for themselves. They had to rely on communal kitchens while working insane hours and starving most of the time. My history teacher told us that during the famine, if children tried to steal food, Mao had their fingers chopped off. His brutal torture methods ranged from burning people in kerosene to nailing their palms on a table. The man was pure evil.

Not All Psychopaths Kill or Get Caught

All these powerful leaders ruled the countries, so of course, they had a heck of a lot of people to hurt and became known for their evil deeds. Everything they’ve done was up for lots of public views. It was difficult to hide their psychopathic tendencies and lack of impulse control since all the attention was working in the leaders’ favor. We know about these leaders because of such a massive span of control they possessed. Not all of the psychopaths kill or get caught. Psychologists have a term – “successful psychopath", someone who has the traits but is able to better control impulses and social anxiety, according to the research from 1990s conducted by Adrien Raine at University of Pennsylvania.

In the CNBC article written by Catherine Clifford in 2016 she states that “psychopathy is an inherited mental disorder, an illness that is the result of a deformity in the brain.” Most likely, people who are born with this deformity are dangerous, but many are very successful in obtaining powerful positions.

Dr. Igor Galynker, the associate chairman for research in the Department of Psychiatry and the founder and director of the Richard and Cynthia Zirinsky Center for Bipolar Disorder at Mount Sinai Beth Israel, told CNBC, "We promote them, we elect them, and sometimes, a lot of people feel comfortable when people like that are in charge of our lives."

What are the chances that you work for a psychopathic boss? Does this thought alone terrify you? Have you taken the time to think about the behaviors your leaders demonstrate daily and compared them to those of a psychopath?

Most would never think about this. But, please, stop for a moment and observe. Many go through life suffering and tolerating the insane behavior of powerful people. If you took the time to get to this point in the article, consider some behavioral analysis. Maybe, just maybe, your unhappiness at work or in your personal life is not caused by you, but by someone who has a very strong influence over you. And this someone could be a successful psychopath.

According to the research conducted by Paul Babiak, Robert Hare, and Craig Neumann in 2010, approximately 3% of those who went through their management development program study and were assessed for psychopathy scored in the psychopath range well above the incidence of 1% in the general population. You don’t need to be a psychiatrist or a psychologist to realize from this study that the probability of working with a boss who actually enjoys seeing you suffer is very likely.

In the book The Art of Survival, Stefan H. Verstappen states that “you are more likely to find psychopaths in the boardroom than on the wrong side of the tracks.” He further explains, “The more competitive the environment is, the more ruthful cheating strategy becomes.” If you look at politicians or big company CEOs, the lack of empathy and remorse is exemplary, as it is a prerequisite for a position of this nature.

I remember one of the leaders in my early career advising me that if I wanted to progress in my jobs, I needed to become less emotional. I can assure you, I don’t come across as someone who is crying all the time or who can’t take the heat. This seemed to be an interesting advice, as he assigned the characteristic of “less emotional” to being important for a leader. I suppose I can see the positive side of it, as you need to stay tough when facing challenges, but if this excludes empathy, then it is certainly disturbing.

So, what are the signs to watch out when dealing with the psychopath?

Dr. William Hirstein, a philosopher, a scientist, a publisher of numerous scientific studies, wrote an article in Psychology Today in 2017 titled “9 Signs That You’re Dealing With a Psychopath.” Here is what he warns us to be on the lookout for in psychopaths.

1. Uncaring

2. Shallow emotions

3. Irresponsibility

4. Insincere speech

5. Overconfidence

6. Narrowing of attention

7. Selfishness

8. Inability to plan for the future

9. Violence

The above list could be translated into the behaviors of psychopaths and sociopaths who hold leadership roles. Stefan H. Verstappen says that these people “learn from early age that they aren’t normal and develop masterful skills of mimicking what “normal” humans do. If an employee is crying, they will be savvy to say the right things and not to appear emotionless.”

In some instances I've observed the presence of irresponsibility in some senior-level leaders. If they lost a deal, it was not their fault. Someone else was there to blame. If someone sued them, it was definitely an act of injustice that was inflicted on them.

Since the ego of a psychopath is larger than life, they ca