When you think of a leader, what springs to mind?
Fearless, impulsive, dominant – these are just a few commonly described leadership traits that could also indicate psychopathic tendencies according to new research.
Dr Katrina Fritzon, an associate professor at Bond University, has conducted research into that rare beast – the office psychopath. It might sound like a Hollywood stereotype made famous in The Devil Wears Prada
but this new study confirms that the office psychopath exists in the real world too.
Fritzon collaborated with Professor Simon Croom of the University of San Diego as they studied logistic workers across industries as diverse as retail, data entry, shipping and freight.
“What we’ve found is these particular people have higher levels of psychopathy than the general population, and are actually similar to people in prison,” Fritzon said of her research.
“There must be something about that particular type of work that may be attracting people with this personality.”
The test involved 156 questions and participants have to score above a certain level to be considered psychopathic.
“There hasn’t actually been very much research done on the idea that people in the business world are psychopaths.”
“The characteristics we measured in terms of psychopathy include being fearless, being quite dominant over other people, being willing to take risks and make bold business decisions that might come at a cost of personal relationships,” Fritzon continued, describing characteristics that are often sought after in a business context.
Frtizon has also studied the personalities of senior level executives, finding that they have similar or higher levels of disorders such as narcissism or obsessive compulsiveness than psychiatric patients also studied.
It isn’t all doom and gloom for those in the business world as Fritzon admits: “Some aspects of these personality disorders can have positive impact and function well in business context.
“Being narcissistic, if you were a CEO, you might need to present yourself that way.”