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by Kevin Coupe

The Washington Post had a story that seems to confirm something that a lot of people already knew, or at least suspected - that one in five CEOs is a psychopath.

The piece notes that "Webster’s Dictionary defines the condition as 'a person who is mentally ill, who does not care about other people, and who is usually dangerous or violent and affected with antisocial personality disorder'." And, that a study for the Telegraph looking at 261 senior executives in the US suggests that 20 percent of them exhibit behavior consistent with psychopathic behavior - that corporate success "is a game and they don’t mind if they violate morals. It is about getting where they want in the company and having dominance over others.”

Now, I thought that this all seemed a little hyperbolic. I've had some pretty awful bosses in my life, but were they psychopaths? (Sociopaths, maybe...) And one of out five just seems a little high.

But the story goes on to make some interesting points:

"By the way – psychopathic behavior in the general population is about one in a 100. What’s a little disturbing in this study is that not only are 21 percent of corporate executives psychopathic, but so is the same percentage of prison inmates.

"Also disturbing: this isn’t the first time researchers have noted psychopathic tendencies among senior executives. In research also reported by The Telegraph a few years ago, a psychologist warned of a growing number of 'triadic persons' in the workplace who combine three types of dysfunctional personalities among white-collar workers: psychopath, Machiavellian, and narcissist. Such people, he warned 'have a dangerous, yet effective mix of a lack of empathy, self-centeredness, deviousness and self-regard which can propel them to the top of the organizations'."

No names are mentioned in the piece, but it is likely that the study was conducted in part because CEO temperament is in the news a lot these days. And the Post probably figured that the study would be an Eye-Opener.

if nothing else, maybe it will have some people looking at their company's org chart, and start wondering...
KC's View: