Corporate Psychopaths and Success

Psychologists often study phenomena at the individual level. For example, exploring whether having a high IQ, a handsome face or being tall will help you, as an individual, gain advancement in your career or profession. Therefore, they look at psychopathy in the same way and deduce that some psychopathic traits such as fearless dominance, will help some personalities get ahead, in a material sense, in life.

In some circumstances, for some people, being psychopathic will help to gain you wealth, power and influence. However, this success will typically be at the expense of those who are better qualified and more competent, but less willing to shamelessly put themselves forward for advancement.

The success of psychopaths therefore typically comes at everybody else’s expense. When corporate psychopaths reach leadership positions they attain wealth and success for themselves. However, at the same time employees are abused, resources are misappropriated, the environment is exploited and organizations are badly led. Total outcomes are sub-optimal and net societal productivity, efficiency and happiness are all diminished across the board. Success for psychopaths goes alongside impoverishment for everyone else.

While some psychologists report that psychopathy and success go together, and that “every business needs a psychopath” this is not supported by the evidence of what happens to an organisation and its employees once it becomes led by a corporate psychopath.

For more details see the 2015 paper: “Organisational psychopaths: a ten year update” by Boddy, C. published in the journal ‘Management Decision’, Vol. 53, No. 10.