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On the Brink: CEOs and Psychopathy

Most CEOs are responsible individuals, but the rest of us aren’t often surprised when it emerges that the head of a major corporation has been caught stealing company funds or otherwise displaying traits of a psychopath. The CEO’s psychopathic reputation is earned: while one percent of the general population exhibits traits of personality disorders, four percent of CEOs do the same. When compared to a group of severely disturbed criminals, CEOs proved more likely to show signs of narcissistic, obsessive-compulsive and histrionic personality disorders.

While Twitter CEO Dick Costolo is not a certified psychopath, he understands that his position can be damaging to the psyche. He explains that this is because he often feels the need to personally relate to his employees’ problems. Of course, a true psychopath wouldn’t actually be able to empathize with anyone. Like other good CEOs, Costolo shows signs of being passionate, fearless, confident and focused. He understands that he can’t make everyone happy all the time and that it’s important to admit his faults and limitations.

Tyco CEO Dennis Kozlowski, on the other hand, became known for his supreme narcissism when he was caught pilfering $600 million from his own company. He’d not only been stealing but profiting from the sale of false securities as well. Like many psychos before him, Kozlowski was known to be a hypnotic individual. He was able to manipulate the emotions of those around him with little effort and built a company following with his winning personal philosophies. Of course, no one knew that he viewed company shareholders as little more than pawns designed for his personal gain. As CEO, he was led entirely by his personal sense of entitlement.

Al “Chainsaw” Dunlap was another such man. As CEO of Sunbeam, he dismissed 11,000 employees and led the company straight to ruin. After Sunbeam saw fit to sack him, the company still had little choice but to file for bankruptcy as a result of Dunlap’s fuzzy sales practices.

Executive Twist: Inside the Mind of a CE(psych)O

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