A study by New York psychologist Paul Babiak appears to blur the lines a bit between those who are good leaders and those who could be classified as psychopathic.
According to an article in The Guardian, Babiak has designed a 100+ question study that can spot the difference between someone with a natural, charismatic personality and someone who feigns charm and charisma in order to get what they want. The latter, by Babiak’s definition, would classify as a 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.”
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The issue at hand is that psychopaths, by Babiak’s definition, can only posture as great leaders, doing so by charming their superiors and subordinates. When it comes to actually exhibiting the characteristics that a great leader holds, the psychopath hits the wall and cannot actually perform as expected.
The problem with Babiak’s study, however, lies in a matter of definitions. He seems to use psychopath as a clinical diagnosis, but a diagnosis of psychopathy actually encompasses a far more broad category of disorders.
What Babiak doesn’t specify, at least not in this article, is precisely what type of psychopathic behavior he sees as fitting the definition. From obsessive-compulsive to histrionic and schizoaffective disorders, any or all of these could very well fit the behaviors of a successful leader or entrepreneur, as long as you take them in moderation.
So don’t worry, just yet. If you see yourself or someone else as a good leader, there’s a pretty solid chance that they truly are. However, there’s still that slight probability that you’re dealing with a world-class psycho or you are one yourself. Need some clarification? The Hare Psychopathy Checklist has been the gold standard for quite some time and might offer a bit of insight for you.