Psychopathy and Leadership in the Corporate World It is ironic but at the same time highly intriguing that traits like charm, charisma, verbal aptitude, and lack of emotional poverty can be characteristic of both CEO’s and psychopaths. Given the tendency of the media to represent psychopaths as hardened criminals or mental patients, it may come as an unsettling revelation that there are also a number of psychopaths walking among us in suits.
Unfortunately, little clinical work has been done in confirming the actual number of psychopaths in he business world due to a difficulty finding consenting corporations, and the risk of lawsuits or violating privacy laws. Before the research conducted in a recent study called “Corporate Psychopathy: Taking the Walk,” empirical studies were largely confined to self-report. For this particular study, however, researchers were able to obtain 203 participants from either corporate managerial or executive positions.
The individuals were evaluated using three main criteria: a PCL-R test or Psychopathy Checklist – Revised (and converted PCL: Screening Version), 3600 feedback ssessment, and performance appraisals. The results obtained from analysis of these were used in testing the hypothesis that a direct relationship exists between high levels of psychopathy and competence in corporate leadership positions. The first element, the PCL-R, is a 20-item clinical construct that analyzed four correlated dimensions of personality: Interpersonal, Affective, Lifestyle, and Antisocial effect.
Two additional factors, promiscuity and frequency of short-term relationships, were not included in the above categories but contributed to the overall score. The 3600 assessments were provided by some companies and Judged participants on communication skills, creativity/innovation, leadership skills, management style, strategic thinking, and teamwork. Performance appraisals were subjective and conducted by a participant’s immediate supervisor on a five-point scale.
Analysis of the PCL-R scores concluded that 3. 9% of the participants, compared to 3% using the PCL:SV, met the clinical threshold for psychopathy, with no no significant association with age, gender, education, or level of executive/management position. In comparison, about 15% of convicted male offenders scored the same or higher on the PCL-R. In the general community, prevalence was only 1. 2% on the PCL- R and 0. 2% on the PCL: SV.
Combined with the other screening factors, it was concluded that high psychopathy total scores were associated with perception of good communication skills, strategic thinking, and creative/innovative ability, but also with poor management style, failure to act as a team player, and poor performance appraisals. Despite this, the results provide evidence that a high level of sychopathic traits does not necessarily impede rank advancement in the corporate workplace.
This is due to the fact that companies often do not employ their existing performance management systems in fear of inhibiting the sort of innovation high- paced, incredibly competitive business environment. One of the primary differences between the article The Disturbing Link Between Psychopathy and Leadership from Forbes and the clinical study was the former’s inclusion of the fact that not all psychopaths are suited for the workplace. While the Babiak (et al. tudy states that the effect of education on PCL-R scores was not statistically significant, it neglects to account for the fact that the study was only conducted on participants with at least an associate’s degree. Thus, this conclusion can not be extended to the general population. The study characterizes psychopaths as being primarily glib and charming, without addressing the fact that not all psychopaths have this ability and thus their disorder manifests itself in very different ways as these individuals gravitate towards aggression or threats to achieve their oals.
The article, in addition, includes tips for employers on avoiding pitfalls of hiring based on charm. It emphasizes studying tangible achievements and gauging the individuals moral compass and value system. I found the news article to be a relatively accurate interpretation of the study, referencing it directly and providing averages of the statistic percentages, but it omitted nearly all of the screening criteria, referring only to a mysterious “psychopathic range”.
Only half of the article, however, was devoted to this study, ith the other half divided between a discussion of Babiaks book, “Snakes in Suits: When Psychopaths Go to Work,” and the author’s personal reasons for his interest in the topic as well as his advice for dealing with it. In terms of congruity between the two accounts, there were no glaring discrepancies, but there was one point from both with which I had qualms. Both articles warn us about the increased prevalence of psychopaths in business than in the general population and use leading phrases like “disturbing link” and “outrageous”.
They claim the lack of representation of functional, much less high achieving, psychopaths in the media. It is true, perhaps the public does generally stereotype psychopaths as criminals, but this representation is not overrepresentation. Yes, there is a higher rate of psychopathy in the executive than in the public sphere, but that discrepancy is only 2% compared to 14% in convicted criminals, a 700% increase from the former. Given this, the relative frequency of portrayals of psychopathic criminals is scientifically founded.
Also, it is not as if the rchetype of the corporate psychopath is a sudden revelation. American Psycho, which poignantly depicts the nature of the type of character evaluated in both works, was written in 1991 and adapted to the screen in 2000, generating very strong reactions and publicity from both critics and the public. REFERENCES The Disturbing Link Between Psychopathy and Leadership (04. 25. 2013) Forbes. com Link: http://www. forbes. com/sites/victorlipman/2013/04/25/the-disturbing-link- between-psychopathy-and-leadership/ Walk. Behavioral Sciences and the Law, 28, 174-93.