Saturday, September 3, 2011


Readers of my book based on my PhD thesis (SANCTIONS ON IRAQ: FEMINIST ACTIVISM VS.PATRIARCHAL POLICY 1990-2003: A political-psychological analysis, 2010) will recall its principal thesis: that male elites suffer from cognitive dissonance. This is a form of psychosis identified by the organizational management consultant Chris Argyris. Essentially, it says that those in power adhere publicly to a set of morals but in practice, violate them. It's something we all do to an extent. For example, I might say I believe that animals should be not be killed inhumanely, but in practice, I don't change my eating habits.
So it was interesting to read of a study wherein it was found that one in 25 bosses 'is a psychopath' but hides it with charm and business-speak. This is from a Daily Mail article, by Duncan MacPherson, that appeared September 2, 2011.

"New York psychologist Paul Babiak has discovered how many psychopaths had infiltrated major firms.

'We have identified individuals that might be labelled "the successful psychopath".

'Part of the problem is that the very things we're looking for in our leaders, the psychopath can easily mimic.

'Their natural tendency is to be charming. Take that charm and couch it in the right business language and it sounds like charismatic leadership.'

Dr Babiak designed a 111-point questionnaire with the University of British Columbia's Prof Bob Hare - the world's pre-eminent expert in psychopathy and a regular adviser to the FBI - to determine how many industry bosses were psychopaths.

They found that nearly four per cent of bosses fitted the profile, compared with one per cent among the general population.
Workplace bosses, who are four times more likely to be psychopathic than the general population, climb the career ladder by charming their superiors

Workplace bosses, who are four times more likely to be psychopathic than the general population, climb the career ladder by charming their superiors

Dr Babiak said: 'These were all individuals who were at the top of an organisation - vice-presidents, directors, CEOs - so it was actually quite a shock.'

The results revealed that psychopaths were actually poor managerial performers but were adept at climbing the corporate ladder because they could cover up their weaknesses by subtly charming superiors and subordinates.

This, said Dr Babiak, makes it almost impossible to distinguish between a genuinely talented team leader and a psychopath."

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1 comment:

  1. I approve of this theory!

    It is good to see it described.

    Just because a psychopath is highly functioning in societal terms (ie has a good job and is in a position of power) does not mean they are sane!

    I have often wished that politicians take an emotional empathy test to make sure they are truly human and thus fit for office.

    We need wise elders (not self-seekers with arrested development).

    Ditto with parental power: the bully at home, the charmer with strangers.

    You are right to examine one's own splits. ie for me, being green but driving a car.

    I guess the least we can do is keep soul-searching...