The Business Lessons We Learn from Psychopaths
Throughout college and university, I had the rare opportunity to study and observe what we would deem as sociopaths, psychopaths. At the time, very little was understood about these groups, such that it wasn’t reflected in the DSM-IV, the instrument I was studying at the time. Professors made cases for the study of psychopathy and subsequent placement into the DSM-IV of this type of constellation of features, and also made several arguments that thrust certain celebrities into the spotlight.
Antisocial personality disorder, not to be confused with psychopathy, does not mean that a person is against being in public or doesn’t like to hang out with other people. Instead, in psychology parlance, it refers to individuals with select traits that make them “violate the rights of others,” in highly dysfunctional ways, which can include anything from lying, cheating, to killing. It should be noted however that individuals who fall within this category have a range of these spheres of behaviors, from trivial to severe and many also have different conditions where their antisocial behavior can be mixed with narcissism or histrionic disorder.
Although psychopaths can be characterized as antisocial, they come with more specific attributes. Robert Hare best defined “psychopathy” by creating the famous Psychopathy Checklist (PCL-R) to help detect psychopaths. He also wrote the book Without Conscience, a book that describes numerous encounters with these extraordinary (for better or worse) individuals.
Most professionals in criminal justice have used this checklist since its inception around the early 2000s and it’s considered the premier checklist for helping objectively identify psychopaths. While there are some possible flaws in the test, since it is a self-disclosure tool and there is the chance that test takers are lying when they give it, it nevertheless shows high reliability across inmates who have been given the test and also of those who have administered this test in others setting.
In Mark Dutton’s book, The Good Psychopath’s Guide to Success, he makes the case for distinguishing between “good psychopaths” and “bad psychopaths.” Never before have I read in the literature psychopaths being distinguished as good or bad, so this is a very interesting interpretation and re-evaluation of the literature.
In the book, when he describes the differences between a “good psychopath” and a “bad psychopath”, he says you can distinguish them from whether they commit good or bad deeds, at least what we would consider “good” and “bad,” in a given context. A “good example” would be fighting on behalf of one’s country, doing impulsive and wrong deeds for the betterment of humanity (which of course, is subjective), while a “bad example,” would be killing someone just for the gratification of it.
Dutton describes psychopaths as being overall more casual and more straightforward and matter-of-fact. They do what they do, and they don’t need to feel anything. This is one of the main ideas in Dr. Hutton’s book, this emphasis on not feeling and just taking action, come what may. Of course, you don’t need to be a psychopath to take action on a goal, but certainly it would seem that psychopaths have this down better than most!