Disordered Leadership, the Dark Triad and the Big Five Personality

This subject matter is further explored in a Chapter in a Springer book Perspectives on Philosophy of Management and Business Ethics entitled “Dispositional Attribution of Corporate Executives” written during 2014/15 and published in January 2017: Dispositional Attribution of Corporate Executives An updated and expanded version of this paper including endnotes is available as a PDF:

PDF of “Psychology of Leadership – Disordered Leadership, the Dark Triad and the Big Five Personality”

as well as 75 propositions from a lengthened “Capitalism and Ethics” conference presentation and another based on an extended case study of a “Disordered Leader” – Hitler

Personality, the Big Five Factors, the Dark Triad and Disordered Leadership

Why is the personality of leaders important?

It is extraordinary the number of organisations who go to great lengths to democratically involve people from all levels and locations to devise laudable Values Statements, record motivational speeches from the leadership, communicate and inculcate their commendable Core Values with everyone, produce impressively worded and genuinely well-intentioned web pages, documents, pamphlets and posters, arrange workshops and training courses in meeting rooms and online, maximise use of social media and e-learning, then undo all this admirable, appropriate and important work by (unwittingly) appointing amongst the most inappropriate, irresponsible and covertly unethical and destructive people in society to (mal) manage and (mis) lead them, with quite inevitable and indeed entirely predictable consequences. Yet time and time again all such entities, apparently in every nation and quite likely in every sector of global society, continue to choose quite the wrong type of people to lead and manage them, sometimes even the most unsuitable and irresponsible possible, those with a Personality Disorder, knowledge of which would appear to be one of the world’s best kept secrets.

As “self-centred” has been defined by Merriam-Webster as “concerned solely with one’s own desires, needs, or interests” and “independent of outside force or influence”, one of my key arguments is that, at its most basic, global society needs those I describe as “GIVERS” in leadership roles throughout global society, being “more interested in others than themselves” and most certainly not “TAKERS” who, being “more interested in themselves than others”, are unlikely in either normal or more challenging times to prioritise the interests and needs of the organisation or entity and the people they lead over their own.

Many non-psychologists are naturally unaware what to look for, especially how to identify those who may differ from the norm and ultimately transpire to be quite “destructive” by nature, while simultaneously under-appreciating the many quite evident merits in those who may not flaunt their own abilities yet transpire to be highly responsible, talented and “constructive”. Some “Disordered Leaders” however may even be a “viability liability”. Even after their organisation has collapsed, with many peoples lives adversely affected, these people who are quite the opposite of humble, kind and considerate of others, being
  • overtly “selfish, difficult and proud” (“SDP”), charming, arrogant, conceited, stubborn, inflexible, impulsive, risk-taking, superior, grandiose, tactless, assertive, entitled, pretentious, ostentatious, intimidatory, invulnerable, self-centred, humourless, over-critical, irresponsible, untrustworthy, needs stimulation, thrives on being challenging and difficult to please, looking for and creating trouble when there is none, holds grudges, blames others, an expert liar and struggles to control behaviour and overreacts to trivial situations especially when they believe others have criticised them, even if they didn’t, while also being
  • covertly cold, callous, mean, suspicious, secretive, jealous, controlling, disloyal (to anyone but themselves, their only true interest), emotionally deficient, labile/moody, angry, maladaptive, devious, Machiavellian, deceitful, remorseless, fearless, inconsiderate of other people, unkind, cruel and egotistical, lacking in guilt, remorse, anxiety, empathy, conscience and compassion, meaning ruth-less,
but are often demonstrably Intelligent, Charming and Eloquent individuals, still fail to see what they may have done wrong, blaming all their failings on everyone and everything else. Those lacking a sense of wrong may indeed have something wrong with them, as evidenced by the number of employees forced to leave jobs they otherwise liked and contributed well to, a myriad of situations involving trust and reputational damage, ethical disasters, corporate collapses, conscientious whistleblowers feeling compelled to report the impact and behaviour arising from conscience-free and ruth-less leaders, as well as disputes and even wars between nations, most likely throughout human history… … arising from the emotional impairment of those who care little for anyone but themselves and (like the primary school children psychologists liken them to) have to be seen to “get their own way” and “win at all costs, irrespective of the consequences”, no matter how significant these transpire to be, including on the lives of far too many other far more ruth-full (meaning compassionate) people, especially when their necessity for control and power becomes uncontrollable and their abuse of the power they were mistakenly trusted with becomes all the more dangerous. The challenge for global society is that to many they appear at the surface level to be Intelligent, Charismatic and Eloquent, otherwise admirable qualities if they did not mask the fact that they were also deeply emotionally Cold, Obstinate, Labile and Destructive ( or “ICE-COLD”) by nature. Indeed as psychology has benefitted from neuroscientific advances, neuroimaging has proved their brains to be different from the norm, well capable of being COGNITIVELY sharp, incisive and predominantly normal, or “intact”, while simultaneously deeply EMOTIONALLY “shallow”, or deficient, disordered, cold, callous, abnormal and ruth-less (or compassion-free), in essence lacking the very essence of humanity. Just as it can be difficult (if not near impossible) to tell a selfish person that they are self-centred, something they may not be able to see for themselves (even when others suggest this to them), it can be even more challenging to tell someone lacking empathy that they lack empathy, or are deficient in a valuable aspect of life they have never possessed or experienced, and can never feel or properly understand. This is especially so of those only capable of experiencing other people no differently from inanimate objects, such as their car or phone, with their family also counting only as possessions given that, to them, their feelings for people are as deep and meaningful as those of shopfront mannequins or the cardboard cut-outs of real people seen in bookshops during book launches. Their moodiness or “emotional lability”  makes those who have no option but to work with or for them have to constantly “walk on eggshells” in their presence and consider “there is something not quite right here”. Yet we continue to appoint such “disordered” people to supervisory, managerial and even leadership roles throughout global society, in effect trusting the most irresponsible people possible with our most responsible positions.

What general matters do experienced mental health professionals examine in their patients (based both on personal interview and tests and all possible information about them, especially from third parties more familiar with their typical daily behaviour) to consider if this scenario may be so and what “not quite right” may be, including potentially even a “Personality Disorder”?

When (a) their way of thinking can seem distorted, seeing and recalling things differently from others involved, (b) when their emotional responses are such that others need to be very careful what they say and do in their presence, (c) when they can act in a very impulsive manner without seeming to rationally weigh up the consequences of their unusual if not sometimes bizarre decision-making, most likely predominantly self-centred and personally focussed, (d) when some of what they say and do seems to cause interpersonal difficulties, perhaps seeming to be better at making enemies out of friends than friends out of enemies and especially when they engender hatred and cause unnecessary conflict, (e) when they seem to behave in a similarly inflexible manner irrespective of the time, place or circumstance, (f) as well as other factors, major and minor, then it is likely that experienced psychiatrists, psychologists and psychoanalysts may conclude that the person displaying these less than admirable qualities may indeed have what is typically referred to as a “Personality Disorder”. However as few other people have the psychological training or expertise to be able to associate such behaviour with a “disordered personality”, this small but significant sub-group of society can achieve positions of responsibility their very deep irresponsibility should disqualify them from even consideration for. This can be especially so if they show many of these indications: Narcissism: a pervasive pattern of grandiosity, a need for admiration, a lack of empathy, grandiose sense of self-importance;  a preoccupation with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love; beliefs of being special and unique;  requirements of excessive admiration; a sense of entitlement;  interpersonal exploitation or envy of others. Fearless Dominance  – Social Potency, Stress Immunity and Fearlessness, associated with less anxiety, depression and empathy as well as higher well-being, assertiveness, narcissism and thrill-seeking: 1. Social Potency: The ability to charm and influence others. 2. Stress Immunity: A lack of typical marked reactions to traumatic or otherwise stress-inducing events. 3. Fearlessness: An eagerness for risk-seeking behaviours, as well as a lack of the fear that normally goes with them. Self-centred Impulsivity – Carefree Nonplanfulness, Impulsive Nonconformity, Machiavellian Egocentricity and Blame Externalisation, associated with impulsivity, aggressiveness, substance use, antisocial behaviour, negative affect and suicidal ideation: 4. Carefree Nonplanfulness: Difficulty in planning ahead and considering the consequences of one’s actions. 5. Impulsive Nonconformity: A disregard for social norms and culturally acceptable behaviours. 6. Machiavellian Egocentricity: A lack of empathy and sense of detachment from others for the sake of achieving one’s own goals. 7. Blame Externalisation: Inability to take responsibility for one’s actions, instead blaming others or rationalising one’s behaviour. Coldheartedness: A distinct lack of emotion, guilt, or regard for others’ feelings, which can include simple meanness. Interpersonal Factors or Style and Arrogant & Deceitful Experience including Glibness or superficial charm, Grandiose sense of self-worth, Pathological lying & Conning or Manipulative/Devious & Failure to accept responsibility Impulsive and Irresponsible Behavioural lifestyle including Need for stimulation, Parasitic lifestyle, Lack of realistic long-term goals, Impulsivity & Irresponsibility Affective or Emotional factors or Deficient Affective Experience including Lack of remorse or guilt, Shallow affect or Cold emotions and Callousness or Lack of empathy. Antisocial factors including Poor behavioural controls and Early behavioural problems including Juvenile delinquency as well as Criminal versatility. Paranoid Personality:  Pervasive, unwarranted suspiciousness and distrust (expectation of trickery or harm, over-concern with hidden motives and meanings); hypersensitivity (being easily slighted or offended, readiness to counterattack); restricted affectivity (emotional coldness, no true sense of humour) at a general level and in particular Believing that others are using, lying to, deceiving, exploiting or harming them, without any real evidence; Doubting the loyalty and trustworthiness of others; Won’t confide in others due to the belief that their confidence will be betrayed; Looking for hidden meanings in gestures and conversations and misinterpreting ambiguous or benign remarks as hurtful or threatening; Holding grudges and seeking retaliation, even if unwarranted; Believing their reputation or character are being attacked by others, without objective evidence; May believe friends, family and romantic partners are untrustworthy and unfaithful, without justification; Can engage in outbursts of anger in response to perceived deception; Often described as cold, jealous, secretive and serious; Overly controlling in relationships in order to avoid being exploited or manipulated; Can tend to hold negative views of other people and Overly sensitive to criticism and can significantly overreact to perceived criticism. While anyone can display some of these tendencies very occasionally, especially when under undue pressure, when they are fully aware that they have behaved in a different and more unacceptable and excessively challenging manner manner from their typically more  acceptable and harmonious behaviour, there may be nothing wrong with them at all, especially when the pressurised situation is resolved. However when any combination of these factors can be seen by others to be typical, inflexible and occur irrespective of “time, place or circumstance” and they may be oblivious to the harm they may be doing to others  or their organisation (hence the term “oblivious narcissists”), when their way of thinking can seem distorted, when they can act in a very impulsive manner without seeming to rationally weigh up the consequences of their actions and decision-making, when their emotional responses seem odd, cold and others need to be very careful what they say and do in their presence, when they seem to cause interpersonal difficulties, prioritising themselves and their own interests over those of others and even the organisation itself, then a “Personality Disorder” may be the reason for many of the problems they cause. When some or more of these not always so apparent factors seem to be at play, it can be apparent that  we trust the most untrustworthy people possible, both directly and indirectly, with responsibility for the lives and emotions of many other people, when they cannot even regulate or manage their own. When those who cannot experience fear or anxiety as most others can, yet may even derive pleasure from inducing fear and anxiety in others, take excessively risky decisions, so focussed on the possible rewards that they seem to insufficiently consider the downside potential, including financial and reputational, others need to become even more responsible and assume even greater responsibility to diminish the damage such people can do when they lack not only a sense of risk but also a sense of what may be wrong. Yet, extraordinarily, we even allow such people lead financial institutions and other entities which particularly need to achieve the right risk-reward balance if they are not only to thrive, but survive. Those without a sense of wrong may actually have something wrong with them, meaning they may be what this research categorises as “Disordered Leaders”, whereby all attempts to deal with them normally may well be doomed to failure, given that they lack not only emotional empathy and depth, but also the other attributes which collectively constitutes a conscience, with no real interest in anyone but themselves. People with many of the Personality Disorders just do not believe there is anything wrong with them, so see no need to change nor seek treatment, which they may not even cooperate with in the unlikely event that assessment transpires. Those with “Narcissistic Personality Disorder” and related disorders believe they are normal and may not seek any form of assessment, assistance or treatment because they feel superior to others. Indeed their mindset is such that they may believe that it is their inferiors who are the real problem and it is they who are responsible for problems. Those with “Paranoid Personality Disorder” also feel there is nothing wrong with them, although others may see them as being excessively suspicious and unnecessary hostile. In their mind, their suspicions of others are quite justified. It is these other people who are the real problem and they are the reasons for the degree of moderate to significant dysfunction, havoc and even mayhem which their mis-management and mal-leadership inevitably brings. Characteristics such as these should disqualify such people from consideration for senior roles, but incredibly (meaning “hard to believe”) these traits are evident amongst people holding significant positions throughout society. One reason is too many other people (especially those with the right credentials for seniority) just do not seem to know what traits to look for, primarily to identify them to deny such people they power they need and demand but are incapable of using for the purpose intended, then become difficult to replace as they prioritise maintenance of the power they crave over all other considerations, irrespective of the cost to others. The other main reason it becomes important to be able to identify such “disordered” people is to realise that trying to deal with them “normally” is likely to result in abject failure and a variety of countermeasures will instead need to be tactically employed in dealing with them, to diminish the damage they can do not only to the culture of their organisation (or nation) but also to the lives and emotions of those who have no choice but to work with or for them. At the end of the day when people learn what traits to look for, the “disordered people” themselves facilitate this task of preventing them from becoming “disordered leaders”, because they actually “give the game away” themselves by way of what they cannot hide or change – their own behavioural traits.

As we will discover when in due course we touch on not only the clinical psychology but also the neuroscience of both “Constructive Leaders” and those “Disordered Leaders” who (mal) practice “Destructive Leadership”, and in effect mis-lead their organisation (or nation) and its people, not only are many aspects of their personality and behaviour different from the norm, but their brains are too.

Perhaps throughout human history, society would appear to have mistaken charm, intelligence, smooth talking, arrogance and even callous ruthlessness for “managerial ability” due to a misconception associated with appointing highly self-centred people to leadership positions, consistently mistaking outwardly dynamic displays of confidence and eloquent talk of integrity for strength of character and intimidatory traits for strength of leadership, when in reality such fundamentally weak and perhaps childlike people may possess neither good character nor genuine managerial or leadership ability. The safe functioning of global society including the responsible management and generally harmonious co-operation  within and between organisations, founded to achieve common goals not satisfy the whims of “Disordered Leaders”, requires that those lacking the core essence of humanity should no longer be given the opportunity to allow their inhumanity to negatively impact on the lives of others, no matter the arena. As far as leadership is concerned, all the intelligence in the world is of little or no value, if none of it is emotional.

Identify Consistent Inconsistency

No matter how well they succeed in concealing their personality defects, notably in the short-term, including by way of mimicking how genuinely warm-hearted people appear to behave, fortunately these emotionally un-intelligent and interpersonally callous people CAN be identified, preferably in advance of they achieving seniority of position, by way of what they struggle most to change – their own (self-centred) behaviour.

Indeed those who do not yet know them well may even be quite captivated (initially) by their apparent Intelligence, Charisma and Eloquence, which can conceal their true ICE-cold and ruth-less (meaning compassion-free) nature.

It is probably beyond the comprehension of many decent, kind and considerate people that a minority of society may actually lack a conscience and anything which would inhibit them saying and doing things which others just couldn’t and wouldn’t, no matter the circumstances.

Those without a sense of wrong or regret must indeed have something wrong with them.

But who will notice if they manage to behave well and give a good impression most of the time?

Consequently these people can be quite invisible, expert at hiding their true traits and pretending to be interested in other people, while manoeuvring themselves into positions for which they appear to be well suited given their talent at both acting and deceiving (including craftily denigrating the performance and character of those they perceive to be rivals, even if they are not).

However when they ultimately transpire to be incapable of performing in the consistently responsible and trustworthy manner expected of the role, especially when they prioritise what they perceive to be their self-interest over the interests and needs of the entity and its variety of stakeholders, they can prove to be extremely difficult to replace especially when they do “anything it takes” to hold on to the positions of power they should never been trusted with, which a better understanding of the nature of Personality Disorders might have ruled them out of consideration for.

While some may argue their fearless and ruthless nature can bring advantages, these are often at the expense of others and are usually outweighed by very many disadvantages, many of which may not be readily apparent but prove to be damaging.

These and many other traits led me to propose the following initial definition of a “Disordered Leader” at the US IVBEC business ethics conference held in Dublin in October 2019:

“Someone trusted with supervisory, managerial or leadership responsibilities who, due to what may be indicative of a mental and/or personality disorder(s), could be considered to be incapable of consistently responsible, trustworthy, harmonious, prosocial and accountable management or leadership with integrity, including prioritising the interests of stakeholders other than themselves, especially when this may impede satisfying their self-interest”.

Those with little or no real interest in anyone or anything but themselves cannot be trusted to “do the right thing” for the entity or its people in either the short or long term, for many reasons we will explore, especially when they may transpire to be more “destructive” than “constructive”. Prevention is preferable to the improbability of cure.

Those who see life as a game to be won (and thrive on playing games with other people’s emotions) can actually “give the game away” themselves when they do so, but only when more responsible people learn what traits to look for.

Indeed the mask they habitually wear can be rapidly dropped with no apparent warning, especially when they believe or perceive that their self-interest may be under threat, given that “getting their own way” and “winning at all costs, irrespective of the consequences” can appear to be their mental prerogative, no matter the situation, major or trivial, due to their inability to hold back when there is even a remote possibility of other people winning and denying them the opportunity to personally prevail.

As soon as others recognise that “what’s in it for me?” can appear to be how they approach consideration of many (if not all) matters, they may be able to minimise harm by tailoring their own approach accordingly so the goals of the group at large and those of the Disordered Leader can appear to be one and the same, especially when others contrive to make them believe that the idea for what may be the “right” course of action was uniquely their own.

Otherwise they are likely to pursue quite the opposite of what others want them to do, no matter how “wrong” this may be for the entity and its variety of stakeholders, which in due course the most observant will realise is simply not their concern.

When other people, especially those with an abundance of emotional intelligence, learn what to look for and how to identify “Disordered Leaders” by way of their behaviour, actions, reactions, impulsivity, words disconnected from actions and intentions frequently changing (saying one thing one minute and doing the opposite the next), they will appreciate that there actually is a consistency in their apparent inconsistency. Because “Disordered Leaders” are “maladaptive” by nature, meaning inflexible, and can behave in a similar manner in many similar situations, irrespective of time or place, seemingly lacking the ability to adapt or learn from their prior experiences (especially mistakes which they are well capable of regularly repeating), their very predictability can, with greeter familiarity, be predicted by astute coworkers or companions. When others learn how to adapt their own way of thinking and consequently behave differently themselves in the presence of their “Disordered Leader” (such as believing the opposite of what they say and advising them to do the opposite of what others actually want them to do), the degree of harm they can cause can be minimised. Better still, when others become familiar with the behavioural traits this minority of society typically display, they can be denied the positions of power they will inevitably abuse. Even better still, when others become familiar with the traits associated with “Disordered Leadership” they may better appreciate the many finer aspects and traits associated with “Constructive Leaders” and instead choose these far more appropriate people for managerial and leadership roles, with far better, safer, more responsible and considerate outcomes, even if they may initially seem less dynamic or exciting, their greater humility or modesty may increasingly be seen as a strength and most certainly not a weakness. Indeed one of the primary aims of this decade long research has been to alert normal people how to identify abnormal people and deny them the opportunity to cause harm and havoc, while ensuring that those selected or elected to responsible roles throughout global society are actually fundamentally responsible, trustworthy and conscientious.

Constructive Leaders

While “Constructive Leaders” could not be more different from “Disordered Leaders who practice Destructive leadership”, their total antithesis in almost every respect, except they too can be Intelligent, Charming and Eloquent, potentially high in Openness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness and low in Neuroticism, they are far more than the opposite of the dangerous people with personality leaders who (if their true personality was known) would not be let near a corner shop let alone lead a multinational corporation or nation.

Organisational progress, customer/public service and many measures including profitability, along with many “intangibles” like trust, respect, reputation, goodwill and even “world peace”, can all be enhanced when organisations (and nations) as well as Boards of Directors and Voters learn how to identify and exclusively appoint “Constructive Leaders” with the:

  1. vision to realise how great the group they are responsible for could be, with the
  2. strategic insight to know what direction(s) to take,
  3. perception to not only know how to get there, but when a change of direction may be needed,
  4. integrity to set the right tone at the top,
  5. moral compass to guide everyone in the right direction and avoid short-term gain which may result in longer-term pain,
  6. honesty to speak truthfully, not deceptively, and only make promises likely to be able to be met,
  7. remorse to be able to know when wrong has or could be done,
  8. courage to avoid wrongdoing and own up and say “sorry” when things do go wrong (as they will) or promises can’t be met, rather than make the mistake of covering up and “denying the undeniable”, hoping no-one will ever find out (although they do), and
  9. creativity to explore new opportunities,
  10. (emotional) empathy to understand people in all their humanity,
  11. interest in others to encourage and willingly provide support,
  12. perception to offer astute guidance and appreciate the importance of trust and reputation,
  13. wisdom to know what new opportunities to explore and what to change and when,
  14. patience not to impulsively over-react to situations as soon as they arise, to wait for results rather than curtail prematurely, or know when the timing may be right to initiate change or introduce new policies,
  15. humility to seek no personal acclaim and (being the opposite of pride) ability to admit to error rather than persist with doing the wrong thing,
  16. strength to tackle the issues others might ignore and own up to rather than cover up mistakes or wrongdoing,
  17. persistence to surmount obstacles and “never give up” on worthwhile matters which may be in the longer term best interest of all involved,,
  18. resilience to tough out difficulties, remain positive and constructive in seeking to find optimal solutions,
  19. tact to deal with matters diplomatically rather than rudely and crudely, and knowing when saying nothing may be preferable, especially words now could cause damage later or when there may be nothing positive or constructive to say,
  20. attitude of gratitude to be able to genuinely praise and know when to do so, especially when people have tried their best even when the outcome isn’t as good as it might have been,
  21. modesty to deflect praise to others. yet accept responsibility for their mistakes,
  22. emotional intelligence to know how best to deal with the wide variety of people and situations which arise, supporting and pointing them in the right direction, with the
  23. charisma which endears people to their leader and makes people feel important, warmly welcomed and appreciated,
  24. enthusiastic personality which creates the positive culture and sets the
  25. admirable example which encourages and maybe even inspires everyone to want to follow their leader in top gear, as they build bridges and roads to places that people with less vision and insufficient understanding of the mission never even considered.
Fortunately there are many such positive and “can do” people in many roles at all levels throughout local, national and international society. Yet, although such “Constructive Leaders” set an admirable example for not only those they work with, manage and lead, but many others too, we somehow just don’t seem to hear too much about these role-models, especially not from themselves, not feeling the need to speak about themselves, just the group they inspire to produce their best, whose success built on respect and cooperation gives them their greatest personal satisfaction. So why don’t we choose more such trustworthy, modest and responsible people of integrity for important roles, especially when trust and reputation may need to be restored, improving not only “business ethics” and long-term profitability, growth and stability, but indeed peaceful cooperation, employee and stakeholder satisfaction and harmonious progress across global society? Do we insufficiently appreciate Honesty-Humility? Do we take honesty as a “given” when considering people for seniority of position? Or accept devious, deceitful and manipulative behaviour as “part and parcel” of senior management? Do we somehow associate humility with weakness and proud, arrogant and intimidatory traits with “strength” of both personality and character, when the reality may be quite the opposite? Indeed when considering the personality and indeed personal integrity of leaders, it may be worth revisiting questions I posed in prior papers in 1998, 2007 and 2017: In 2007 I posed the following question:
Would you do business with someone you don’t trust? Most wouldn’t. Yet although trust is fundamental to building long term relationships, it may not be the primary driver in evaluating and making business and other decisions. Many of these decisions appear to be taken without fully assessing the likely impact on relationships with employees, customers, suppliers, investors, local communities and other ‘stakeholders’ – the very people who contribute to an organisation’s reputation. Few engage in business not caring whether people trust them or not. Yet when an opportunity to take unfair advantage of another arises, it is often grasped. Integrity is a characteristic that is much admired and valued, not just in business and politics, but also in other areas of life including education, religion, sport and amongst family and friends. Classical scholars will be aware the word is derived from the same Latin root as “Integer” – a sense of “wholeness”. A person of integrity, like a whole number, is a whole person, a person somehow undivided. With all power comes responsibility…and again most power is used responsibly. Many scandals – reported and unreported – arise from the abuse of corporate power. The abuse of power often arises when those entrusted with it make its preservation their primary concern. They don’t appreciate it is bestowed on them for the purpose of service. Those who want to keep it most are most likely to compromise their integrity” (Clarke, 2007).
Indeed this could have been in response to some questions i asked a decade earlier in 1998:
“The foundation for poor “business ethics” is likely to be doubtful “personal ethics”. A common denominator in reading about disgraced high profile “entrepreneurs” seems to be that they appear to have had little or no scruples. It is difficult to trust someone’s commitment to ethics in business if one has reservations about their personal integrity. Many corporate criminals may not believe they have done anything wrong. As the dealer imprisoned for insider dealing asked “what other kind is there?” One could ask is it possible to be highly profitable and always honest? Those who not only behave ethically and legally but also strive to appear to be doing so may be at a commercial disadvantage. Are extra profits earned by being ‘slightly’ unethical? It seems many opportunities present themselves to those who are prepared to be at least a ‘little unethical’. Perhaps people don’t become dishonest overnight – it may be a gradual process which involves being deceitful for corporate or self advancement. Maybe the more often one crosses the ethical line, the more often wrong decisions are either ordered or carried out, the more the conscience becomes dimmed to ethical concerns?'” (Clarke, 1998).
While aware that some people appeared to have a more active conscience than others, what I insufficiently  considered in 1998 was that some people may not actually possess a conscience at all and were able to behave within and outside the fascinating world of business with what psychologists refer to as “emotional impunity”. It was in 2013 while organising “Corporate Conscience” in Dublin at the then Vincentian owned All Hallows College that a psychologist answered my 25 year query: “how could someone set out to damage another in business, without scruples?” which led me to switch the psychological study and research I had been engaging in since 2010 to personality disorders in particular. A decade later following a great deal of psychological research I posed a further question about the personality of trustworthy and untrustworthy leaders (these paragraphs unpublished by Springer, January 2017):
“Given the quite extraordinary occurrence of sub-optimal business practices in far too many organisations, it may be worthwhile repeating what should be the obvious observation that the degree of personal integrity of an organisation’s dominant individuals contributes significantly to the prevailing level of corporate integrity, with some cultures facilitating and promoting and others prohibiting and hindering the personal integrity of employees coming to the fore. It is very apparent in many organisations that intolerance of low integrity by leaders of high personal integrity ensures unethical instances are not condoned or repeated. Yet despite extensive media coverage of the often extreme cost of the damage, including reputational, resulting from reported ethical failures, somehow lesser leaders fail to recognise that it is their acceptance of low integrity which ensures such instances are not only permitted but also more likely to recur by the corporate culture prevalent within their organisation. What is it about such leaders that they fail to appreciate the link between ethics and success and lack of ethics and business failure? While many leaders appreciate the benefits of fairplay and internal harmony, could the personality of others result in their actually thriving on disharmony and even deceit between colleagues?” (Clarke, 2017).
We can tend to ignore the merits of the more calm, rational, astute, wise and talented, but modest, who appreciate there is no humiliation in humility nor humility associated with humiliation, who seek no significant acclaim for themselves, more proud of their people and their achievements than themselves or their own, deflecting praise to others yet accepting responsibility for their failings, as they prefer to praise, encourage and motivate those they lead and prioritise the interests and needs of the group at large over their own. Perhaps Plato was right to suggest that those who do not desire power may be more fit to hold it, capable of being trusted to use it constructively for the purposes intended. Leading management researchers Charles A. O’Reilly and Jeffrey Pfeffer reported recently (April 2021) that:
“Research over the past decade has shown that grandiose narcissists are often successful at attaining leadership positions in organisations. However, there is no evidence that narcissists lead higher performing firms, and while they see themselves as more competent leaders, there is no evidence for this, either. In fact, research shows that narcissistic leaders have numerous negative effects on the entities they lead. This raises a question: Why are narcissists so successful in attaining leadership positions?”
That is a question this research paper also asks, arguing that narcissists may be “successful in attaining leadership positions” but for many reasons and across many measures, including long-term financial performance, do not make for successful leaders. Indeed this research argues that when they meet certain criteria they may warrant being classified as “Disordered Leaders who practice Destructive Leadership”. O’Reilly and Jeffrey Pfeffer suggest that:
“The defining characteristics of grandiose narcissism (grandiosity, self-confidence, entitlement, and a willingness to exploit others for one’s own self-interest) may make them more effective organisational politicians than those who are lower in narcissism.” They “report the results of three studies that show:
1 – those higher in narcissism are more likely than those who are lower to see organisations in political terms (opportunity),
2 – they are more willing to engage in organisational politics (motive), and
3 – they are more skilled political actors (means).” (O’Reilly and Pfeffer, 2012).
This paper will also discuss many of the ways “narcissistic leaders have numerous negative effects on the entities they lead”, many from personal experience with over 50 such people during a career in industry with over 300 organisations on all continents (bar Antarctica), but which for over two decades I was unaware may be due to one or more “personality disorders”, societal unawareness of which permits such people to reach seniority of position they are psychologically incapable of performing in the manner expected of “leaders”. Rectifying such societal unawareness is perhaps the primary reason for this decade-long research. By decision-makers being better informed how to identify “Constructive Leaders” by way of their many positive qualities and trusting them to manage and lead responsibly,  they may also be better equipped to deny “Disordered Leaders” positions which their fundamental self-centredness, irresponsibility and disrespect of others is more likely to lead to broken trust and tarnished reputation. I too will argue that such people “are more willing to engage in organisational politics” because those I categorise as “Disordered Leaders” ultimately prefer conflict to cooperation, some even thriving on disharmony, they “see organisations in political terms” partly because they see people as objects to be used and manipulated, lacking the critical quality of empathy are incapable of experiencing people as people in all their humanity, nor showing a genuine interest in those they lead, nor indeed in the organisation itself and its goals and values, which reduces life to a series of games which makes “winning at all costs” a priority, inconsiderate of the consequences, none of which (amongst many other aspects of their behaviour, to be discussed) could be associated with “motivating a group of people towards achieving common goals”. All three of O’Reilly and Pfeffer’s conclusions refer to “political”, which of course goes hand in hand with their primary personality trait – their self-centredness, the reason they are referred to as narcissistic. Of course they are “more skilled political actors”, with many possessing what I refer to as their ICE characteristics – Intelligence, Charisma and Eloquence – which they avail of primarily for their personal advantage and to satisfy their personal goals and ambitions, as they engage in tactics perhaps best described as doing “anything it takes” to rise up the ranks to positions associated with ever increasing responsibility. If only they were actually responsible… and genuinely interested in building a great business capable of going from strength even after they are long gone. However, being fundamentally irresponsible by nature and ice-cold emotionally, their talents are ultimately wasted when they are primarily used to satisfy themselves at the expense of others, especially anyone who crosses their path en route to they gaining positions of power which they are incapable of using for the purposes intended. Is being a “more effective organisational politician” what organisations really need? Do they not need “more effective, responsible and motivational” leaders capable of positively and constructively harnessing the many and varied talents at their disposal – their people – to collectively devote themselves to achieving the goals of the entity and its stakeholders? Surely “success” includes employees relishing coming to work and giving their individual and co-operative best, with their contribution no matter their role valued and respected, customers queuing up to buy their products or avail of their services in preference to those of their competitors, delighted to pass on the favourable referrals all businesses need, suppliers enjoying a fruitful, trustworthy and mutually satisfying relationship, local communities glad to have the business in their neighbourhood, displaying admirable and genuine social responsibility, trust between all parties healthy and strong, reputation so robust that people want to be associated with the brand, its good name a strength and bedrock foundation for coping with and indeed surviving unanticipated crises, with financial performance, a byproduct of all of these features, strong enough to pay bills when due, reward staff for their efforts, permit whatever reinvestment is required, attract external investment and safeguard the organisation’s future with sufficient revenue reserves built up during astutely managed and not too extravagant good times to survive difficult times, including recessions and pandemics. Surely it is leaders who contribute to scenarios such as this who warrant being considered as “successful”? There is an expression from the world of finance, especially advocated by professional accountants, being experienced business advisors, that “turnover is vanity, but profit is sanity”. The wonderful world we share may benefit from differentiating between vanity and sanity, being less attracted by the claims of the vain in favour of the greater merits of the sane, even if less apparently thrilling or exciting and ultimately are more modest than proud. Surely leaders are even better respected when they possess the combination of personal drive, talent, vision, motivational and communication skills and humility to achieve “success” across so many measures, yet seek little or none of the limelight for themselves, as they accept responsibility for whatever goes wrong yet pass credit for successes on to those whose endeavours were also responsible for them, at all levels of the organisation? Surely leaders are respected for having the vision to see how great the entity could be with the wisdom and courage to take it there, perhaps building roads to places and sectors they have never gone before, rather than their myopic focus being on themselves and boosting their self-esteem at the expense of others and even the organisation they mis-lead? Surely leaders are respected not for being “skilled political actors” but for being those who:
“build enduring greatness through a paradoxical blend of personal humility and professional will’ also ‘channel their ego needs away from themselves and into the larger goal of building a great company. It’s not that [such] leaders have no ego or self-interest. Indeed they are incredibly ambitious, but their ambition is first and foremost for the institution, not themselves… They set up their successors for success in the next generation, where others set up their successors for failure… They are resolved to do whatever it takes to make the company great, no matter how big or hard the decisions… They attribute success to factors other than themselves, yet when things go poorly, blame themselves and take full responsibility… They display a compelling modesty, are self-effacing and understated. In contrast, two thirds of comparison companies had leaders with gargantuan personal egos that contributed to the demise or continued mediocrity of the company” (Collins, 2001).
Leading clinical psychology researcher Robert Hare suggests that the most malignant narcissists should not be considered as being “successful”:
“Some commentators refer to them as “successful”… Whatever the merits of this argument, they are more than offset – in my view – by the broken hearts, shattered careers and used-up people left in their wake as they cut a zig-zag route through society, driven by a remorseless need to “express themselves” … After all, their success is often illusory and always at someone else’s expense” (Hare, 1993).
Throughout human history society seems to have mistaken confidence, charm, arrogance and apparent intelligence, displayed by way of eloquent “talk of integrity”, for strength of character, and misinterpreted intimidatory traits for strength of leadership, when in reality such fundamentally weak and perhaps childlike intimidators may possess neither good character nor genuine managerial or leadership ability. Talking the talk is no substitute for actually being capable of walking the walk. Those “charming liars” who suffer a deep disconnect between their talk, deeds and reality, confuse fact and fiction, struggle to differentiate between right and wrong, seem more interested in themselves than others, thrive on humiliation and see humility as weakness and ruthlessness as strength, should no longer be seen as strong and effective leaders, rather weak, childlike, ineffective and ultimately destructive, not only in terms of people and healthy, mutually beneficial relationships, which they seek to “damage”, but also in respect of the over-competitive corporate cultures they engender and indeed thrive on, the inevitability of impaired trust and perhaps irreparable reputation. All because those in charge chose the wrong type of person to provide the responsible and constructive leadership they talked about being capable of, but transpired to be incapable of because at the end of the day they proved to be far more interested in themselves than either the people they were mis-trusted with responsibility for and the organisation they mis-led. When other people consider “there seems to be something wrong here but we’re not quite sure what this may be” they may well be dealing with someone with one or a combination of the various “Personality Disorders”, with many “warning signs” quite visible except others were unaware how to identify them, including a sense of right and wrong that differs from that of most other people:
“At its most basic, much of the “business ethics” debate discusses why fundamentally good people do something wrong, usually under some form of pressure. However unfair, unethical and even quite cruel acts can also be performed by people who may themselves be fundamentally bad, doing what comes most naturally to them, causing harm to others, from which they can derive a morbid kind of pleasure, especially when they diminish others and promote themselves, but who have developed a well-practiced expertise at portraying themselves as being good people. Most of the time. Then someone crosses their path or challenges their self-interest when their true nature and covert characteristics may be exposed. Their thinly veiled lack of concern for others, camouflaged emotional poverty, hidden hatreds, cloaked or even absent conscience and other previously concealed attributes and clandestine traits are no longer obscured by their charming veneer and disguised by their “Mask of Normality” which often consists of some combination of their ICE characteristics – “Intelligence, Charisma and Eloquence” – which goes some way towards hiding their fundamentally ice-cold nature which permits them not only to be “ruth-less”, meaning “sympathy-free”, but even derive their own happiness from making others unhappy, if not downright miserable, which they may even perceive to be a “success” (Clarke, 2017).
Yet we continue to appoint, elect and select such people for supervisory, managerial and even leadership roles throughout global society, with quite inevitable consequences, especially when they see nothing wrong with behaviour, actions, decisions and mis-deeds which others wouldn’t or couldn’t even countenance, especially “Constructive Leaders” with a genuine concern for the best interests of the organisation including its reputation and the needs of its people. Ultimately none of these are the priority of “Disordered Leaders”. Those lacking a sense of wrong may indeed have something wrong with them. They blame everyone and everything else for their many failings, seek praise for themselves but struggle to encourage others even when most warranted, preferring to persistently disparage and criticise, yet cannot cope with an iota of (warranted) criticism when this is directed at them. They hold deep grudges against anyone who ever offended them (even if they didn’t) and prefer conflict to cooperation, disharmony to harmony and themselves to others, thriving on both covert and overt troublemaking and negativity. Somehow they fail to appreciate that when they engage in humiliation and character assassination of those they should be encouraging, they fail to pass the most basic test expected of leaders – motivating a group of people to co-operate towards achieving common goals. No matter how well they try to hide their true persona, including their cold, mean-hearted and mendacious traits, by way of the “Mask of Normality” they habitually wear, so focussed are they on themselves and inconsiderate of the interests and needs of others, that when their self-interest or pride is in any way challenged they can behave quite rudely, rashly and impulsively, inconsiderate of the consequences for other people, the entity they (mis) lead and (extraordinarily), even themselves. At the end of the (excessively long) day though it isn’t all about them, although they persist in believing that it is, even after being removed from the positions of power they craved but inevitably failed to use for the purposes intended. The damage they did could take some time to unravel and recover from, if possible at all. Yet we continue to trust the most irresponsible and untrustworthy people possible with positions of responsibility, with quite predictable consequences. Why? And what can we do about this? Perhaps by appreciating HOW to identify and predict those more likely to be either Constructive or Destructive Leaders by way of their positive or negative personality traits and their more selfless or self-centred behaviour? And by being more impressed by character and competence than charisma alone, although all three when combined and displayed by Constructive Leaders have the potential to contribute positively to the success of the group, not just the self-esteem of the individual. How many apparently charismatic people have transpired to be truly appalling and deeply irresponsible leaders of businesses, organisations and nations, especially when they considered themselves to be more important than the people and entity they were supposed to be responsible for and prioritise? Whose sense of entitlement was such that they believed their people’s role was to applaud and serve them, rather than their role being to serve their people and “motivate the group to achieve or exceed their common, collective, organisational goals” and satisfy the needs of the stakeholders the entity was formed to provide for? It’s purpose for existing. The covid pandemic has proven the basic premise that without its customers or clients, there is no business. Yet far too often self-centred leaders “take their eye off the ball” when their decision-making is based on “what’s in it for me?” or maximising the financial return for the senior management team, even at the expense of the interests of the customers, suppliers or employees. Or they become so focussed on “growth” that they forget to keep “super-serving” the customers they already have, whose custom and referrals can be as critical as any new initiatives, yet they take for granted allowing them to drift away to their competitors. Or they become so focussed on themselves that they forget to praise, encourage, include and motivate the people whose day-today endeavours including customer-service and internal cooperation actually produce the successful “results” that they also insufficiently appreciate. We can all remember how good we felt when our boss unexpectedly said “well done” to us for an achievement we didn’t even now they were aware of, yet this is at the very core of what makes for “Constructive Leadership” – showing an interest in their people and whatever they may be interested in. For Leadership and Management to further evolve, it requires those whose expertise includes encouragement and motivation not discouragement and humiliation, respect not disrespect, inclusion not exclusion, collaboration not conflict and long-term vision, not short-sighted self-centred myopia, preferably with a demonstrably greater interest in the entity and people being led than themselves. As “self-centred” has been defined by Merriam-Webster as “concerned solely with one’s own desires, needs, or interests” and “independent of outside force or influence”, one of my primary arguments is that, at its most basic, global society needs those I describe as
  1. “GIVERS” in leadership roles throughout global society, being “more interested in others than themselves” and
  2. most certainly not “TAKERS” who, being “more interested in themselves than others”,
are unlikely in either normal or more challenging times to prioritise the interests and needs of the organisation or entity and the people they lead over their own. As people with identifiable Personality Disorders can be “found in every race, culture, society and walk of life” (Hare, 1993), one of the most critical matters to appreciate is that as “Disordered Leaders” see things differently, experience people differently, perceive many matters differently, think differently, behave differently and inhabit a quite different world from most others in society, it is imperative that they be recognised by decision-makers as being substantially different from the norm, being consummate actors hiding their true selves much of the time, hence need to be dealt with significantly differently, including denying them positions of power which they can only abuse, if they are no longer to be permitted to continue to damage the world that everyone else inhabits.

Grandiosity

Grandiosity is a term usually associated not only with self-focussed leaders but also a variety of the most critical and damaging Personality Disorders in terms of any form of group interaction, including Narcissistic and Psychopathy. What is grandiosity and are the associated traits those which decision-makers should be actively seeking in choosing those to hire and promote not only for managerial and leadership roles but indeed for any position of responsibility? While grandiose can describe a large building featuring impressive architecture, or plans to turn a cottage into a palace or wasteland into a city, as well as excessive use of verbal ornamentation, meaning grandiose verbosity, we are really concerned with personal or rather interpersonal grandiosity, often associated with a sense of pretentiousness and entitlement. My fellow Dubliner, Oscar Wilde, was asked at a very boring party by the hostess whether he was enjoying himself, to whom he replied “madam, it is about the only thing I am enjoying”! While some people can feel grandiose and self-important purely within the realms of their own mind and in their own company, the tendency is most displayed in interpersonal situations, in which those who could never be accused of modesty are more likely to exaggerate their talents, abilities and achievements. Grandiose, showy, ostentatious and pretentious all refer to conspicuous outward display, either designed to attract attention or likely to do so. Grandiose, however, most often implies inflation or exaggeration even to the point of absurdity. The term grandiose is considered to have been recorded in English in the 1830’s, directly from the French, in turn from the Italian or Spanish grandioso and Latin root “grandis”, meaning “grand” or “big”, so it should not be a surprise that it is associated with people acting in an extravagant, flamboyant, ostentatious, bombastic and affected manner, all quite the opposite of being unpretentious, modest, humble and down to earth. Are modest leaders likely to ask “Do you not know know who I am?” It as also associated with being ambitious and impressive, which within reason are better than being unambitious and unimpressive. So when does impressive talking become grandiosity? This question is not unlike that we will discuss later, which is when does significant self-esteem, confidence and arrogance become narcissism? Could it be related to whether they prefer praising and encouraging or criticising and encouraging others? Could it be related to how such people make others feel about themselves? Better or worse? Built-up or put-down? Appreciated, respected, applauded and valued or disrespected, unappreciated, criticised and perhaps even humiliated and devalued? Could it be related to being able to tell fact from fiction, between slightly exaggerating achievements or talents and inventing them? In Psychiatry grandiosity is associated with an “exaggerated belief in one’s own importance, sometimes reaching delusional proportions, as a symptom of a mental illness.” Grandiosity is an “exaggerated sense of one’s importance, power, knowledge, or identity, even if there is little evidence to support the beliefs.” It is also associated with and “unrealistic sense of superiority in which you consider yourself unique and better than others. It also infers a disdain for those people you consider to be inferior to you.” The American Psychological Association (APA) describe grandiosity as “an exaggerated sense of one’s greatness, importance, or ability. In extreme form, it may be regarded as a delusion of grandeur” which in turn is described as “the false attribution to the self of great ability, knowledge, importance or worth, identity, prestige, power, accomplishment, or the like” (APA). Not all psychologists equate grandiosity with delusions of grandeur, a distinction the APA touch on in describing one as “exaggerated” and the other as “false”. “Grandiosity involves representing or loading phenomena in a way that makes them appear to be as attractive and extraordinary as possible, without being perceived as obviously fake. We’re not talking about delusions of grandeur here, or something that is obviously mad… Grandiosity often involves reinforcing a superiority to others, and it’s also increasingly haunted by its own emptiness. Grandiose people are doomed to disappointment and frustration” (Alvesson, 2018). “In the field of psychology, the term grandiosity refers to an unrealistic sense of superiority, characterised by a sustained view of one’s self as better than others, which is expressed by disdainfully criticising them, over-inflating one’s own capability and belittling them as inferior; and refers to a sense of personal uniqueness, the belief that few other people have anything in common with oneself, and that one can only be understood by a few, very special people”. Narcissism research has identified two dimensions: Grandiose and Vulnerable (Miller, Hoffman, et al., 2011; Pincus & Lukowitsky, 2010).  with most research focus until recent years being on the grandiose dimension most associated with its categorisation in the DSM or Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychological Association. Grandiosely narcissistic individuals are characterised by exhibitionism, lack of humility/modesty and interpersonal dominance, whereas vulnerably narcissistic individuals are characterised by negative affect, distrust, selfishness and a need for attention and recognition (Dickinson & Pincus, 2003; Miller, Price, Gentile, Lynam, & Campbell, 2012). Characteristics of grandiose narcissism include:
  1. Self-centred and appears to be self-focussed.
  2. Feeling of superiority and invulnerability; the only person that matters.
  3. Interpersonal dominance; has to win in major and trivial interpersonal matters; needs these “victories”.
  4. Oblivious to or inconsiderate of the impact their actions have on others, or even how they are actually perceived by others (believing themselves to be liked and popular when they may actually be disliked and unpopular) hence the  term “oblivious narcissists” (Gabbard, 1989).
  5. Lacking knowledge of the impact they have on others contributes to an unrealistic view of themselves in relation to others (Gabbard, 1989, 1998; Kernberg, 1975; Kohut, 1971, 1977).
  6. Controlling others and situations is important; likes to be in control but dislikes it when others tell them what to do (may prefer to do the opposite).
  7. Belittling, criticising and even humiliating others seems to give them pleasure.
  8. Remorselessly take credit for the words, deeds and achievements of others; may even believe this to be true and argue with others who disbelieve or disagree with them.
  9. Overt presentation of grandiose fantasies, wealth, success and status.
  10. Can be very demanding with expectations of obedience and admiration; expect immediate and undivided attention of others, yet unaware or inconsiderate of the impact their demands of entitlement may have on them.
  11. Exhibitionism or a show-off.
  12. Talks self up and others down. Truth may be inconsequential.
  13. No real interest in other people, although this can be faked when suits their purposes.
  14. Arrogant & conceited while lacking in of humility/modesty (viewed as weakness).
  15. Apparent huge self-belief (even if this is a show).
  16. Inability to cope or deal with criticism.
  17. Devaluation and criticism of people that threaten self-esteem.
  18. Denial or lack of awareness of weaknesses.
  19. Exaggeration of abilities, talents and achievements, even fictitiously.
  20. More likely to regulate self-esteem through overt self-enhancement (over-claiming abilities or exaggerating situations to project superiority).
  21. Inflated demands of entitlement and superiority. Belief that others owe them something, even more so if they have achieved seniority of position.
  22. Exaggerated beliefs of self-importance, superiority, achievement, and ability.
  23. Manipulative behaviours designed to “get their own way”.
  24. Preoccupation with “fantasies about success, power, brilliance, beauty, or the perfect mate”; appear to believe the fiction they spin yet easily change their story if required.
  25. Consistent anger when confronted with unmet expectations, any perceived slight or being held accountable for words, deeds and decisions.
  26. Prone to easily exploding into rage, overreacting, and possibly even becoming aggressive whenever they feel attacked by even the slightest criticism.
  27. Diminished awareness of the cultural dissonance between their high expectations and reality, along with the damaging impact this has on relationships.
  28. Oblivious that arrogance or expectations of entitlement may make a poor impression on other people.
  29. Conflict within the environment is generally experienced as external to these people (not their fault), rather than as a measure of their own unrealistic expectations.
  30. Blame shifts when held to account; tend to blame others (and situations) for their own irresponsibility and failings.
Indeed, their very lack of insight into their impact upon others is what incited Gabbard (1989) to suggest the label “oblivious narcissists” to describe their social presentation and distinguish them from their vulnerable counterparts. By virtue of their ability to maintain the grandiose self through self-enhancement, grandiose narcissistic individuals are less susceptible than their vulnerable peers to the chronic emotional consequences of threats to entitled expectations (such as distress, lowered self-esteem and interpersonal fearfulness). How do psychiatrists and psychologists assess grandiosity from mere confidence and even arrogance? The grandiosity section of the Diagnostic Interview for Narcissism (DIN) (Second edition) suggests the following assessment criteria (Gunderson J, Ronningstam E, Bodkin A. “The diagnostic interview for narcissistic patients”): The person:
  1. exaggerates talents, capacity and achievements in an unrealistic way.
  2. believes in their invulnerability or does not recognise their limitations.
  3. has grandiose fantasies.
  4. believes that they do not need other people.
  5. over examines and downgrades other people’s projects, statements or dreams in an unrealistic manner.
  6. regards themselves as unique or special when compared to other people.
  7. regards themselves as generally superior to other people.
  8. behaves self-centeredly and/or self-referentially.
  9. behaves in a boastful or pretentious way.
With leadership generally considered to involve “motivating a group of people to cooperate towards achieving common goals”, how many of these traits would be advocated or sought by interviewers and decision-makers in selecting people for any form or responsible position? Appreciating that their conscience-free mind may be disordered, thinking “distorted” and emotional depth “shallow”, could be a critical first step on the road to progress, otherwise a frustratingly fruitless exercise. Any attempts at trying to deal with them “normally” may well be doomed to failure, seeing as their worldview differs from that of most others and the mindset of many lacks the ability to experience compassion, ruth, guilt remorse, fear, anxiety, empathy or even to understand other people in all their humanity, given that their often high intelligence is anything but emotional. As far as leadership concerned, all the intelligence in the world is of little or no value… if none of it is emotional.

What is a “Disordered Leader”?

The gaelic expression “mé féin” or “me myself” is not that which should be associated with leaders. Indeed so many of the world’s problems, little and large, local and international, could so readily be prevented, or constructively solved, if collectively we better appreciated how to choose the right people with the right intentions and the most appropriate personality for the responsible roles we trust them with, not the most irresponsible, untrustworthy and destructive people possible, with entirely predictable and inevitable consequences, not their concern or responsibility, as they always find someone or something else, or both, to blame, criticise, disparage and diminish, without remorse, as they deny the undeniable and defend the indefensible. “Self-centred” has been defined by Merriam-Webster as “concerned solely with one’s own desires, needs, or interests” and “independent of outside force or influence”. “Narcissistic Personality” is described as “a pattern of traits and behaviours characterised by excessive self-concern and overvaluation of the self.” Do these describe characteristics that those appointing others to managerial and especially leadership roles would advocate and actively seek? Yet far too many leaders, managers, team-leaders and supervisors as well as those with similar titles with responsibility for the lives and emotions of people in all types of organisations worldwide DO display these characteristics, which in some sectors and nations are actually applauded. While many people can behave in a selfish, difficult, proud and contrary manner occasionally, especially under extreme pressure, to be classified as a “Personality Disorder” the traits need to be “inflexible”, meaning can be repeatedly observed without regards to time, place or circumstance, while also interfering with a person’s ability to function well in society, including causing problems with interpersonal relationships, termed by psychiatrists and psychologists as “functional impairment”. The four core features common to all Personality Disorders, with two required for diagnosis, are
  1. Distorted thinking patterns,
  2. Problematic emotional responses,
  3. Over- or under-regulated impulse control and
  4. Interpersonal difficulties,
none of which are attributes which society needs in those with responsibility for its institutions and their people, allied to their inability to see anything wrong with themselves and tendency to blame anything and everyone else for their failings and the many problems they create, for which they accept no responsibility. Yet far too frequently some or all of these are evident in the behaviour of leaders, erroneously associated with strength of character and leadership, rather than weakness of personality and an inability to manage their own emotions, let alone lead other people. One of the definitions of a “Personality Disorder” is
“Pervasive patterns of perceiving, relating to, and thinking about the environment and the self that interfere with long-term functioning of the individual and are not limited to isolated episodes.”
Those with “shallow emotions” who experience other people no differently than inanimate objects – such as shopfront mannequins – can perceive or misconceive many areas of organisational and national life being like a “game”, including business, politics and government. It is all about the conquest, winning and possession of what they desire, being better and having more than those they see to be a rival (who frequently are not), with other far more important factors not nearly as relevant as they should be in their perception and deliberations. Hence (at its most basic, although this behaviour is insufficiently appreciated as perhaps being indicative of a Personality Disorder):
  1. “Getting their own way”,
  2. “Winning at all costs, irrespective of consequences for others”, and
  3. “Evaluating matters from the primary perspective of “what’s in it for me?”
becomes more critical for them than in the minds of most other, more “normal” people. At the end of the day, it isn’t all about them, although they persist in believing that it is, often appearing to be unaware of their inadequacies and immune to the real damage they do, given the opportunity. In October 2019 I proposed the following definition of a “Disordered Leader” for consideration and refinement at the International Vincentian Business Ethics Conference or IVBEC usually held in the USA but that year in Dublin:
“Someone trusted with supervisory, managerial or leadership responsibilities who, due to what may be indicative of a mental and/or personality disorder(s), could be considered to be incapable of consistently responsible, trustworthy, harmonious, prosocial and accountable management or leadership with integrity, including prioritising the interests of stakeholders other than themselves, especially when this may impede satisfying their self-interest”.
Given my own varied and mixed, but ultimately always unsatisfactory, experiences during my own career with over 300 organisations on all continents (bar Antarctica) with over 50 people possessing what I refer to as the “ICE Characteristics” of being Intelligent, Charming and Eloquent, but also quite irresponsible and deceitful, people I now describe as “Disordered Leaders”, I would propose that as such dangerous people may even threaten the long-term viability of the organisation itself, when erroneously employed in senior roles within the organisations and entities of global society they need to be considered and referred to as being a “viability liability”. That is why at that US IVBEC business ethics conference I proposed that the steps the rest of society needs to take to protect itself from such leaders include: 1. IDENTIFY these abnormal people, by way of their own behaviour, as being different from the norm, described in this work after a decade of psychological research as “Destructive Leadership”, 2. STOP them achieving positions of influence & responsibility throughout global society, or if already in situ 3. LEARN how to behave differently towards them (“denying narcissistic supply”), 4. ADAPT to (not) respond to their inevitable extra-ordinarily provocative actions, reactions and penchant for disagreement and self-promotion which (due to their “maladaptive” inflexibility) with familiarity will become predictable, to 5. MINIMISE the damage & havoc they will inevitably create in both a covert and overt manner and preferably replace them with far more responsible people who do meet the “Constructive Leadership” criteria suggested here, knowing they will “do whatever it takes” and go to any lengths to maintain the power they are incapable of using for the purposes intended and should never have been trusted with. Intimidation and aggression produce fear, anxiety and discouragement, yet somehow people who regularly rather than exceptionally put-down, humiliate and disrespect others can extraordinarily be associated with “strength” of management or leadership rather than weakness of character and indeed perhaps even a “Personality Disorder”. While many people in society feel good from making others feel good, what needs to be better and indeed more globally appreciated is that there may be something wrong with those who themselves feel good when they make others feel bad. Personality Disorders can vary from being shy, timid, anxious and afraid to face life to supremely self-confident and arrogant with little regard for other people, perhaps even taking pleasure from being cruel, lacking warm emotions and maybe believing that others are “ganging up” and “out to get” them. The key issue for everyone else, including most in society unfamiliar with the “extra-ordinary” world of “Personality Disorders”, is that they actually do inhabit a quite different world, although they may not realise this themselves. The world they inhabit is the only one they know, incapable of experiencing life in the manner that everyone else can. Despite the problems such people create throughout society from impaired relationships and damaged reputations to business failures, chaos and even wars, which throughout history they may not only have started but then perpetuated, being troublemakers not peacemakers, the concept of “Personality Disorders” needs to become more widely appreciated to better understand “difficult” people and their initially bizarre, but in due course entirely predictable behaviour, to sufficiently realise that their motivations differ from those of most “normal” people. Surface level appeal can transpire to be shallow, like the emotions of the most charming who ultimately can disappoint, especially when they favour short-term expediency, narrow-minded popularism, their own ambitions, giving the impression of doing right rather than doing it and taking credit for the achievements of others, given that their peculiar sense of right and wrong is limited to believing that they are always right and everyone else wrong and can see no wrong in their own words and deeds when these fall far short of what society would expect of them. Yet we appoint such people to lead our businesses and nations. Indeed so many of the world’s problems, little and large, local and international, could so readily be prevented, or constructively solved, if collectively we better appreciated how to choose the right people with the right intentions and the most appropriate personality for the responsible roles we trust them with, not the most irresponsible, untrustworthy and destructive people possible, with entirely predictable and inevitable consequences, not their concern or responsibility, as they always find someone or something else, or both, to blame, criticise, disparage and diminish, without remorse, as they deny the undeniable and defend the indefensible. So why can we not predict the predictable? Because “Destructive Leaders” do inhabit a different world, the rest of the world would benefit from appreciating the importance of being able to identify them, to deny them the opportunity of damaging the world in which many others, including “Constructive Leaders”, do their best to live in collaboratively and harmoniously, in the company of many other decent, kind and encouraging people, with a genuine interest in both other people and whatever they may be interested in.

Those who see nothing wrong in words, deeds and actions which many others couldn’t even countenance, who seem to operate within their own parameters of what many be right and wrong, especially when others may see these as being confused and bizarre but they believe to be entirely normal and the way they have always lived life and dealt with other people, may indeed have something wrong with them.

It is critically important to stress that Psychiatrists (medical doctors) and Psychologists caution against “amateur” diagnosis of people who may occasionally display some of the more adverse traits discussed here. It is when these traits are pervasive and occur frequently or persistently that a diagnosis of Personality Disorder may be appropriate. Although people with Personality Disorders can vary from being very shy, insecure, depressed and scared of life to those quite different, being excessively confident, arrogant, believe they are special and do not appear to fear anything or anyone, a significant problem for society is that many who may have one or more of the recognised Personality Disorders (past and present) do not believe their is anything wrong with them, especially when they attribute all their own problems and those they cause for others to everyone except themselves. Such people may go through their entire lives causing difficulties and in extremes even havoc, especially for others, yet may either not be suspected by others as having a Personality Disorder (given the widespread societal lack of awareness of what actually constitutes a Personality Disorder and such Disordered individuals) or may never actually be recommended for treatment by expert mental health professionals. It is not just the general public who lack knowledge of what constitutes a Personality Disorder, but General Practitioners or Family Doctors who may have greater appreciation of people with depression or anxiety than the level of deceit and manipulation and many other traits associated with some of the disorders, which can make such “charming liars” exceptionally convincing to the extent that it may be their victims who may not be believed when they try and raise the many challenges they create with their own local doctor. This though is rectifiable by way of Continuing Professional Development which, given the challenges such almost invisibly disordered people create for society in general and difficulties they cause other people and relationships in particular, could be one of those areas which medical students will need to be trained in and practicing medics learn more about as they keep up to date professionally. Some disordered people may even try and treat psychological assessment and treatment like another game to be played, not being convinced they need to be treated, only complying if they consider doing so may be in their self-interest, such as gaining early release from prison, or they are given no alternative. But as many do not engage in overtly anti-social behaviour they may never be evaluated psychologically nor arrested for their more subtle mis-deeds, no matter how much damage they do to both people and organisations, whether subtle and covert or tactlessly brazen and overt. Nevertheless, whether their behaviour ever contributes to an actual professional diagnosis of a Personality Disorder or not, none of the more negative traits we outline here, especially those which may be damaging to other people, are those I associate with people I describe as “Constructive Leaders”, who I strongly argue make for far more effective, and safer, leaders throughout global society, for many, many reasons. Fortunately though many of the traits which may assist Psychiatrists and Psychologists come to a diagnosis, whatever it may be, are clearly identifiable by other people, whether they currently attribute them to the possibility of a Personality Disorder or not. Indeed given the deeply deceitful and manipulative nature of “Cluster B’s” in particular, well capable of arguing they are normal and it is other people with the problems, including those they badmouth and slander, it is actually third party descriptions of their actual behaviour that can greatly assist mental health professionals form their own opinions and diagnosis. Appreciating that their conscience-free mind may be disordered, thinking “distorted” and emotional depth “shallow”, could be a critical first step on the road to progress, otherwise a frustratingly fruitless exercise. 

Disordered Minds? Immoral Reasoning?

Extraordinarily we trust the coldest and most self-centred people possible – expert actors but ultimately lacking any genuine interest in other people at all, indeed in anyone but themselves, whose often considerable charm is skin deep and lacking any sincerity,  whose eloquence can hide a fundamental disconnect between words, deeds, promises and subsequent actions, whose often ample intelligence is misused, being cunningly calculating, self-centred and anything but emotional, indeed those lacking the core essence of humanity, perhaps amongst the most irresponsible people on earth – with responsibility for the lives of employees, volunteers and citizens throughout global society when they hold positions of power, which they inevitably can only abuse as they prioritise competition and conflict over co-operation, disharmony over harmony and themselves over everyone and anything else. Should we consider there may be “something wrong” with those who seem to lack a “sense of wrong” and who appear to be less “guilt prone” than others? What do we need to know before we may appreciate that there is no advantage to be gained by in any manner disturbing those who may themselves in some manner appear to be disturbed? What may contribute to we realising that any attempt to deal with such people “normally” may be doomed to failure? What do we need to look for to alert us that we need to adapt our own behaviour in the presence of those who do not seem to be able to adapt their own? The behaviour which could alert us to there being “something wrong” with such challenging people may be more visible than we may consider, mainly because too few appear to be aware of the behaviour which may be indicative of a Personality Disorder, although the ultimate reason for this may be more invisible – their brains are different. Over the last few decades neuroscientists have availed of a variety of imaging or scanning techniques to compare the typical brain with those with a range of “Personality Disorders”. In effect some brain regions of those with “Personality Disorders” can be larger or smaller than others, may be more or less active than typical and the extraordinary myriad of connections between the multitude of regions may also be different, with some impaired and others seeming to have developed to activate different neural networks to try and compensate for deficiencies elsewhere, notably (as far as leadership and indeed interpersonal relationships are concerned) when engaged in the complex task of “emotion processing”. Aspects of the neuroscience of the typical brain is touched on in another paper published on this website (Neuroscience of Constructive Leadership) including how it appears to respond to positivity, praise and encouragement (associated with “Constructive Leadership”) as well as negativity including criticism, intimidation and other forms of discouragement (“Destructive Leadership”). At its most basic, global society needs leaders whose expertise includes making other people feel good about both themselves and their contribution, being predominantly encouraging by nature. It most certainly does not need those who derive personal pleasure and feel good about themselves by way of making others feel bad, notably by discouraging, disparaging and even humiliating them. The preponderance of such “destructive” behaviour in organisations throughout all sectors global society has contributed to a belief that negative behaviour towards other people is an acceptable form of both management and leadership. It isn’t and never will be, especially now that neuroscientific research suggests that there are many advantages arising from:
  1. hormonal or endocrine arousal of the “parasympathetic nervous system” (rather than the “sympathetic nervous system” or the “fight or flight” response to stressful situations) depending on whether experiences are pleasant or unpleasant and positive or negative;
  2. emotional arousal which is positive rather than negative; and
  3. neurological activation of the brain regions associated with the “default mode network” (rather than the “task positive network” associated with attention-demanding tasks, analysis and problem solving) which enables people to be open to new ideas, other people and emotions, as well as considering the moral perspective of situations.
Essentially when people are predominantly in a “good mood” they perform better as individuals, are more likely to be cooperative in a social context and the group as an entirety will be more capable of proceeding with constructive organisational change. When people are under more regular stress, which they can be in the workplace, not only are they not at their best but they may be under a degree of cognitive, perceptual and emotional impairment. Not only will they be less capable of “thinking straight” and their capacity for creativity and idea-generation diminished, but when exposed to new ideas or any form of change they are more likely to react with rejection rather than acceptance, which they may be more willing to consider when they are more “open-minded”. Yet far too many workplaces involve far greater levels of stress than necessary, which this research strongly argues is totally counterproductive, especially when the stress is a result of the “Destructive” behaviour of “Disordered Leaders”, who are more likely to trigger the body’s “Sympathetic Nervous System”, starting with the amygdala within a split second of the adverse situation, before our conscious thought is even aware of the situation. The amygdalae (right and left) are usually associated with emotion, behaviour and the processing of fear, but also seem to play a role in orchestrating emotional responses to both positive and negative stimuli and forming memories of both. Nevertheless significant activation of the amygdalae together with other brain regions, especially those in the limbic system, are more associated with fear and negative emotions, which should not be the goal of anyone in managerial or leadership roles in any branch of society. Of course difficult situations arise in business and organisational life, but the role of managers and leaders is to manage these matters calmly, effectively, astutely, constructively and productively, not create problems and challenges themselves to the detriment of not only everyone else involved but ultimately potentially the harmonious progress, success or even viability of the organisation itself. Although intimidation and aggression produce fear, anxiety and discouragement, which prevent our minds from thinking positively and creatively, we still continue to choose people for managerial and other positions of responsibility who engage in such practices other than very occasionally. Neuroscientists explain that when people are satisfied, content and indeed happy, they avail of one set of brain regions which allows them to be at their best and most creative, seeking cooperation and wanting to fully engage, while when they are scared, fearful or unhappy, they avail of a different and rival set of brain regions (only one of which can appear to be active at any given time) more likely to bring out the worst in them, the response triggered when they are disrespected rather than encouraged by others. Hence the importance of leaders and managers behaving in a predominantly positive manner – cajoling, encouraging, motivating and even inspiring those they have responsibility for, even when they have not quite performed to their potential, which those with ample “emotional intelligence” are often very well equipped to both realise and practice. Indeed global society seems to continually make the mistake of selecting and electing people to positions  whereby they are expected to motivate them towards achieving common goals, often called “leadership”, in effect with responsibility for the lives and emotions of other people, when they cannot even display the competence to manage their own emotions and the manner in which they engage with other people. Yet somehow those who put-down, humiliate, disrespect and bully others can somehow erroneously be associated with “strength” rather than “weakness” of both leadership and character, perhaps even a “PERSONALITY DISORDER”. The typical person’s brain is well equipped to predominantly deal successfully with the emotions arising from many life situations, within and beyond the workplace. However the “different” brains of those I describe as “DISORDERED LEADERS”  – those who display evidence of behaviour often readily identifiable with  one or more of the established personality disorders – do not deal with emotional matters in the manner that most people do or at least are capable of doing. My research into what may lie behind the self-centred, difficult, domineering and challenging  behaviour too frequently displayed by “Disordered Leaders” is  contained elsewhere and not on this website. Nevertheless a few short observations may serve the purposes of this paper, being that the brains of “Disordered Leaders” do appear to differ from those of “Constructive Leaders”, contributing to an explanation why the behaviour of the majority of managers and leaders  of all branches of global society would be well capable of being deemed to be both acceptable, responsible and predominantly ethical, while that of a minority unacceptable, irresponsible and well capable of behaving unethically without appearing to be unduly affected by doing so, if at all. Those most conscious of such situations and the managers and leaders who contribute to them are perhaps the vast majority of the world’s “constructive” people who have no option but to work with or for those who are far more “destructive” by nature, negatively impacting on both their lives and emotions and contributing to sub-optimal performance not only of the individuals but also the organisation or entity at large, especially when conflict is preferred to co-operation by the “Disordered Leader”. So in what manner might the brains of “Disordered Leaders” differ from those of people more innately capable of predominantly providing and responding positively to “Constructive Leadership”? Perhaps the most important set of brain regions associated with both emotions and decision-making are contained in and around the forehead area, the Pre Frontal Cortex (or PFC) and in particular how this area interacts (at its most basic) with the brain regions most associated with pleasure or “reward” (such as the Nucleus Accumbens in the Ventral Striatum, NAc) and fear or negative emotions (such as the Amygdala), the evaluation of situational demands and behavioural flexibility (such as the Anterior Cingular Cortex, ACC) and the less well understood role of regions responsible for our emotional awareness (such as our Insula or Anterior Insular Cortex, AIC) or our “conscious experience of emotions” meaning “how do I feel at the moment?” which very much determines our behaviour (Gu et al, 2013; Craig, 2009). It is not just the specific brain region per se and the particular role it is considered to play that is key, rather the way the various brain regions share information, and cooperate with each other, perhaps in competition with other brain regions, all in a fraction of a second, which determines the way we feel, act, react and make our decisions. Indeed specific regions seem to form part of a system and perform particular functions, either in tandem with or in the opposite manner to other systems, such as the “default mode network”, “task positive network” and “social network”, together with the systems throughout our bodies such as the “Autonomic Nervous System” and its “Sympathetic Nervous System” or “Parasympathetic Nervous System” (discussed under “Neuroscientific Research” later). For instance the Insula or AIC with its von Economo or spindle cell neurons seems to cooperate with the ACC and PFC, our sensory system and motor cortex. “How we feel now” and the “insight” or “intuition” we experience about a situation, together with how we consider the emotions of others to be at that time, the empathy we feel with them (via the process of “emotional contagion”), sensing their mood or “how they feel now”, all contribute to how we decide to act and behave ourselves and react and respond to the behaviour of others. But what happens when those in managerial or leadership positions (a) experience emotions differently themselves, (b) may be unaware of what their actual emotions may be at a given time, (c) cannot control their own emotions in the manner that many can, (d) cannot “experience the emotions” of others in the way others can and (e) do not realise they are deficient in these areas, believing themselves to be normal and blame the problems they create on others and (f) lack knowledge of the impact they have on others which (g) contributes to an unrealistic view of themselves? One of the key issues as far as leadership is concerned, is that brain imaging techniques have not just permitted identification of how the normal brain functions in many situations but also how this seems to differ from the functioning of the brain in those with Personality Disorders. The “limbic system” (the definition of which varies, as it could be composed of a number of interrelated systems) plays an important role, given that “emotion, memories and behaviour emerge from the coordinated activities of regions connected by the limbic system” (Catani et al, 2013). When the limbic system and related regions do not appear to be functioning in the manner they normally do, as in the case of psychopaths, their behaviour can differ from what may be considered acceptable social norms, due to their emotional brain not appearing to operate in the manner that it typically does. In the example of psychopathy, known to be “a complex personality disorder that includes interpersonal and emotional / affective traits such as glibness, lack of empathy, guilt or remorse, shallow affect and irresponsibility and behavioural characteristics such as impulsivity and poor behavioural control”, “the brain regions implicated in psychopathy include the orbital frontal cortex, insula, anterior and posterior cingulate, amygdala, parahippocampal gyrus and anterior superior temporal gyrus” collectively contributing to “the paralimbic system dysfunction model of psychopathy” (Kiehl, 2006). Indeed damage to any one of these regions can lead to a change in behaviour, first noticed when the frontal cortex of a responsible railroad foreman, Phineas Gage, was damaged by an accident in 1848, following which he became impulsive, irresponsible and verbally abusive.  Indeed research over more recent decades have suggested that damage to the orbitofrontdal cortex (OFC) may contribute to problems with reactive aggression, motivation, empathy, planning and organisation, impulsivity, irresponsibility, insight, behavioral inhibition (Malloy et al, 1993) and grandiosity (Blumer and Benson, 1975), as reported by Kiehl (2006). So it appears very feasible that those whose behaviour differs from the norm to the degree that this research categorises them as “Disordered Leaders who practice Destructive Leadership”, may not only be different in terms of their emotions and behaviour including the way they treat or disrespect other people, but this may be contributed to by their brains being different from those of most other people, and certainly those more responsible and empathetic people this research refers to as “Constructive Leaders”. The human brain typically weighs around 1.5 kg (3.3 lb) yet is extraordinarily complex, with the neuron its basic working unit, a specialised cell (of many types) designed to transmit information to other nerve cells, gland cells or muscles. As it has been estimated that there are around 86 billion neurons in the human brain and they communicate with each other in unique ways, many of the connections and pathways between them remain a mystery. It has even been suggested that it could take all the world’s computers combined to properly map all the connections within the human brain. Nevertheless at this stage the key functions of all the main brain regions are well known, as well as the primary connections between them, even though their other functions and connections are still being researched. The amygdala is a good example. For many years it was primarily considered to be involved with fearful emotions (and triggering the “fight or flight” response) but is now also considered to play a role with positive emotions and memories too. Although the hippocampus is well associated with memories, they are not just stored in one area of the brain. Different types are stored across different, interconnected brain regions, depending on their primary purpose(s). For explicit memories – events which happened to the individual person (episodic) as well as general facts and information (semantic) – there are three important areas of the brain: the hippocampus, the neocortex and the amygdala. Implicit memories, such as motor memories, rely on the basal ganglia and cerebellum. Short-term working memory relies most heavily on the prefrontal cortex. Indeed study type learning requires a variety of forms of repetition, testing and recall to transfer the information from the minimal and very short-term working memory to the far more extensive and longer term hippocampus, notably in the manner that it can be recalled when most required, such as in an exam situation. For the purposes of decision-making, moral leadership and indeed ethical behaviour not just in the fascinating area of business but indeed across all fields of human endeavour, let us just consider four brain regions and how the interaction between them leads to the way that individuals think, feel and behave. This will permit us to then briefly examine what is known about some of the neural differences associated with personality disorder(s), such as why some disordered people (psychopaths) do not seem to be capable of learning from their prior experiences, hence keep repeating their mistakes (including reoffending shortly after release from prison). For those with no option but to work with or for such people, every bizarre day can be Groundhog Day. All attempts to remonstrate and “reason” with their “selfish, difficult and “proud” manager or leader in a “normal” manner will undoubtedly be doomed to failure. Understanding and appreciation of the field of Personality Disorders permits followers to recognise that their leader may have a disordered mind, explaining their maladaptive nature. Consequently being adaptive and flexible by nature themselves, the responsibility for rational, responsible and moral decision-making and ethical behaviour is by default passed on to them. It can be quite a challenge to prioritise ethical behaviour in organisational life, but even more so when the leader is lacking in a conscience and thrives (overtly or covertly) in harming others, preferring conflict and disharmony to co-operation and collaboration, with consequences for others and impact on trust and reputation inconsequential , together with many other aspects of what this research refers to as “Destructive Leadership”. Although many face inner conflicts when ordered to do wrong, for some it can be mentally easier to go along with the wrongdoing that Disordered Leaders engender than make a stand against it, risking personal retribution, reputation and livelihood (Clarke, 1999). However the challenges which followers face when facing ethical dilemmas caused by such people go well beyond those the result of normal people who in specific instances see a benefit arising from wrongdoing, because at least such people can be reasoned with. Disordered Leaders cannot. Indeed their very perversity means they will become all the more adamant about pursuing the wrong course of action, just because others have challenged it. Key advice from those with a deep understanding of the “Cluster B” mind in particular is to Believe The Opposite of what they say or assert, Do The Opposite of what they want and Ask Them to Do The Opposite of what you actually want them to do. (See related articles including “What Society Needs” under “Topics”) Not only are they “perversity personified” but their “grandiosity” and “egocentricity” are such that if the “great idea” is not considered to be their own, it is unlikely to be enacted. Indeed the set of interpersonal and affective characteristics, such as egocentricity, lack of remorse and callousness, are not only considered fundamental to clinical conceptions of psychopathy, often referred to as Factor One, but also with prototypicality ratings of narcissistic and histrionic personality disorder, and with self-report measures of machiavellianism and narcissism. It is also negatively correlated with measures of empathy and anxiety ((Hare, Hart, & Harpur, 1991). Trying to reason with someone fundamentally reasonable is one matter, trying to reason with someone fundamentally unreasonable and indeed utterly irresponsible by nature is quite another. Indeed trying to reason with a “Disordered Leader” gives a whole new meaning to the term “moral reasoning”. Indeed this is an area where the overlap between moral philosophy and both social and clinical psychology is not only particularly interesting but when dealing with the mindset of those with personality disorders, quite intriguing and perplexing. While “moral reasoning” may “normally” be associated with a process by which individuals try to determine the difference between what is right and wrong in given situations by availing of practical reason and logic, the challenge becomes far greater when having to deal with those who could be considered by a psychiatrist or psychologist to be fundamentally irresponsible and illogical and does not respond to normal stimulae and moral argument. This is because they cannot, given that their minds differ from those of most “normal” people’. Trying to morally reason with a Disordered Leader who has probably not advanced cognitively or emotionally or beyond the earliest of Kohlberg’s stages of moral development, being self-interest, becomes problematic, given that Disordered Leaders with no real concern for anyone other than themselves could never be associated with The solution involves (a) trying to deliberate in the manner that the organisation’s / stakeholder’s best interests are somehow perceived by the Disordered Leaders’s as also being in their own self-interest and (b) recognising that in effect they are “morally reasoning” with someone whose true mentality is more akin to that of a primary school child (McCord and McCord, 1964). When I wrote a paper during 2014/15 entitled “Dispositional Attribution of Corporate Executives: Is Self-Interest a Conscious Decision or a State of Mind?” I challenged the assumption that all business leaders are capable of considering the interests of others in their deliberations and consequently of being “morally laudable” or “virtuous”. I proposed that there may be serious implications for both business leadership and business ethics research if it transpired that not all leaders may be capable of moral reasoning and consciously deciding to act in a virtuous manner. While many people capable of reasoning morally fail to do so when most required, that paper essentially proposed that some people do not engage in moral reasoning, because they may be psychologically incapable of doing so. Heffner (2014) described Kohlberg’s three levels as: 1. Pre-conventional : Self Focused Morality 2. Conventional : Other Focused Morality 3. Post-conventional : Higher Focused Morality With level two ‘Other Focused Morality’ described as “being obliged to conform” and doing “what is expected of them by” others while “fulfilling obligations as well as following expectations”, even such rudimentary expectations appear conspicuous by their absence from the motivations of those described by Hare as “not deterred by the possibility that their actions may cause hardship or risk for others” and characterised by a “stunning lack of concern for the devastating effects their actions have on others”. (hare, 2013) Those who consistently display “Cluster B” or “Dark Triad” characteristics would be unlikely to be assessed by psychologists as having reached the second level of moral development whose initial stage is epitomised by “valuing interpersonal relationships”. With people who reason at the third ‘Higher Focused Morality’ level capable of understanding “that people have different opinions about morality and that rules and laws vary from group to group and culture to culture” and morality “seen as upholding the values of your group or culture”, it is unlikely that those who according to Hare “consider the rules and expectations of society inconvenient and unreasonable” and prefer to “make their own rules” would be deemed by psychologists to be capable of ever reaching the highest level of moral development. What should be of concern to business ethicists is the belief that the first level of moral reasoning is that generally found at the primary or elementary school level and yet it appears that people who fit the criteria described by Hare may not be capable of moral reasoning beyond this level. While this may be a surprise for many, it will not be for psychologists experienced with psychopathy. William and Joan McCord observed in 1964:
“The psychopath is like an infant, absorbed in his own needs, vehemently demanding satiation.” (McCord & McCord, 1964)
Hare confirmed this observation:
“At an early age most children have already begun to postpone pleasure, compromising with restrictions in the environment. A parent can generally use a promise to put off satisfying a two-year-old’s desires, at least temporarily, but psychopaths never seem to learn this lesson – they do not modify their desires; they ignore the needs of others”. (Hare, 1993)
I enquired in 2014/15 “what are the implications for society if those leading organisations may be incapable of reasoning morally beyond the stage associated with primary school children? The answer following six or seven years further research into personality disorders (and evidence from the then unexpected US Presidency of 2017-2021) is – very serious. Despite instigating and organising or co-organising a dozen business ethics conferences and events since “Building Integrity in Business” at the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin in 2003 when a member of my profession’s Ethics Committee,  I still left these and the conferences I attended and then spoke at in UK, Europe and USA somewhat disappointed, as they failed to address and answer my primary query over at least 25 years in industry – why the most unethical people behaved so unethically, without scruples. Then while planning and organising a “Corporate Conscience” conference at the then Vincentian All Hallows College in Dublin during 2013, a coffee with a psychology lecturer and practicing psychoanalyst provided me with the answer I had been seeking – Narcissistic Personality Disorder explained the “harming others with lack of scruples” I had observed but never quite understood throughout my career, not only in industry but also teaching business every year since courses to the new intake in KPMG in 1985, including for 17 years in university. I had already been personally studying psychology since 2010, so directed by attention and research particularly to Personality Disorders in 2013, in effect a branch of clinical psychology, and am grateful to a few people with expertise in this field who have kept confirming that I was on the right track and that the opinions I had formed from both (a) research and (b) multiple experiences with far too many during my own career who I would now describe as “Disordered Leaders” were indeed in keeping with their own professional experiences. Now, eight years later and over a decade after embarking on psychological and neuroscientific study and research, I have absolutely no doubt that the worst 50 experiences in my career were ALL due to those with a Cluster A/B Personality Disorder and/or who meet the Dark Triad/Tetrad criteria, now described as “Disordered Leaders” who practice “Destructive Leadership” in this and other papers. Kohlberg’s theory of moral development was influenced by the work of the Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget, the American philosopher John Dewey and the American philosopher and psychologist James Mark Baldwin, all of whom believed that humans develop philosophically and psychologically in a progressive fashion from childhood to adult life. Piaget separated the reasoning of children under ten, being more based on the consequences of their actions, from people aged over ten to twelve who he believed reason using a broader set of factors. While some criticised Kohlberg’s focus on the individual rather than a group-orientation, others criticised his work for prioritising justice over other values such as compassion and and kindness, Com-passion literally means “to suffer with” or “to suffer together. Emotion researchers define it as the feeling that arises when confronted with another’s suffering and feel motivated to relieve their suffering. Compassion is not the same as empathy or altruism, though the concepts are related. While empathy refers to our general ability to take the perspective of and feel the emotions of another person, compassion takes this further, when those feelings and thoughts include the desire to help. Altruism involves kind, generous and selfless behaviour, often prompted by feelings of compassion. However compassion  can be felt without acting on it, and altruism isn’t always motivated by compassion. Scientists have started to map the biological basis of compassion, suggesting its deep evolutionary purpose. This research has shown that when we feel compassion, our heart rate slows down, we secrete the “bonding hormone” oxytocin, and regions of the brain associated with empathy, caregiving and feelings of pleasure are activated, which often results in our wanting to approach and care for other people (Greater Good Science Center at Berkeley, 2021). Not everyone can experience such feelings though. When evaluated on their ability to reason in terms of care and compassion for others, those with a Cluster B related personality disorder, especially psychopathy, appear as ill-equipped to morally reason on these grounds as others given that “the feelings of other people are of no concern to psychopaths” and they “seem to suffer a kind of emotional poverty that limits the range and depth of their feelings.” While some personality disorders may be difficult to hide in inter-personal situations, other than in the immediate short-term, the ability of people with a Cluster B disorder to hide their inner coldness from colleagues, family and friends, described by Cleckley as ‘the mask of sanity’, means many may not realise precisely why their dealings with such people may pose such difficulties:
‘The [psychopath] is unfamiliar with the primary facts or data of what might be called ‘personal values’ and is altogether incapable of understanding such matters… He is furthermore lacking in the ability to see that others are moved. It is as though he were colour-blind, despite his sharp intelligence, to this aspect of human existence. It cannot be explained to him because there is nothing in his orbit of awareness that can bridge the gap with comparison. He can repeat the words and and say glibly that he understands, and there is no way for him to realise that he does not understand.” (Cleckley, 1941)
Those who “see themselves as the centre of the universe”, with “a narcissistic and grossly inflated view of their own self-worth and importance, a truly astounding egocentricity and sense of entitlement”, who “shrug off personal responsibility for actions that cause shock and disappointment to [those] who have played by the rules”, whose “lack of remorse or guilt is associated with a remarkable ability to rationalise their behaviour” and whose “profound lack of empathy” contributes to a “stunning lack of concern for the devastating effects their actions have on others” (Hare,1993) will be unlikely to:
“justify moral beliefs and integrate them into business situations”
and further doubt must be cast on their capability of
“applying ethical standards to everyday decision-making” (Werhane (2008).
Psychologist James Rest further developed the Kohlberg approach with the Four Component Model of moral development:
  1. moral sensitivity: “the ability to see an ethical dilemma, including accepting responsibility for the outcome”
  2. moral judgment: “the ability to reason correctly about what ‘ought’ to be done in a specific situation”
  3. moral motivation: “a personal commitment to moral action, accepting responsibility for the outcome”
  4. moral character: a “courageous persistence in spite of fatigue or temptations to take the easy way out”
Rest and his team developed the Defining Issues Test (DIT) using a Likert-style scale to allocate quantitative ratings and rankings to issues arising from a variety of moral dilemmas. While this approach would appear to have validity it may also assume that people are capable of moral sensitivity, judgement and motivation. It is arguable whether people with a Cluster B related personality disorder would be concerned  including those who are “not deterred by the possibility that their actions may cause hardship or risk for others” would be capable of the moral sensitivity, judgement, motivation and character required to respond appropriately to real-life moral dilemmas, which they are more likely to create than resolve. In terms of “moral judgement”, Disordered Leaders are well capable of discussing “morality” in abstract terms, indeed quite competently, once their interest is uninvolved. However as soon as their self-interest becomes an issue, all other matters appear to be discounted by their disordered minds, a matter which would make for interesting and relevant neuroscientific research and testing. As Hare describes:
“Psychopaths are very good at giving their undivided attention to things that interest them most and at ignoring other things. Some clinicians have likened the process to a narrow beam searchlight that focuses on only one thing at a time. Others suggest that it is similar to the concentration with which a predator stalks its prey.”
Those who know their highly predictable mindset well would describe their primary motivation  if not “moral motivation”, at its most basic, as being “getting their own way” and “winning at all costs” with out ANY consideration for the consequences for others and given they are known for their quite extraordinary irresponsibility, perhaps not surpassed by any other group in society, they are considered to have absolutely NO CAPABILITY OF “accepting responsibility for the outcome”.
“The psychopath carries out his evaluation of the situation – what he will get out of it and at what cost – without the usual anxieties, doubts and concerns about being humiliated, causing pain, sabotaging future plans, in short, the infinite possibilities that people of conscience consider when deliberating possible actions.”
Given that they have no empathy and are known to have NO sensitivity towards others, they not only lack moral sensitivity but lack ANY sensitivity nor concern whatsoever for other people at all. Indeed they are well known to behave in a quite callous manner towards others:
“Because of their inability to appreciate the feelings of others, some psychopaths are capable of behaviour that normal people find not only horrific but baffling… A frightful and perplexing theme runs through the case histories of all psychopaths: a deeply disturbing inability to care about the pain and suffering experienced by others – in short, a complete lack of empathy, the pre-requisite for love.”
Their inability to consider or accept the consequences of their actions arising from pursuing their interest (not “moral action”) means they lack the ability to be morally motivated  especially when this is associated with “accepting responsibility for the outcome””, nor do they even have any interest in doing so, except if the outcome may be harmful to others, which as this gives them pleasure may even be a goal.
“Psychopaths are not deterred by the possibility that their actions may cause hardship or risk for others. Psychopaths are very good at putting on a good impression when it suits them, and they often paint their victims as the real culprits.”
The inability of “Disordered Leaders” to engage in what Kohlberg’s referred to as Higher Focused Morality or what Rest described as Morals Sensitivity, Judgement or Motivation is perhaps described by Hare’s outline of in effect what is their “Immoral Character”:
“Psychopaths are rational and aware of what they are doing and why. Their behaviour is the result of choice, freely exercised. Obligations and commitments mean nothing to psychopaths as breaking promises does not seem to bother them. The irresponsibility and unreliability of psychopaths extends to every part of their lives. They do not honour formal or implied commitments to people, organisations or principles. [They] are much freer than the rest of us to pick and choose the rules and restrictions they will adhere to. [One example] “It’s not that I don’t follow the law. I follow my own laws. I never violate my own rules.” She then describes these rules in terms of “looking out for number one”. For most of us even the imagined threat of criticism functions to control our behaviour. We are haunted to some degree by questions about our self-worth. As a consequence, we continually attempt to prove to ourselves and others that we are okay people, credible, trustworthy and competent. Learning to behave according to the rules and regulations of society, called socialisation, is a complex process. On a practical level it teaches children “how things are done”. In the process, socialisation – through parenting, schooling, social experiences, religious training, and so forth – helps to create a system of beliefs, attitudes and personal standards that determine how we interact with the world around us. Socialisation also contributes to the formation of what most people call their conscience, the pesky inner voice that helps us to resist temptation and to feel guilty when we don’t. Together, this inner voice and the internalised norms and rules of society actors act as an “inner policeman”, regulating our behaviour even in the absence of any external controls, such as laws, our perceptions of what others expect of us, and real-life policemen. It’s no overstatement to say that our internal controls make society work. Our collective amazement and fascination with the psychopath’s utter disregard for rules suggests, by comparison, the power our “inner policemen” actually have over us. However, for psychopaths the social experiences that normally build a conscience never take hold. Such people don’t have an inner voice to guide them: They know the rules but follow only those they choose to follow, no matter what the repercussions for others. They have little resistance to temptation and their transgressions elicit no guilt. Without the shackles of a nagging conscience, they feel free to satisfy their needs and wants and do whatever they think they can get away with. Any antisocial act, from petty theft to bloody murder, becomes possible… For those of us who have been successfully socialised, imagining the world as the psychopath experiences it is close to impossible.”
Indeed they may well be the most dishonest people in society:, with lying being part of a game they play with others:
“Lying, deceiving and manipulation are natural talents for psychopaths. With their powers of imagination in gear and focused on themselves, psychopaths appear amazingly unfazed by the possibility – or even by the certainty – of being found out. When caught in a lie or challenged with truth, they are seldom perplexed or embarrassed – they simply change their stories or attempt to rework the facts so they appear to be consistent with the lie. The results are a series of contradictory statements and a thoroughly confused listener. Psychopaths often come across as arrogant, shameless braggarts – self-assured, opinionated, domineering and cocky. They love to have power and control over others and seem unable to believe that other people have valid opinions different from theirs. They appear charismatic or electrifying to some people.”
But are they successful when they achieve positions of authority or wealth or both?
“Many psychopaths never go to prison or any other facility. They appear to function reasonably well – as lawyers, doctors, psychiatrists, academics, mercenaries, police officers, cult leaders, military personnel, businesspeople, writers, artists, entertainers, and so forth – without breaking the law, or at least without being caught and convicted. These individuals are every bit as egocentric, callous and manipulative as the average criminal psychopath; however their intelligence, family background, social skills and circumstances permit them to construct a facade of normalcy and to get what they want with relative impunity. Some commentators refer to them as “successful psychopaths”. Others argue that individuals of this sort benefit society. Just as they are able to ignore society’s rules, the argument goes, intelligent psychopaths are able to transcend the bounds of conventional thought, provide a creative spark for the arts, the theatre, design, and so on. Whatever the merits of this argument, they are more than offset – in my view – by the broken hearts, shattered careers, and used-up people left in their wake as they cut a zig-zag route through society, driven by a remorseless need to “express themselves”. Rather than refer to these people as successful psychopaths – after all, their success is often illusory and always at someone else’s expense – I prefer to call them subcriminal psychopaths.Their conduct, although technically not illegal, typically violates conventional ethical standards, hovering just on the shady side of the law. Unlike people who consciously adopt a ruthless, greedy and apparently unscrupulous strategy in their business dealings, but who are reasonably honest and empathetic in other areas of their lives, subcriminal psychopaths exhibit much the same behaviours and attitudes in all areas of their lives. If they lie and cheat on the job – and get away with it or are even admired for it – they will lie and cheat in other areas of their lives. I am certain that if the families and friends of such individuals were willing to discuss their experiences without fear of retribution, we would uncover a rat’s nest of emotional abuse, philandering, double-dealing and generally shoddy behaviour. These rat’s nests are sometimes made public in a dramatic fashion. Think of the many high-profile cases in which a pillar of the community commits a serious crime [and] in the process of investigations by the police and news media the perpetrator’s dark side is revealed. Many such cases are vividly portrayed in books and movies and the shocked public asks “where did they go wrong?” and “what made them do it?” The answer, in most cases, is that the culprit didn’t just suddenly “go wrong”. Individuals who frequent the shady side of the law stand a good chance of slipping over the edge. In such cases the crime is simply a natural consequence of a deviant personality structure that has always been present but that, because of good luck, social skills, cover-ups, a fearful family, or friends and associates who conveniently refused to see what was going on, had not previously resulted in a criminal act that came to the attention of the justice system. Nevertheless, high-profile cases have considerable value. Typically they are well documented, alerting us to the fact that such people exist, and that before being caught they were relatives, neighbours or co-workers of people just like us…
The most extreme “Disordered Leaders” display the traits associated with Psychopathy, described by Hare (further discussed later), but they may also display some combination of Narcissistic, Histrionic, Borderline or Paranoid Personality Disorders, or Machiavellianism, the only element of the Dark Triad not directly associated with a specific personality disorder. Given that satisfying their egocentricity and boosting their self-esteem is the goal not only of the Disordered Leader, but also (out of necessity) those who have to deal with them, tactfully ensuring this is achieved also becomes the primary goal of their more responsible lieutenants. For instance ensuring that conversation and debate is conducted in the manner that the Disordered Leader believes that the “great idea” is theirs, is likely to result in it being actioned and indeed doggedly pursued, even if this requires the lieutenants to initially argue against the proposal they know to be the right thing to do. Aligning the goals of the organisation with that of the innately self-centred leader will always be a challenge, requiring ingenuity and in effect “immoral reasoning” – adapting the reasoning process to make allowances for the primary decision-maker being “ruth-less” – lacking kindness, compassion, interest in anyone other than themselves, empathy, guilt, remorse, what constitutes a conscience and indeed any semblance of morality. Hence the advice suggested at the IVBEC conference by way of the acronym ISLAM. The task of those peacemakers with an active conscience is to use their intellect and ingenuity to Identify, Stop, Learn, Adapt and Minimise the damage the Disordered Leader will inevitably cause, most likely triggering a dopamine rush in their Nucleus Accumbens, given that they thrive on troublemaking in its many guises. Recognising this will allow the far more responsible followers to adapt the way they behave to prioritise the best interests of the organisation and it’s stakeholders, especially when they recognise that the disordered and self-centred mind of their leader is primarily focussed on him/her self and that satisfying their self-interest is their innate and indeed insatiable personal goal (Clarke, 2017). So the four brain regions chosen to give a flavour how the brain operates in terms of dealing with decision-making, pleasure, fear, affect-regulation or the ability to control and manage uncomfortable emotions, interpersonal engagement, empathy, positive emotions,  executive control, being the ability to plan and orchestrate thought and action in accordance with internal goals, setting and achieving these goals, coordinating and adjusting complex behaviours, focusing attention, anticipating events, predicting the consequences of “potential actions”, impulse control, managing emotional reactions and planning for the future are the Amygdala, Nucleus Accumbens, Anterior Cingulate Cortex and the Prefrontal Cortex. We will then consider specific regions within the Prefrontal Cortex responsible for processing matters including making choices and decision making, attention, focus, concentration, motivation, memory, ignoring distractions, creating and executing plans, organising actions in sequence, switching between tasks, adapting to changes in rules and the environment, processing of risk and fear, self control, impulse control and inhibiting emotional responses including anger, preventing antisocial and promoting prosocial behaviour, consideration of future actions, following societal rules or expectations and the evaluation of empathy, morality, fairness and ethical decision-making. One of the best known brain regions is the almond shaped (and named) Amygdala (right and left) which plays a key role in emotional processing, being part of the limbic system which is a neural network involved with many aspects of emotion and memory, and when impaired related with a variety of personality disorders. Although typically associated with fear and other negative emotions related to unpleasant or aversive stimuli, more recent research indicates that the amygdala is also involved with positive emotions aroused by rewarding stimuli. In particular it is now considered that it assigns a positive or negative value to a neutral stimulus, suggesting that it plays a role in “assigning value” in general and the formation of both positive and negative memories. One of the challenges which Disordered Leaders pose society is when their mind is incapable of experiencing fear and anxiety in the manner most do, resulting in risky decisions being made in a manner which primarily considers reward without any responsible consideration of the accompanying risks. Yet we let such people lead financial institutions. They spread fear rather than pleasure throughout the “corporate culture” in the manner by which they mal-manage and mis-lead, deriving pleasure from making others feel not only uncomfortable but also worthless. Yet leaders are supposed to motivate. When their amygdala and associated neural regions fail to co-operate in the manner that they do in the minds of most people, there can also be significant co-operational failures in the  organisations they mis-lead too, given that they thrive on conflict rather than harmony and derive their pleasure from causing others dis-pleasure. The Nucleus Accumbens (right and left) is the brain region most associated with pleasure, an important component of a major “dopaminergic” pathway described as the mesolimbic pathway, which is predominantly stimulated during rewarding experiences. When people do something they consider to be pleasant or rewarding, dopamine neurons (amongst others) in the Ventral Tegmental Area (VTA) are activated which, due to connections between the two regions, also results in an increase in dopamine levels in the Nucleus Accumbens. If there were no conflicting signals from other regions such as the Amygdala, the chances are our minds would choose to do or continue to do something positive and constructive and feel good about ourselves, such as when we are praised and encouraged by a “Constructive Leader”, motivating us to keep performing tasks to the best of our ability. We do what we do because we want to and feel appreciated for doing so, especially when we are praised and encouraged by team members for our collaborative contributions to the group effort. However if we had just been intimidated or even humiliated by a “Destructive Leader”, our emotion processing would be predominantly negative or even fearful, certainly involving signals from the amygdala, making us feel not-so-good and perhaps not the most inspired to perform anywhere near the best of our ability. In such cases we do what we do because we have been told or ordered to, not necessarily because we want to, including when the leader seems to instil a sense of competition rather than cooperation between colleagues or coworkers. This research by and large argues that “Disordered Leaders” engage in a variety of discouraging behaviours not because they are known to be successful, which they aren’t, rather because they feel better by way of making others feel worse. Self-centred leaders lacking in empathy and emotional intelligence are more likely to engage in such negativity which, especially if involving any form of consistent cruelty or sadistic pleasure may be indicative of one of the Cluster B Disorders or the related Dark Triad (or Dark Tetrad which adds Sadism to Narcissism, Psychopathy and Machiavellianism). The key point is that normal people predominantly derive their pleasure by and large from making others feel good, while those with some of the personality disorders gain their reward by way of making others feel bad, hence my argument being that such people (once identified as such) should not be permitted to play a role which involves responsibility for the lives and emotions of anyone other than themselves. In essence we are discussing more self-centred leaders who seek praise and attention for themselves and more self-less leaders, often associated with a degree of modesty and humility, which includes seeking little personal acclaim while passing the credit for achievements to those most responsible. While the more self-less “Constructive Leaders” accept responsibility for the failings of those they lead, in stark contrast the more self-centred “destructive leaders” are incapable of accepting criticism or personal responsibility for failings and engage in blame and intimidation of others, even if they themselves were the most responsible for the failings. There is no humility in humiliation not humiliation in humility. So having seen how the Amygdalae and Nucleus Accumbens are predominantly associated with fear and reward, including that arising from predominantly negative or positive managerial practices, which parts of the brain decide how to respond to such “stimulae”? The Anterior Cingulate Cortex (ACC) lies in a unique position in the brain, with connections to both the “emotional” limbic system and the “cognitive” prefrontal cortex. The ACC plays an important role in “affect-regulation”, or the ability to control and manage uncomfortable emotions, hence is considered not only to be one of the more significant brain regions activated during interpersonal engagement but also that associated with the personality disorder known as “psychopathology” (Stevens et al, 2011). The Prefrontal Cortex has been known for over a century to play an important role in cognitive or executive control, being the ability to plan and orchestrate thought and action in accordance with internal goals (Miller & Cohen, 2001).viii The prefrontal cortex assists people set and achieve goals, receiving inputs from many brain regions and then processing information and adapting accordingly, often quite rapidly. The prefrontal cortex plays a key role in the wide variety of “executive functions”, including coordinating and adjusting complex behaviours, focusing attention, anticipating events, predicting the consequences of “potential actions”, impulse control, managing emotional reactions and planning for the future. The prefrontal cortex also plays a major role in personality development, helping people make conscious decisions in accordance with their varying motivations. In due course over time these can lead to specific tendencies in behaviour, such as acting in a friendly manner toward others with the aim of being popular. While the prefrontal cortex does not house a person’s “entire self”, it does significantly contribute to the complex attitudes and choices that form a personality. It is usually considered to have three primary regions, as well as more particular areas which play even more specific roles. The Medial Prefrontal Cortex contributes to attention, focus, concentration and motivation, including when to start or finish undertaking an activity or task. The Orbital Prefrontal Cortex (or Orbitofrontal Cortex or OFC) helps people control their impulses, ignore distractions and keep strong emotions in check such as to follow societal rules or expectations. The Lateral Prefrontal Cortex permits people to create and execute plans, organise actions in a specific sequence, switch between tasks and adapt to changes in rules and the environment. Two sub-regions play a particular role in in moral leadership and ethical decision-making. The Ventromedial Prefrontal Cortex (vmPFC) is implicated in the processing of risk and fear, being critical in the regulation of amygdala activity. It also plays a role in inhibiting of emotional responses, the processing of decision making and self control. As the amygdala plays a key role in instigating the emotional reactions associated with anger and violence, the vmPFC plays a role in preventing antisocial and promoting prosocial behaviour. The vmPFC is also known to be involved with the cognitive evaluation of empathy and morality, with impairments contributing to unethical behaviour, potentially without normal emotional responses including remorse (Motzin et al, 2011.x While the Dorsolateral Prefrontal Cortex (dlPFC) plays a key role with working or short-term memory and consideration of future actions (Mars & Grol, 2007)xi it is involved with both risky and moral decision making.xii When moral decisions need to be made, research suggests that the dlPFC is activated (Greene et al, 2001).xiii This dlPFC plays an active role when costs and benefits of alternative choices are relevant (Duncan et al, 2000).xiv Furthermore, when a variety of options need to be chosen from alternatives, the dlPFC is capable of arousing a preference towards the most equitable option, while suppressing the temptation to maximise personal gain (Knoch et al, 2007). Business ethicists are well accomplished at advocating the many advantages arising from predominantly ethical behaviour in the normative sense, including the impact on trust, reputation and the prevailing corporate culture, directly impacted by an organisation’s dominant individuals. However the psychological field of enquiry into the personality of individuals including why some seem to behave more or less ethically than others appears to be under-researched. The negative impact of those with a personality disorder, notably those for whom self-interest does not appear to be a rational decision rather their actual dominant state of mind, would appear to be a valid explanation for unethical behaviour, particularly by those whom psychiatrists and psychologists believe lack the inner restraints associated with having an active conscience, which ultimately can be traced to neurological deficits. (Clarke, 2017). From even this brief examination of some of the primary brain regions involved with decision making and behaviour, it should be apparent that those with a Personality Disorder involving potential impairment in regions such as the Amygdala(e), Anterior Cingulate Cortex (ACC), Orbitofrontal Cortex (OFC), Ventromedial Prefrontal Cortex (vmPFC), Dorsolateral Prefrontal Cortex (dlPFC) and/or the Nucleus Accumbens in the Ventral Striatum (NAc), together with impaired connections between any combination of these and other regions, will impact on the way they feel, think, deliberate and behave. In effect their brains differing from the norm resulting in the (well researched)  disordered and callous manner in which they both perceive and interact with other people, with shallow emotions, emotional impunity and necessity to personally prevail, with the costs to others inconsequential, or in extremis a goal, would appear to make a valid contribution towards an explanation why some individuals possess a greater propensity for antisocial and unethical behaviour, without the moral restraints, conscience or “guilt proneness” associated with the non-impaired brain, and why they holding positions of authority and responsibility not only in business but indeed across global society could be problematic. It is such people this body of research refers to as “Disordered Leaders” who (mal) practice “Destructive Leadership”. For instance consideration of the self-centred and antisocial behaviour associated with those with a Cluster B Personality Disorder or one or more of the Dark Triad disorders, including Narcissistic and Psychopathy, conveys the significance of neurological impairment contributing to immoral behaviour, especially when accompanied by a lack of empathy, guilt, remorse, fear, anxiety or indeed what many believe to be an “active conscience”. All these are discussed later in this paper. First let us examine one example of how the various brain regions work rapidly together in evaluating one example of typical daily behaviour, driving a car, before also briefly examining how impairments in just some specific brain regions have been shown to contribute to the poor emotional regulation and behaviour associated with some of the Personality Disorders. When driving a car for instance we all have to respond to a change in traffic lights or when it seems a pedestrian may walk out in front of us, This is just one example of how “response selection and reshaping” is an important and often imperceptible component of our daily lives. To ensure we  avoid hitting the pedestrian, our brain must very rapidly process the change in the environment and promptly respond to cancel the initial action plan (foot on the accelerator) in favour of a more appropriate action plan (brake and change gear). This rapid change in “motor output”, when successful, is exceptionally fast, occurring within a few hundred milliseconds, yet requires the coordinated efforts of multiple brain systems (Brockett,  et al, 2020). The same applies to more complex actions and decisions, especially when an interpersonal and emotional element is involved. While leaders are respected for their courage in taking important decisions, sometimes as a response to challenging changes in the “environment”, they are expected to be capable of evaluating the likely outcomes and impact of their decisions on the variety of ‘stakeholders” who may be implicated, not just the impact on themselves and especially their “self-interest”. While due consideration and indeed a degree of caution are important, especially when the luxury of time permits and there is no undue pressure for a rapid determination, “decision-makers” are  generally respected for gathering sufficient information and applauded for their ability to “be decisive” rather then prevaricate and be unnecessarily indecisive. However they are not generally respected for behaving in an “impulsive” manner, especially if this together with other indications may be suggestive of a “Personality Disorder”. They are perhaps even more respected when capable of recognising that a decision may have been wrong or sub-optimal and engage in “response selection and reshaping” to “change their mind” (with more or updated information) and hence change the decision or course of action to what then would seem to be the most appropriate. However they are not respected when they seem to be incapable of “changing their mind” (perhaps due to a “cognitive bias”) when others urge them to Nor are they respected when they seem to be incapable of changing or adapting their own behaviour, especially as circumstances change (termed “maladaptive” or inflexible). Even more critical when employed in senior roles across global society is when they seem to be incapable of “telling right from wrong”, all of which are indications of what may be a “Personality Disorder”. Indeed it could be said that “there must be something wrong with those lacking a sense of what may be wrong”. So what may be wrong with the brains of those who consistently (rather than very occasionally) appear to behave in a different and less acceptable and more irresponsible and perhaps more self-centred manner than most others, especially when they may not cope well with ideas different to their own, respond badly to criticism, find it hard to praise yet seek it for themselves, seem to thrive on discouraging and humiliating rather than encouraging and motivating others and appear to be believe that the organisation exists for them rather than they for the organisation? Neuroimaging studies suggest that a dysfunctional “fronto-limbic” network including the Anterior Cingular Cortex (ACC), the Orbitofrontal Cortex (OFC), the Dorsolateral Prefrontal Cortex (dlPFC), the Hippocampus and the Amygdala(e) may contribute to the behaviour this paper (and the half dozen others under “topics” on this website) describe as “Destructive Leadership”. For instance, just considering one of the “Cluster B” disorders associated with dysfunctional behaviour, the most consistent finding is increased activation of the Amygdala when viewing aversive emotion-inducing images (compared with control individuals) as well as the Fusiform Gyrus, primary visual areas, Superior Temporal Gyrus (STG),and the Premotor areas, while thiose considered to be healthy controls showed greater differences in their Insula, middle Temporal Gyrus and Dorsolateral Prefrontal Cortex (dlPFC). Their response to negative stimuli (including disgust) is particularly relevant as they can display lower than usual neural activity in their (left) Ventral Striatum yet  higher activity in their (left) Amygdala and (left) dlPFC. Reduced Ventral Striatal grey matter volume has also been linked to emotional dysregulation. One study (Liechsenring et al 2011) proposed that an increase in dlPFC activity may arise from greater cognitive efforts to try and regulate emotions, given the deficiencies in the Amygdala and Ventral Striatum. However another study (Schulze et al, 2011) believed any attempts to utilise alternative cognitive strategies to modulate emotions are largely ineffective. The amygdala, ventral striatum and dlPFC appear to be regions associated with “disturbed emotion regulation” with impulsivity and higher levels of aggression seeming to be related to significantly lower activity of the ventral striatum or the Nucleus accumbens (NAc), normally associated with “reward learning”. Much higher or stronger activity in the amygdala may explain why some “Disordered Leaders”  can react so strongly and impulsively, especially in situations involving anger, fear, sadness and shame and why these feelings may last much longer than normal, why they react so strongly to other people acting out these angry emotions, as well as their apparent pride and extreme sensitivity and overreaction to any form of criticism (Herpertz et al, 2001). When the dlPFC is temporarily disabled using Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS), early emotional attention has been shown to be effected (Zwanzger et al, 2014). Some studies suggest that the PFC or prefrontal cortex in general of people with BPD may be less active (although a few specific regions may be more active), perhaps explaining why they struggle to regulate their emotions when experiencing stress. The lower than expected activity appears to occur in the (right) Anterior Cingulate Cortex (ACC) which may explain their diminished or lack of empathy for the feelings of others (Chapman & Gratz 2007). As the ACC plays a key role in regulating emotional arousal, the relatively low level of activity of their prefrontal cortex may explain why BPD people experience difficulty in regulating their emotions and how they respond to stress. People with BPD may (cognitively) know the right thing to do but may be (emotionally) incapable of actually doing this when the time comes to speak or act. Their more cognitive and rational mind may be less capable at controlling the emotional and impulsive than would normally be the case. The key point as far as this paper is concerned is that the brains of those we describe as “Disorders Leaders” do appear to differ from the norm and evidence would suggest that in some cases and situations one brain region may be trying to compensate for deficiencies in another. These final paragraphs have served purely as an introduction to the role that the impaired brains of those with a Personality Disorder, those we describe as Disordered Leaders, may play in the associated Destructive Leadership (inconsiderate of the interests and needs of anyone or anything other than the leader) rather than the behaviour of Constructive Leaders who are not so innately concerned with their self-interest and well capable of doing the right thing by way of considering the interests and needs of all the relevant stakeholders and using the power placed with them for the purposes intended, including developing trust and safeguarding reputation. While organisations cannot be excepted to have an MRI scanner in their basement nor employ experts to interpret the findings from brain imaging studies of candidates for senior management, those we describe as “Disordered Leaders” who (mal) practice “Destructive Leadership”  CAN be identified by way of what they struggle (or see no need) to change – their own behaviour. As people with identifiable Personality Disorders can be “found in every race, culture, society and walk of life” (Hare, 1993), one of the most critical matters to appreciate is that as “Disordered Leaders” see things differently, experience people differently, perceive many matters differently, think differently, behave differently and inhabit a quite different world from most others in society, it is imperative that they be recognised by decision-makers as being substantially different from the norm, being consummate actors hiding their true selves much of the time, hence need to be dealt with significantly differently, including denying them positions of power which they can only abuse, if they are no longer to be permitted to continue to damage the world that everyone else inhabits.

Identifiable and Predictable Behaviour

Having been exposed to over 50 highly challenging people during my own career, who may be capable of being diagnosed with a “Personality Disorder” (in the unlikely event that any ever receive psychological assessment or treatment), a situation I failed to properly comprehend for many years in industry, just believing them to be exceptionally “selfish, difficult, proud and perverse”, I can testify what a great challenge those with such a mindset can pose to everyone else with no option but to deal with them. One solution is to learn what behavioural traits to look for, preferably in advance of granting seniority of position to those who seem to inhabit a different world from everyone else. While many people can behave in an SDPP or “selfish, difficult, proud and perverse” manner occasionally, especially under extreme pressure, to be classified as a “Personality Disorder” the traits need to be “inflexible”, meaning can be repeatedly observed without regards to time, place or circumstance, while also interfering with a person’s ability to function well in society, including causing problems with interpersonal relationships, termed “functional impairment”. Indeed let us reconsider that the four core features common to all Personality Disorders, with two required for diagnosis, are
  1. Distorted thinking patterns,
  2. Problematic emotional responses,
  3. Over- or under-regulated impulse control and
  4. Interpersonal difficulties,
none of which are attributes which society needs in those with responsibility for its institutions and their people. Yet far too frequently some or all of these are evident in the behaviour of leaders, erroneously associated with strength of character and leadership, rather than weakness of personality and an inability to manage their own emotions, let alone lead other people. One of the definitions of a “Personality Disorder” is “pervasive patterns of perceiving, relating to, and thinking about the environment and the self that interfere with long-term functioning of the individual and are not limited to isolated episodes.” Those with “shallow emotions” who experience other people no differently than inanimate objects – such as shopfront mannequins – can perceive or misconceive many areas of organisational and national life being like a “game”, including business, politics and government. It is all about the conquest, winning and possession of what they desire, being better and having more than those they see to be a rival (who frequently are not), with other far more important factors not nearly as relevant as they should be in their perception and deliberations. Hence:
  1. “Getting their own way”,
  2. “Winning at all costs, irrespective of consequences for others”, and
  3. “Evaluating matters from the primary perspective of “what’s in it for me?”
becomes more critical for them than in the minds of most other, more “normal” people. When people are devoid of warm emotions, lacking the ability to love or be loved, what else is left to do in interpersonal relationships but to have to “win”, especially when they reduce all situations to a “game” or “mind game”? What they fail to recognise when in senior managerial roles is that their necessity to “personally prevail” often involves disadvantaging others, in business perhaps not only just emotionally but also financially, damaging trust, eroding reputation and ensuring that not only will the two parties never “do business” with each other again but the disadvantaged party may even choose to “bad-mouth” the culprit, ensuring even more choose to “take their business elsewhere”. When will they learn? Or perhaps they can’t learn from their mistakes? Or may not even be capable of recognising that damaging relationships are a mistake, rather a “victory”? This would not be how most “normal” people would behave, recognising the necessity for ongoing and continuing healthy relationships, one of the keys to longer term business success. Lacking the vision required of leaders, but being incessant pity-seekers (best described as “poor me”), they nevertheless somehow manage to see criticism or persecution where there is none, or none intended, just different opinions which in the minds of most normal people are a healthy part of deliberation and debate, the “give and take” which results in the most sensible path to progress by way of decisions which weigh up risk and reward and try to consider and balance the interests of the most appropriate “stakeholders”, or the most relevant groups of people involved or impacted by the decision, not just the self-interest and pride of the leader. While other people may consider “there is something wrong”, this belief may not be shared by those who consistently cause trouble for their often beleaguered colleagues. People with many of the Personality Disorders just do not believe there is anything wrong with them, so see no need to change nor seek treatment, which they may not even cooperate with in the unlikely event that assessment transpires. Those with “Narcissistic Personality Disorder” and related disorders believe they are normal and may not seek any form of assessment, assistance or treatment because they feel superior to others. Indeed their mindset is such that they may believe that it is their inferiors who are the real problem and it is they who are responsible for problems. Those with “Paranoid Personality Disorder” also feel there is nothing wrong with them, although others may see them as being excessively suspicious and unnecessary hostile. In their mind, their suspicions of others are quite justified. It is these other people who are the real problem and they are the reasons for the degree of moderate to significant dysfunction, havoc and even mayhem which their mis-management and mal-leadership inevitably brings. Characteristics such as these should disqualify such people from consideration for senior roles, but incredibly (meaning “hard to believe”) these traits are evident amongst people holding significant positions throughout society. One reason is too many other people (especially those with the right credentials for seniority) just do not seem to know what traits to look for, primarily to identify them to deny such people they power they need and demand but are incapable of using for the purpose intended, then become difficult to replace as they prioritise maintenance of the power they crave over all other considerations, irrespective of the cost to others. The other main reason it becomes important to be able to identify such “disordered” people is to realise that trying to deal with them “normally” is likely to result in abject failure and a variety of countermeasures will instead need to be tactically employed in dealing with them, to diminish the damage they can do not only to the culture of their organisation (or nation) but also to the lives and emotions of those who have no choice but to work with or for them. At the end of the day when people learn what traits to look for, the “disordered people” themselves facilitate this task of preventing them from becoming “disordered leaders”, because they actually “give the game away” themselves by way of what they cannot hide or change – their own behavioural traits. This can take some time to notice and appreciate. Indeed it took me over 25 years in industry, working with hundreds of organisations, before a coffee with a psychologist who explained NPD to me led to my recognising that I had actually worked with or for over 50 such people and how similar much of their behaviour actually was, although they worked in different sectors, nations and even continents. “Self-centred” has been defined by Merriam-Webster as “concerned solely with one’s own desires, needs, or interests” and “independent of outside force or influence”. “Narcissistic Personality” is described as “a pattern of traits and behaviours characterised by excessive self-concern and overvaluation of the self.” Amongst the (identifiable and hence predictable) traits associated with the “Cluster B” group of Personality Disorders especially “Narcissistic Personality Disorder” are:
  1. Long-standing pattern of grandiose self-importance and an exaggerated sense of talent and achievements
  2. Exhibitionistic need for attention and admiration from others
  3. Cold when others would expect them to be warm
  4. Belief that they are special and most others are inferior, not worthy of being associated with them
  5. Sense of entitlement and expectation of special treatment from others
  6. They believe they are normal and all the problems and challenges they create are the fault of situations or other people (who they find it easy to blame)
  7. Cannot accept responsibility for their innate irresponsibility
  8. Need for praise from others
  9. Need to belittle those they perceive (often wrongly) to be rivals, critics or they believe disagree with or disrespect them, attacking and slandering their good name, often quite fictitiously and even delusionally, while falsely assassinating their reputation (if not “character”; reputation is what others think of you, but character is who you actually are, perhaps not damaged when slighted and enhanced by reacting well when others treat you badly – one of life’s greatest tests)
  10. When not being praised by others they can praise themselves, sometimes extravagantly, including for achievements only they recognise
  11. Behave arrogantly with a conceited, pretentious & pompous manner
  12. Boastful of their talents or achievements, even if greatly exaggerated or totally fictitious, only present in their own version of reality, the unique world they live in
  13. Active imaginations especially about themselves and rules to be obeyed (their own not society’s)
  14. Huge belief in their invulnerability and ability to “get away” with anything
  15. Tendency to fantasise about success, power, brilliance or beauty
  16. Expect to be recognised as superior, even without commensurate achievements
  17. Find it easy to be “ruth-less”, meaning free of sympathy/compassion
  18. Envious of others or belief they may be envious of them
  19. Insist on being and having the best of everything
  20. Others need to “walk on eggshells” in their presence given their volatility
  21. Need unquestioning compliance from others and may not be able to cope with non-compliance or criticism, as they can be “thin-skinned” and easily slighted
  22. Total disregard for the emotions of others, which they may not be able to experience, or wish to damage, due to an inability to empathise with the feelings of others
  23. Manipulate and take advantage of others to get what they want
  24. Interest shown in other people only while they are deemed to serve a useful purpose, otherwise they can be ignored, discarded or even verbally attacked and disparaged
  25. People can be coldly experienced, no different from inanimate objects (such as shopfront mannequins)
  26. Other people exist to be used to satisfy their insatiable personal needs
  27. Otherwise they have no intrinsic value as people, nor any interests or needs worthwhile knowing, as ultimately they just do not matter
  28. Despite their constant need for praise, they struggle to genuinely praise others, preferring to find reason or fault, even when praise may be most warranted
  29. Thrive on criticism but can’t cope when this is directed at them; warranted or not, always without merit in their mind given their huge self-belief
  30. Grossly over react to anything they perceive to be criticism, even if there was none or no critique was intended
  31. Blame other people, events or situations for their own errors, inadequacies or failings, perhaps by way of “projecting” these on to others rather than “facing facts” and trying to deal with their personal issues themselves; until aware of their tendencies, third parties are more likely to believe their criticism of others, not realising they may be some (perhaps only) form of recognition of their own failings
  32. “With prejudice” well describes those who hold deep and long-lasting grudges and seek revenge and retaliation, even for trivial reasons such as others merely suggesting or proffering a different opinion from theirs
  33. They can derive more pleasure from disrespecting than respecting others, especially those who dare to criticise them
  34. Poor at regulating their emotions, so can be moody (“emotionally labile”) and temperamental, with anger always lying just beneath the surface, ensuring others tread very carefully in their presence and do not say or do anything which differs from their opinion or could even be remotely perceived as criticism or an alternative opinion
  35. Impatience or temper tantrums when criticised or don’t receive special treatment.
  36. React with cold indifference or feelings of rage or emptiness in response to criticism, indifference or defeat
  37. Disinterested or no genuine interest in other people or their interests, needs and achievements, including in situations when others would expect them to be interested
  38. Create a wide variety of interpersonal problems (probably better appreciated by the others involved) including when they require others to be subservient and sycophantic
  39. Can treat others with contempt and hatred for little apparent reason, preferring intimidation to encouragement, making others wonder what they may have done to incur their hatred and wrath (perhaps very little) and requirement to extract deep revenge
  40. Much of their behaviour can be seen to promote themselves and put-down, discourage, disparage and even humiliate others
  41. Struggle to change or adapt their behaviour
  42. Struggle to learn from their mistakes, which they can regularly repeat even when alerted by others to them; what may appear to be “stubbornness” (a refusal to respond to the requests of others) in such situations may in fact be an inability to learn from their prior experiences
  43. They cannot properly understand other people and never will, but a major problem for society is that they think they can, unaware of their own emotional and other deficiencies
  44. Even after their organisation or entity has collapsed, with many people’s lives adversely affected, they struggle to consider they may have been at fault or what they did wrong
  45. Those without a sense of wrong must have something wrong with them
  46. Making others feel bad can make them feel good
  47. They seem to get a special kick from openly disagreeing with and publicly putting down others, even if quite wrong to do so
  48. Those who have been in relationships with narcissists, professional or personal, say amongst the worst aspects is their disloyalty, only capable of loyalty to themselves, deriving pleasure from both disparaging others and promoting themselves while fictitiously slandering those they may be expected to be agreeable with and loyal to
  49. Given their own fundamental inability to change, the onus to tactfully adapt to the many challenges they present lies with everyone else involved for any semblance of harmonious normality to be feasible, as they see nothing wrong with themselves and blame anything and everyone else for their many failings
  50. Those astute, insightful and peacemaking colleagues capable of adapting their own behaviour need to respond daily to diminish the degree of harm and havoc these inveterate troublemakers and skilled but often charming liars invariably and innately bring to ANY group situation
  51. Given they can seem to live in a world all of their own, in which they are the most extraordinary person ever born and everyone else significantly inferior, all their assertions and declarations will necessitate independent third party verification
  52. The most apt advice, especially when they promote themselves and criticise, disparage and even damage the reputation of others, often quite falsely, may be to FIRST BELIEVE THE OPPOSITE of what they say or assert (which may be closer to reality or the truth of any situation) until this can be verified, as otherwise they just cannot be believed at all; if this advice sounds bizarre, it is because their words, deeds, behaviour and indeed mindset can seem irrational if not bizarre when compared with the rationality of others. VANITY MAY NOT EQUATE WITH SANITY. None of these traits are those which anyone would advocate in a leader.
Yet time after time some or many of them are present, proving how frequently other people in society simply choose those with the wrong personality type for management or leadership of other people, either charmed or intimidated (or both) into appointing them before the gravity of this mistake in due course becomes more apparent. This is then compounded by the extent they will go to to maintain the power they should never gave been granted, having no qualms about damaging other people, their reputation and that of the organisation itself en route. Ultimately they are more likely to do more harm than good to the entity they mis-lead and the people they disrespect, those they should be setting an admirable example for. Yet such situations are entirely avoidable because at the end of the (excessively long) day their behaviour is entirely predictable. Fortunately it is their very predictability and inability to amend their own behaviour which allows “us” an insight into the very different world “they” inhabit, but this predictability only becomes apparent when other people first learn what traits to look for, then act on this knowledge by denying such fundamentally irresponsible people any (significant) position of responsibility. Smart words do not make for smart leadership when there is a deep and fundamental disconnect between words, actions and reality. This can be especially so when leaders do not seek or listen to the astute and perhaps conciliatory advice likely to be available from their more collegiate colleagues and they show no apparent remorse nor learn from the experience when the results of their angry and impulsive behaviour, necessity to hold grudges and seek revenge, even for triviality, disadvantage other people (including those they are supposed to be leading and setting an example for) and damage relationships which someone else will subsequently have to re-build, or at least try.

ISLAM – Identify, Stop, Learn, Adapt & Minimise

Perhaps throughout human history, society would appear to have mistaken charm, intelligence, smooth talking, arrogance and even callous ruthlessness for “managerial ability” due to a misconception associated with appointing highly self-centred people to leadership positions, consistently mistaking outwardly dynamic displays of confidence and eloquent talk of integrity for strength of character and intimidatory traits for strength of leadership, when in reality such fundamentally weak and perhaps childlike people may possess neither good character nor genuine managerial or leadership ability. Any attempts at trying to deal with them “normally” may well be doomed to failure.

That is why at that US IVBEC business ethics conference I proposed that the steps the rest of society needs to take to protect itself from such leaders include:

  1. Identify these abnormal people, by way of their own “Destructive Leadership” behaviour, as being different from the norm,

  2. Stop them achieving positions of influence & responsibility throughout global society, or if already in situ

  3. Learn how to behave differently towards them (“denying narcissistic supply”),

  4. Adapt to (not) respond to their sometimes extraordinary actions & reactions (evident due to their “maladaptive” inflexibility), to

  5. Minimise the damage & havoc they will inevitably create and preferably replace them with far more responsible people who do meet the “Constructive Leadership” criteria, knowing they will “do whatever it takes” and go to any lengths to maintain the power they should never have been trusted with in the first place.

When salient advice to those who have to deal with such people includes:
  1. BELIEVE THE OPPOSITE of what they say, as they can be deeply deceitful, take pleasure in lying, do not mind when they are caught doing so and may not even realise they are lying;
  2. DO THE OPPOSITE of what they want, as this can often be the wrong thing for the wrong reasons, more likely to achieve personal satisfaction than be “the right thing” for the group they mis-lead;
  3. ADVISE THEM THE OPPOSITE of what you want them to do, as being “perversity personified” they don’t like taking advice and will tend to do the opposite of what others ask them to do, “contrary” by nature;
  4. NEVER CRITICISE THEM as, despite being masters at dishing out criticism and many other forms of rebuke and disrespect to others, they can’t deal with an iota of criticism themselves, and are likely to over react to any (real or imagined) in a totally disproportionate, angry and even “histrionic” manner; so in such scenarios others learn to SAY NOTHING their “Disordered Leader” could find the opportunity to disagree with, let alone critique, or indeed anything they may perceive to be anyone doubting their undoubted (in their own mind) “brilliance”;
  5. Others learn to PRAISE THEM PROFUSELY as not only do they need, seek and crave praise, and can tend to praise themselves when others fail to do so, yet find it hard to genuinely praise others, especially when most warranted, which also contributes to “sycophantic” behaviour amongst followers and nominal “management team” members; praising in an insincere manner is usually to gain some advantage but in this case it can be to avoid rebuke or worse, potentially being excluded or fired for the crime of proffering a different suggestion or opinion from that of their “Disordered Leader”, in such cases why bother with having a “management team” at all – except to do what they are told?
  6. Ensure the GREAT IDEA is seen to be theirs, otherwise it won’t be actioned, as they need to take credit for it and deny praise to those most responsible;
  7. BE PEACEMAKERS AND REMAIN CALM when they try to stir up trouble, saying and doing nothing in response to their regular provocations, not rising to the many challenges they pose, baits and traps they set, especially for those who do not yet appreciate they seem to thrive on disagreement, dissent and many forms of disharmony;
  8. BE TACTFUL AND KIND WHEN THEY ARE CRUEL AND UNCARING and (unlike them) hold no grudges or hatreds nor seek no revenge (even for trivia), as being “ruth-less” (meaning “sympathy-free”) and making others unhappy can seem to make them happy, while seeing others happy can make them unhappy, making them want to disturb whatever satisfaction and pleasure others are enjoying, although not always in their presence, when others have to be “on edge” and WALK ON EGGSHELLS, so they learn
  9. DO NOT DISTURB THOSE WHO MAY THEMSELVES BE DISTURBED, even if they believe their own behaviour is normal, there is nothing wrong with them at all, nor with their mindset, their way of thinking and the myriad of problems (including “interpersonal difficulties”) they cause and challenges they create are the fault of others, who they blame at every opportunity;
  10. PREDICT THE PREDICTABLE as although many believe their behaviour to be bizarre and abnormal (which it is), given that they can be “maladaptive” (inflexible), “labile” (moody) and fail to learn from their mistakes, over time those closest to them realise how predictable they can be and hence learn how to avoid whatever “triggers” their boorishness and necessity to control, which otherwise may be “uncontrollable”;
  11. DO NOT FEAR THOSE WHO DO NOT EXPERIENCE FEAR as when others realise they thrive on trouble, seek reward inconsiderate of risk, actively seek arguments and are not scared by confrontation (as they thrive on conflict which they prefer to cooperation and would rather see people “at each others’s throats” than getting on fine and collaborating well), they will no longer be scared by their antics and learn to expect their provocation, making it easier to “turn the other cheek”, do not respond and just say nothing and walk away from potential trouble, denying them “narcissistic supply” and the oxygen they need to “fuel their fires of dissent” and create the disorder, disharmony and even havoc they insatiably seek;
  12. DO NOT EXPECT THEM TO BE LOYAL as they are only capable of loyalty to themselves and, if the whim takes them, can be exceptionally disloyal even to their most patient, tactful and loyal followers, changing from (false) praise one day to the deepest and most savage form of “CHARACTER ASSASSINATION” the next, often quite deceitfully and “delusionally” given that they have a major problem separating fact from fiction, which is why not one word they utter can be believed, unless subsequently independently verified;
  13. REMAIN POSITIVE AND DO NOT EXPECT ENCOURAGEMENT as they thrive on many forms of negativity, criticism and even humiliation, in effect deep discouragement and demotivation, although encouragement and motivation are widely agreed to be amongst the most critical roles of leaders to achieve common goals, not just to satisfy the personal ambitions, whims and grudges of self-centred leaders;
  14. PUT THE ORGANISATION (OR NATION) FIRST and prioritise what may benefit the “stakeholders” such as customers, employees, suppliers, local communities, the environment (and citizens, all not just some), separating these from what may be mal-practices and policies more likely to personally benefit the finances, ego or pride of self-centred leaders or sometimes entire management teams;
  15. DO RIGHT WHEN THEY DO WRONG and appreciate “THERE IS NO RIGHT WAY TO DO A WRONG THING”, hence doing what the “Disordered Leader” cannot: safeguard the TRUST and REPUTATION others know to be important but they fail to appreciate, especially when they SEE NO WRONG in their own words and deeds, notably when these seem more focussed on rebuke, revenge, retaliation and their personal necessity to impulsively “get their own way” and “win at all costs, irrespective of the consequences”, not unlike the most troublesome of primary school children;
  16. The necessity for others to AVOID TROUBLE by being SYCOPHANTIC does not auger well for organisations making the best progress possible based on pooled ideas, informed discussion, healthy debate, rational decision making considerate of the interests and needs of the variety of “stakeholders” affected and how they may be impacted by the possible outcomes of their decisions, nor for the many forms of cooperation and collaboration required for sensible progress to follow; indeed it makes “management teams” almost redundant…
there is clearly something very wrong, especially in those who seem to lack an internal sense of wrong and whose “vision” is focussed not on the constructive and harmonious future of the entity (or any grouping in global society they mis-lead), rather on themselves and satisfying their self-interest, primarily considering issues from the perspective of “what’s in it for me?” None of these are traits or behaviours which people would advocate in supervisors, team leaders or managers, so why can they be so prevalent with (fortunately only) a minority of “leaders” that many seem to accept them as being part and parcel of “senior management”? None of these are acceptable. They never have been and they never will be. Indeed they are indicative of one simple fact – the business, organisation, entity (or even nation) is led by the wrong person – more capable of doing harm than good, damaging rather than building relationships and more likely to (perhaps irreparably) impair trust and imperil reputation, especially when they prioritise themselves over those they are tasked with leading and fail to appreciate that this is not why they were trusted with such an onerous responsibility. At the end of the day, it isn’t all about them, although they persist in thinking that it is. This can be so even after they have been removed from the positions of power which they could have used constructively for the purposes intended, but did not and could not. For many in society self-interest is just one matter to weigh up when decision-making, which some are better at evaluating or discounting than others. Indeed for many years I have advocated that, before they finalise a decision, management teams step back and identify to what degree their self-interest (monetary, prestige, promotional opportunity et al) may have impacted on their planned decision and, when notionally removed from the equation, consider whether they would still take the same decision. If so, they can be even more satisfied that they are doing the right thing for the entity which employs them and the key “stakeholders”, or the people and groups of people affected or impacted directly and indirectly by the decision or resulting action. If not, they may need to further deliberate, notably taking the longer-term perspective including considering the likely reputational impact and which “stakeholders” may benefit or suffer as a result, while discounting what may then be better seen as short-term opportunism, especially if their decisions and actions may risk damaging trust and reputation if more widely known. It is extraordinary the number of poor or wrong decisions people and organisations make in the expectation that “no-one will find out” – until others do find out (perhaps due to conscientious whistleblowers ). This can especially be the case when the decision was forced on others by those this research refers to as “Disordered Leaders” who practice “Destructive Leadership”, or bullies for short, who intimidate their people to the degree that the “management team” fails to function as a “team” at all, indeed may even become redundant as a decision-evaluating entity, especially when the members believe they have no option but to sycophantically follow the lead and opinion set by their “selfish, difficult and proud” boss, notably when the interests of the organisation (or nation) become secondary to satisfying the self-serving whims of the “Disordered Leader” (eg Hitler). Being “found out” produces the challenging decision whether to “own-up” or “cover-up” and risk further reputational damage, which could so easily have been avoided had the time been taken to properly consider the issues and what may be the real motivations behind the decision(s). (The 15 ways to Communicate in a Crisis are explained in this case study of the mishandled Hillsborough disaster or Ireland’s Crisis which necessitated involvement of the IMF and EU when the elected leaders couldn’t or wouldn’t provide the leadership required). However, for this small (“disordered”) subsection of global society, incapable of “doing the right thing”, which across all sectors of all nations holds a disproportionate number of senior positions requiring responsibility and accountability, their self-interest is their overarching and perhaps sole priority and the lens through which they view all situations, notably from the perspective of “what’s in it for me?”, which contributes to they being amongst the most irresponsible and least accountable people possible and extraordinarily inappropriate for any seniority of position, no matter the nature of the entity or role. Charles Dickens may have concluded “A Tale of Two Cities” with

“It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.”

but in considering “A Tale of Two Leaders” it is far, far better that organisations, entities and nations choose “Constructive Leaders” over “Disordered Leaders” as the “Destructive Leadership” they malpractice may well satisfy their dysfunctional desires but is unlikely to allow those unfortunate to work with or for them any form of rest of body, mind or spirit and may well damage their well-being. When “Constructive Leaders” retire or move to pastures new, perhaps the best thing they can do than they have ever done before is to choose the right type of person as their successor to continue their good work and set them up for success, not the failure which some “Destructive Leaders” can do. There is also something clearly wrong when a leader wants his or her successor to fail, hoping this will better reflect on their prior far better leadership. How selfish and self-centred can someone get? In such situations this is  further proof that they themselves were the wrong person, being more interested in self than the organisation and its variety of “stakeholders”. That is why I strongly argue that, at its most “basic”, GIVERS being “more interested in others than themselves” make for far, far better leaders and managers than TAKERS “more interested in themselves than others”, no matter how tremendous their other qualities. Yet if this is so “basic”, why do so many organisations (and nations) continue to get leadership and management selection so wrong, with consequences which can be harmful and damaging both for individual people close to the situation and ultimately to the entity or nation itself, especially when they go to great lengths to maintain the power they have already abused and should never have been trusted with in the first place? (Charm, Intelligence and Eloquence – CIE or ICE – can mask more self-centred and damaging personality character traits, at least for a while, as we will see). It is a far, far better thing to do to be able to “IDENTIFY AND DENY”  than “FAIL TO IDENTIFY AND DENY THERE IS A PROBLEM” – meaning identify such irresponsible people by way of what they struggle to change (their own inflexible and quite predictable behaviour) and deny them the positions of responsibility they are ill equipped to perform in the manner expected of them by society, than let them assume positions of power which they will invariably abuse for personal advantage or repute, yet go to great lengths to maintain and cause even more damage once “found out” to be selfish and inept, given the difficulty and indeed improbability of them ever being referred for psychological assessment or assistance nor their cooperating if so required, as they may see it like many other facets of life to be a “game to be won” and, anyway, given their sometimes gargantuan ego and considerable but unfounded self-belief, in their deluded mind they are not the person with the problem, everyone else is, so are unlikely to improve or be “cured”. Those who have had to deal with such people know it would have been far better for everyone (else) involved if they had never been appointed to a position of responsibility in the first place, one of the reasons for my engaging in this research and body of writing, of which these are just some extracts. If I have experienced such people and matters over fifty times during my own career, how often do other people experience such situations too but, like me for 25 years, not quite realise what they may be dealing with – someone with a “Personality Disorder” – or in essence, a disordered personality or disturbed mind who sees matters and experiences people quite differently from most other people in society? Hence “prevention is far preferable to the improbability of cure”. A well known and highly respected US business ethics professor described this in 2016 as an “incredibly important issue” and “the future of business ethics”. I believe this to be a matter of deep significance not only for society but maybe even humanity, if the most inhumane are not to be permitted to persistently prevail over the most humane and cause a wide variety of damage to people’s welfare, interpersonal trust and organisational and even national reputation. Which is perhaps why Socrates, slightly paraphrased, likened trust or reputation to a fire – far easier to keep lit than relight if allowed to be extinguished. Yet the reputation of the body which employs them seems to be far removed from the priorities of those for whom impulsively satisfying their self-interest (without on occasions any apparent rational thought) can seem to be their primary motivation. At the end of the day “me” is more important to this cohort than “we”. Because it became evident to me that the damage done to people and the institutions of society both by (a) the minority of “disordered” people and (b) the lack of appreciation of what constitutes a “Personality Disorder” by the majority of “responsible” people, appears to be so great, this IS an issue which needs to be seriously addressed at every level of local, national and international society, if sensible, rational and harmonious cooperation and progress is to be permitted, maintained and prioritised. Indeed after 25 years of personally failing to properly understand those I can now describe as “disordered people’,  these are amongst the reasons I decided what seems like a lifetime ago back in 2013 to start dealing with this issue myself by starting to research and write about this scenario which seems to be an integral part of human history, to the detriment of society when people who innately seem to prefer conflict to cooperation are permitted to prevail.

Given the considerable impact leaders can have on many aspects of organisational and even national life, from highly positive and constructive to deeply negative and destructive, John Milton’s astute observation in 1667 that: 

“the mind is its own place, and in itself

can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven” 

could be as apt today, describing the impact of strong personalities on the prevailing culture of not only the organisations they both lead and mis-lead, but even the nations.

While many leaders may be well capable of making a heaven of hell, others are more naturally disposed to making a hell of heaven. Employees unfortunate enough to work in the “Five C Environments” of “Counterproductively Competitive & Combative Corporate Cultures” may well describe the resulting environment as Paradise Lost”.

Intolerance of low integrity by leaders of high personal integrity with a strong conscience ensures unethical acts are not condoned and are unlikely to be repeated, given the more constructive, cooperative, honest, harmonious and less adversarial culture which “Constructive Leaders” engender throughout their organisation, being based on positivity, praise and encouragement rather than negativity, critique, fear, discouragement and blame.

However the acceptance of low integrity by “Destructive Leaders” of a lesser calibre ensures instances are not only permitted but probably encouraged and hence more likely to recur by the more combative, fearful and destructive nature of the culture prevalent within their organisation.

As far as leadership is concerned, all the intelligence in the world is of little or no value, if none of it is emotional.

Psychopath or Sociopath?

Although this body of work details how deeply inappropriate those with any combination from a range of personality disorders are for positions of responsibility in society, including Narcissistic and Borderline from “Cluster B” and Paranoid from “Cluster A”, perhaps the most inappropriate people possible for managerial and leadership roles, with a prerequisite being requiring consideration of the interests and needs of people other than themselves (“stakeholders”) and the organisation whose best interest they are expected to prioritise, are Psychopaths, sometimes referred to as Sociopaths. All avail of what this work describes as their “ICE characteristics” (of Intelligence, Charisma and Eloquence, despite many being ice-cold emotionally) to reach seniority of position in organisations in every sector of every nation for which, for many reasons proposed in this research, they could not be more ill-equipped, given that ultimately the only people they care about are themselves and their unique vision sees the entity which employs them as an opportunity to satisfy their self-serving goals, rather than serve. At its most basic, their minds seem to primarily consider matters from the perspective of “what’s in it for me?” and their goals include “getting their own way” and “winning at all costs” irrespective of the consequences. While some use these two terms interchangeably, others argue that there are subtle differences between psychopaths and sociopaths. Irrespective of the perspective, the traits are either identical or similar and only differ in degree of severity of personality impairment and inappropriateness for roles of responsibility. While “psychopathy” will subsequently be discussed in greater detail, a short introduction may be appropriate at this stage as an indication of how inappropriate these often charming yet deeply and innately self-centred and deceitful people can be in supervisory, managerial and especially leadership roles, when the “tone at the top” they engender may transpire to be more fearful, intimidatory, conflict-driven, secretive, negative, unethical and destructive than pleasant, cooperative, collaborative, open, honest, ethical, positive and constructive. Psychopath, being derived from psyche (mind) and pathos (disease), in effect refers to “mental illness”. Psychopathy is not only often and perhaps understandably misunderstood, but is also frequently confused with  “anti-social personality disorder” and “sociopathy”, a term for many interchangeable with “psychopathy”. Leading researcher Prof Robert D Hare states that “many, researchers, clinicians and writers use the terms psychopath and sociopath interchangeably. Sometimes the term sociopathy is used because it is less likely than is psychopathy to be confused with psychotism or insanity”. Psychopaths “are not mad, according to accepted legal and psychiatric standards. Their acts result not from a deranged mind but from a cold, calculating rationality combined with a chilling inability to treat others as thinking, feeling human beings. Such morally incomprehensible behaviour, exhibited by a seemingly normal person, leaves us feeling bewildered and helpless”. “A frightful and perplexing theme runs through the case history of all psychopaths: a deeply disturbing inability to care about the pain and suffering experienced by others – in short, a complete lack of empathy, the prerequisite for love.” “The same individual therefore could be diagnosed as a sociopath by one expert and as a psychopath by another… In many cases the choice of term reflects the user’s views on the origins and determinants of the clinical syndrome or disorder” (Hare, 1993): Sociopath, Hare suggests, is the term preferred by clinicians, researchers and many sociologists and criminologists who believe the syndrome is “forged entirely by social forces and early experiences” (or nurture). Psychopath is preferred by clinicians and researchers who believe that “psychological, biological and genetic factors ALSO contribute to development of the syndrome” (or nature AND nurture). Antisocial Personality Disorder is described by the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) by way of “a long list of both antisocial and criminal behaviours” to assist diagnosis. These though may not be as applicable to those who engage in more covertly dishonest, deceitful, manipulative or impulsive and emotionally damaging (cruel and self-satisfying) behaviour in business, organisational or political life, inconsiderate of the harmful consequences for others (and such is their impulsivity, even themselves). Indeed damaging others emotionally, including by way of character assassination (often not only falsely but delusionally), may actually be their goal and be more typical of psychopathy, even if their behaviour is not overtly anti-social. Some are far too clever for that. Hare explains that when the DSM was initially released it was assumed that the average clinical psychologist was not expected to be able to reliably assess personality traits such as empathy, egocentricity and guilt and as a consequence diagnosis was based on what clinicians could more readily assess: objective, socially deviant behaviour. Antisocial Personality Disorder (ASPD) thus predominantly refers to a cluster of criminal and antisocial behaviours whereas the far more stringent Psychopathy is defined by a cluster of BOTH adverse personality traits including impulsivity and a profound lack of empathy, warm emotions and any semblance of guilt/remorse (essentially a lack of conscience) AND more apparent socially deviant behaviours. While neither psychopaths nor sociopaths are known for their subtlety, indeed they can be extraordinarily tactless especially in situations when tact is most required, some psychologists describe what they believe the subtle differences to be  (Robinson, 2014): Their key points are as follows:
  1. Most experts believe psychopaths and sociopaths share a similar set of traits. People like this have a poor inner sense of right and wrong. They also can’t seem to understand or share another person’s feelings. But there are some differences, too.
  2. Do They Have a Conscience? A key difference between a psychopath and a sociopath is whether he has a conscience, the little voice inside that lets us know when we’re doing something wrong.
  3. A psychopath doesn’t have a conscience. If he lies to you so he can steal your money, he won’t feel any moral qualms, though he may pretend to. He may observe others and then act the way they do so he’s not “found out.”
  4. A sociopath typically has a conscience, but it’s weak. They may know that taking your money is wrong, and they might feel some guilt or remorse, but that won’t stop their behaviour.
  5. Both lack empathy, the ability to stand in someone else’s shoes and understand how they feel. But a psychopath has less regard for others, Someone with this personality type sees others as objects he can use for his own benefit.
  6. It’s not easy to spot a psychopath. They can be intelligent, charming and good at mimicking emotions.
  7. They may pretend to be interested in you, but in reality, they probably don’t care. “They’re skilled actors whose sole mission is to manipulate people for personal gain.
  8. Sociopaths are less able to play along. They make it plain that they’re not interested in anyone but themselves. They often blame others and have excuses for their behaviour.
  9. Some experts see sociopaths as “hot-headed.” They act without thinking how others will be affected.
  10. Psychopaths are more “cold-hearted” and calculating. They carefully plot their moves, and use aggression in a planned-out way to get what they want. If they’re after more money or status in the office, for example, they’ll make a plan to take out any barriers that stand in the way, even if it’s another person’s job or reputation.
  11. Recent research suggests a psychopath’s brain is not like other people’s. It may have physical differences that make it hard for the person to identify with someone else’s distress.
  12. The differences can even change basic body functions. For example, when most people see blood or violence in a movie, their hearts beat faster, their breathing quickens and their palms get sweaty.
  13. A psychopath has the opposite reaction. He gets calmer and that quality helps psychopaths be fearless and engage in risky behaviour.
  14. They don’t fear the consequences of their actions.
  15. Only some are violent. Many are skilled at climbing their way up the corporate ladder, even if they have to hurt someone to get there.
  16. If you recognise some of these traits in a family member or coworker, you may be tempted to think you’re living or working with a psychopath or sociopath. But just because a person is mean or selfish, it doesn’t necessarily mean they have a disorder.
It is very important to appreciate that many selfish people may not have a disorder at all, while many quite self-centred people may be “narcissists”, a colloquial term often associated with being capable of being diagnosed with “Narcissistic Personalty Disorder” or NPD, which will also be discussed in due course in more detail. Those we describe as “Disordered Leaders” could also have traits indicative of the other “Cluster B” disorders – Borderline and Histrionic – and/or one of the “Cluster A” disorders – Paranoid Personality Disorder – especially if they are suspicious and distrustful of others. One of the key points though is that all psychopaths are deeply narcissistic, but the vast majority of narcissists would not qualify for diagnosis with psychopathy. In all likelihood few narcissists or psychopaths will ever be required to meet a psychiatrist or psychologist. They won’t volunteer as by and large they believe themselves to be normal as they blame anyone, everyone and everything else for the myriad of problems and challenges they create (and thrive on). Nor will others require them to, because most non psychologists do not know how to recognise them for what they really are – amongst life’s most dangerous people. As a result they can hold a disproportionate number of positions of responsibility, despite being extraordinarily irresponsible. “Psychopathy” is described by another leading clinical psychology researcher, Prof David J, Cooke, as follows: “Psychopathy is an important forensic construct, and a personality disorder, that is, a chronic disturbance in an individual’s relations with self, others and their environment resulting in distress or failure to fulfil social roles and obligations. [Psychopaths] are not only pathologically dominant, but they may also suffer from attachment difficulties, being detached, uncommitted and unempathic. In terms of emotional functioning they can be characterised as lacking anxiety, empathy and emotional depth, while cognitively they may be suspicious, intolerant and inflexible. Critical features of the disorder include deceptiveness, impulsivity and failure to stick to rules, which can make [them] hard to interview, manage and monitor. Psychopathy and cognate constructs can be assessed using a variety of procedures, including self-report, clinical criteria or, most commonly in the forensic arena, the [Hare] Psychopathy Checklist Revised and Psychopathy Checklist: Screening Version.” (Cooke, 2010). Whether the distinction between Psychopath and Sociopath is valid or relevant or not, their collective traits are very similar and the distinctions a matter of degree of inappropriateness for positions of responsibility. Some may indeed argue that Sociopathy is a slightly milder version of Psychopathy, for instance being capable of possessing or displaying a little conscience and a rudimentary empathy. Perhaps what this represents is not necessarily the labels we use such as Psychopath or Sociopath, rather that not all people have the same depth or severity of the colder or darker traits as others. Some exceptionally cold people can in some varying respects be slightly warmer than the most ice-cold and ruth-less, meaning “compassion-free”, with com-passion being the ability to share in or “with” the feelings of others experiencing some form of difficulty. Everyone is different after all and not even identical twins are identical in all respects. Nevertheless many people do seem to be so similar that psychologists can produce highly valid classifications which many do indeed seem to fit, some more closely than others and, factors by factor, in varying degrees of depth or shallowness of emotions than others. None will be able to love and be loved, show a really genuine concern for the needs of other people, nor show a greater interest in others than in themselves, which makes them far from desirable for roles which involve responsibility, directly or indirectly for the lives and emotions of others, when they cannot even manage their own in the manner that society expects of those trusted with responsible roles. The key point isn’t necessarily the distinction between Psychopath and Sociopath (if any), rather the significance of the traits they share, irrespective of degree, none of which society needs in those in positions of authority, especially with responsibility for other people. What is relevant is that they are very capable at pretending to show an interest in other people, although they primarily do so when this suits their own purposes, especially achieving their personal goals, no matter how trivial. Extraordinarily in impulsively pursuing achieving their own goals, they are as capable at scoring own goals, which can be as damaging to themselves as others. This can be further compounded by their inability to learn from their prior experiences in terms of altering their subsequent behaviour. Groundhog Day can be every day. They CAN even appear to have a conscience but (and this distinction is key) only when their self-interest is uninvolved in the situation. When the situation is general and doesn’t involve them they can even appear to be quite responsible, sometimes deeply responsible and even quite conscientious. However, as soon as their self-interest becomes an issue, as basic as getting their own way in a matter from significant to apparently meaningless, suddenly and without any apparent warning, winning at all costs becomes of primary concern and nothing else seems to matter. Those familiar with this trait could testify that it is as if all other factors are simply not considered at all, indeed seem to be either totally ignored or dismissed as being inconsequential, such is their impulsive necessity not only to win but also to be seen to win. This can especially be so if their (major or minor) victory results in others demonstrably losing, which can seem to give them an inordinate degree of pleasure. I am sure in due course that neuroscientists will sometime be able to prove, especially using fMRI technology, that when their self-interest is switched on, those brain regions associated with rational, pro-social thought processes appear to become disengaged. Indeed neuroscience may even be able to prove what some suspect may actually be happening in their minds when they evaluate a situation or decision – “what’s in it for me?” When self-interest becomes switched on, their ability to evaluate other considerations (and consequences) appears to become instantly disengaged or totally switched off. They then appear to proceed, sometimes rapidly or instantaneously, to make decisions or act in a manner designed to satisfy or prioritise their self-interest, whatever this may be in the circumstances (even if it transpires not to be as beneficial as they expected). It is the immediate sense of “winning” that seems to be important. The real reason for their decision or action may not always be apparent to others until some considerable time later, if at all, such can be either their powers of charm and persuasion, deceit and manipulation, or else the fear they can instantly instil in people. This can be scary when first experienced, sometimes accompanied by a cold, hard stare which others (who can experience fear) may find to be quite unnerving and could force them to realise that agreeing with everything they want to do in future is the far preferable course of action. Their deep impetuosity can even be mistaken for the valuable trait of decisiveness, which it is not. Rather it is their impulsive necessity to personally prevail or satisfy themselves, irrespective of the cost to others. This includes the people they are supposed to be responsible for and the organisation which quite unwittingly employs them, unaware of their true traits, well hidden by the “mask of normality” they habitually wear, quickly dropped when their self-interest becomes an issue, revealing their actual, deeply self-centred, cold and uncaring selves. When their impulsivity is combined with their extreme self-centredness and absolute inconsideration for the interests, needs, feelings and concerns of others, this makes this small subgroup of society even more inappropriate for positions of responsibility which they simply cannot be trusted to perform in the manner others, indeed society, expects of them. These and many other matters led to the initial definition of a “Disordered Leader” I proposed for discussion and refinement at the International Vincentian Business Ethics Conference (IVBEC) held in Dublin in October 2019:
“Someone trusted with supervisory, managerial or leadership responsibilities who, due to what may be indicative of a mental and/or personality disorder(s), could be considered to be incapable of consistently responsible, trustworthy, harmonious, prosocial and accountable management or leadership with integrity, including prioritising the interests of stakeholders other than themselves, especially when this may impede satisfying their self-interest.”
The fact that the most “ruth-less” (meaning sympathy-free) have been shown to so readily and perhaps unwittingly and naturally engage in high levels of pathological lying and deceit, cunning manipulation and egocentric, callous and impulsive behaviour, characterised by a consistent lack of responsibility, empathy, kindness, remorse and conscience, are also well versed in using their charm, confidence, eloquence and arrogance to hide their true traits even from experienced psychologists, poses many challenges for global society, and has done for millennia, especially when they believe themselves to be “normal” and see nothing wrong with words and deeds which many other people wouldn’t or couldn’t even countenance. Those familiar with their tendencies may well have reason to always be slightly careful with if not scared of such people, knowing their impulsivity may result in the necessity to “walk on eggshells” in their presence given their propensity for sudden anger outbursts. Ironically their inability to control their own emotions may also be accompanied by a necessity to “control” other people and situations. Given my own varied and mixed, but ultimately always unsatisfactory, experiences during my own career with over 300 organisations on all continents (bar Antarctica) with over 50 people possessing what I refer to as the “ICE Characteristics” of being Intelligent, Charming and Eloquent, but also quite irresponsible and deceitful, people I now describe as “Disordered Leaders”, I would propose that as such dangerous people may even threaten the long-term viability of the organisation itself, when erroneously employed in senior roles within the organisations and entities of global society they need to be considered and referred to as being a “viability liability”. That is why at that US IVBEC business ethics conference I proposed that the steps the rest of society needs to take to protect itself from such leaders include:
  1. Identify these abnormal people, by way of their own “Destructive Leadership” behaviour, as being different from the norm,
  2. Stop them achieving positions of influence & responsibility throughout global society, or if already in situ
  3. Learn how to behave differently towards them (“denying narcissistic supply”),
  4. Adapt to (not) respond to their sometimes extraordinary actions & reactions (evident due to their “maladaptive” inflexibility), to
  5. Minimise the damage & havoc they will inevitably create and preferably replace them with far more responsible people who do meet the “Constructive Leadership” criteria, knowing they will “do whatever it takes” and go to any lengths to maintain the power they should never have been trusted with in the first place.
Those who see nothing wrong in words, deeds and actions which many others couldn’t even countenance, who seem to operate within their own parameters of what many be right and wrong, especially when others may see these as being confused and bizarre but they believe to be entirely normal and the way they have always lived life and dealt with other people, thriving on discouragement, disagreement, dissent, disruption, disharmony and even outright conflict rather than harmonious cooperation, may indeed have something wrong with them.

Discouraging, fearful and distressing or positive, encouraging and motivational leaders and environments?

Surely discouraging, fearful and even distressing environments are a severe indictment on management of such organisations? So why do some leaders appear more encouraging, welcoming, cooperative and conscientious than others? Why do we associate aggression rather than agreeableness with strength of character? We need to better appreciate that intimidation and aggression produce fear, anxiety and discouragement, which actually prevent our minds from thinking positively and creatively. Yet we trust far too many (untrustworthy and irresponsible) people with responsibility for other people in groups who regularly and sometimes routinely  rather than exceptionally engage in various forms of aggressive and intimidatory behaviour. Which makes one wonder why we trust the lives and emotions of other people to those who cannot even successfully manage their own emotions? Neuroscientists explain that when people are satisfied, content and indeed happy, they avail of one set of brain regions which allows them to be at their best and most creative, seeking cooperation and wanting to fully engage, while when they are scared, fearful or unhappy, they avail of a different and rival set of brain regions (only one of which can appear to be active at any given time) more likely to bring out the worst in them, the response triggered when they are disrespected rather than encouraged by others. Hence the importance of leaders and managers behaving in a predominantly positive manner – cajoling, encouraging, motivating and even inspiring those they have responsibility for, even when they have not quite performed to their potential, which those with ample “emotional intelligence” are often very well equipped to both realise and practice. Extraordinarily those who put-down, humiliate, disrespect and bully others can somehow be associated with “strength” rather than “weakness” of both leadership and character, perhaps even a “PERSONALITY DISORDER”. Yet too many who select and elect people to seniority of position in all branches of society are somehow attracted to those who initially give the impression of being “Intelligent, Charming and Eloquent”, even if they transpire to be ICE-cold emotionally. “Disordered Leaders”  (definition proposed later) have a particular expertise at hiding their true self-centredness behind the “mask of normality” they habitually wear… until their self-interest or pride or both is in any way threatened, when their mask can be instantly dropped to reveal their true inner-coldness and quite ruth-less persona, meaning devoid of any sympathy or compassion for others and indeed lack of any genuine interest in anyone or anything other than themselves. Yet these are the people that global society continues to select or elect to its most responsible positions and indeed would appear to have done so throughout human history. Just like one of their deepest cognitive deficiencies, do we not seem to learn from our prior mistakes? How many more corporate collapses, skulduggeries, conflicts within and between organisations and even wars between nations do we need before we see through the lies, deceit and deceptions of the charmingly unscrupulous and instead choose leaders who possess the right personality for the task at hand? Those who know that “there is no right way to do a wrong thing”? There is an expression from the world of finance, especially advocated by professional accountants, being experienced business advisors, that “turnover is vanity, but profit is sanity”. The wonderful world we share may benefit from differentiating between vanity and sanity, being less attracted by the claims of the vain in favour of the greater merits of the sane, even if less apparently thrilling or exciting and ultimately are more modest than proud. For Leadership and Management to further evolve, it requires those whose expertise includes motivation, not humiliation, encouragement not discouragement, respect not disrespect, inclusion not exclusion, collaboration not conflict and long-term vision, not short-sighted myopia, preferably with a demonstrably greater interest in the entity and people being led than themselves. For businesses, other types of organisations and even nations to evolve, they need to be led and managed by the right people, with a genuine concern for the task, interest in the people involved, desire to make sensible and rational progress and possessing the variety of talents required for the role, notably the most appropriately conscientious, honest and responsibly “constructive” personality. People of integrity. Society needs to appreciate how to identify what this body of research refers to as “Disordered Leaders” who practice “Destructive Leadership” and deny then the positions of power they are incapable of using for the purposes intended, which they will inevitably misuse including for personal advantage and abuse even further when their position of authority may be threatened. If only we knew how to identify those with the most appropriate personality possible for our most responsible roles, indeed for any position of responsibility in society, those this research refers to as “Constructive Leaders”, who can be trusted to responsibly act as supervisors, team leaders, managers and leaders of organisations and nations, especially when they are capable of showing a genuine interest in and concern for the people and entity they lead and act accordingly, by demonstrably prioritising their interests and needs and those of the entity at large, notably when these may conflict with their own, which builds trust and enhances reputation. Those whose primary interest is their self-interest just do not have the right personality to lead the areas of global society they are trusted with responsibility for in the sensible and considerate direction which will leave the entity, organisation, state or nation in a better position when they depart then when they arrived. As far as leadership is concerned, all the intelligence in the world is of little or no value if none of it is emotional, as humility beats humiliation any time, any place, anywhere and in any situation. Leadership involves encouragement not discouragement and bringing out the best rather than worst in the people they lead, if they are to collectively, collaboratively and constructively achieve the goals the entity was formed to satisfy, not the self-centred whims of “Disordered Leaders”. This is especially so of those who seem to thrive on disagreement, dissent and conflict while preferring disharmony and even chaos to harmonious, sensible and rational progress, utopian goals which too many organisations, employees, nations and citizens throughout global society are alas denied when they make the avoidable mistake of hiring, promoting, selecting or electing the wrong type of person or people to provide the “Constructive Leadership” they ultimately are incapable of. The vast majority of people are unfortunately far too susceptible to the charm, manipulation and deceit closely associated with the “Cluster B” or “Dark Triad” grouping of personality disorders, being amongst the most convincing and indeed “successful” liars ever born. Being so focussed on themselves and lacking empathy, guilt, remorse, fear, ethics, morals, interest in others or indeed warm emotions and many of the factors which collectively contribute to possessing an “active consistence”, satisfying their self-interest becomes their primary goal in life. Consequently they take advantage of and manipulate both situations and people to satisfy their insatiable need to (at its most basic) “get their own way” and “win at all costs”. Being extraordinarily self-centred, cold, calculating and deeply impulsive, they are quite unconcerned with the implications of their utterances, decisions and actions or any adverse consequences for either other people or the organisation which made the mistake of employing or promoting them. This error is frequently recognised far too late, when they then (again predictably) go to great lengths to maintain the position of power which such unreliable and untrustworthy people should never have been trusted with in the first place. This makes it all the more imperative that others, notably decision-makers and those who select people for seniority of position or indeed any managerial role across global society, learn how to more readily identify this minority of society and deny them the positions of power which they crave but ultimately and quite inevitably and predictably can only abuse. While too few “Disordered Leaders” will ever be required to receive psychological assistance despite the damage they can do to other people and organisations, indeed to the very fabric of society, specific diagnoses with one or a combination of recognised Personality Disorders including Borderline (BPD), Narcissistic (NPD), Histrionic (HPD), Antisocial (ASPD), Paranoid, Sadistic, Neurotic or Psychopathy, also evident in behaviour described as Machiavellian or Malignant Narcissism, or in extremis Psychotic or Schizophrenic, is of course particularly relevant to mental health professionals, especially psychiatrists (medical doctors who specialise in mental welfare) and psychologists. Diagnosis with one or perhaps more of the recognised Personality Disorders guides professional consideration of the matter, including treatment. Yet the primary requirement for everyone else without their specialised training and experience is to recognise that those who seem to be behaving unusually or making perverse decisions and treating other people with deep disrespect may not actually be “normal”, may be “different” and hence need to be treated quite differently from others if they are not to be permitted to continue causing harm and havoc for both people and institutions. People with identifiable Personality Disorders can be “found in every race, culture, society and walk of life”, so one of the most critical matters to appreciate is that as “Disordered Leaders” see things differently, experience people differently, perceive many matters differently, think differently, behave differently and inhabit a quite different world from most others in society, it is imperative that they be recognised by decision-makers as being substantially different from the norm, being consummate actors hiding their true selves much of the time, hence need to be dealt with significantly differently, including denying them positions of power which they can only abuse, if they are no longer to be permitted to continue to damage the world that everyone else inhabits. Trying to deal with such “different” people “normally” may transpire to be an exercise in utter futility and indeed quite ineffectual, especially given the deep disconnect between what they say, what they commit to doing and what they subsequently do, or don’t or won’t do, unless also likely to satisfy their primary interest – their self-interest – given that their approach to many situations appears to be to instantly and perhaps impulsively consider “what’s in it for me?” Until this is recognised – and indeed they themselves are recognised as being different from the norm – any progress in dealing with the myriad of problems they both pose and create is highly unlikely. As Prof Robert D Hare describes in his influential book “Without Conscience”, many of their “successes” in life are at the expense of others. This may either be their goal or simply just not their concern as they leave a trail of havoc and destruction behind them, far too often moving from one job to another, only to repeat their troublemaking in another environment. Because “Disordered Leaders” who (mal) practice “Destructive Leadership” do inhabit a different world, the rest of the world would benefit from appreciating the importance of being able to identify them, to deny them the opportunity of damaging the world in which many others, including “Constructive Leaders”, do their best to live in collaboratively and harmoniously, in the company of many other decent, kind and encouraging people, with a genuine interest in both other people and whatever they may be interested in. Given the quite extraordinary disconnect between their words, deeds, actions and reactions, not one word they utter can be believed, no matter how apparently earnest their delivery. As they are well capable of “doing the opposite” of what they undertook or promised a short while earlier, one of the most apt pieces of advice in dealing with this cohort of people is to “first believe the opposite” of what they say or assert, until independently verified, as this may transpire to be closer to the truth or reality of the natter, given that their sense of reality may differ from that of almost everyone involved in whatever the situation may be. My fellow Dubliner Oscar Wilde, while attending a very boring dinner, was asked by the hostess whether he was enjoying himself. He replied “madam, it is about the only thing I am enjoying”. As well as dinner guests, Oscar could also have been referring to the best and worst of society’s leaders when he observed that: “some cause happiness wherever they go; others whenever they go”. As we say in Ireland: “Ní neart go cur le chéile” or we are only strong when we work together.

What is personality?

Personality describes individual differences in characteristic patterns of thinking, feeling and behaving. It is who we are and what makes us different from other people. Personality refers to people’s overall predispositions to display certain behavioural and attitudinal patterns. For example, some people are very outgoing and talkative while others are reserved and speak less. “Personality embraces moods, attitudes and opinions and is most clearly expressed in interactions with other people. It includes behavioural characteristics, both inherent and acquired, that distinguish one person from another and that can be observed in people’s relations to the environment and to social groups. Personality has been defined in many ways, but as a psychological concept two main meanings have evolved. The first pertains to the consistent differences that exist between people: in this sense, the study of personality focuses on classifying and explaining relatively stable human psychological characteristics. The second meaning emphasises those qualities that make all people alike and that distinguish the psychological human from other species; it directs the personality theorist to search for those regularities among all people that define the nature of man as well as the factors that influence the course of lives. This duality may help explain the two directions that personality studies have taken: on the one hand, the study of ever more specific qualities in people and, on the other, the search for the organised totality of psychological functions that emphasises the interplay between organic and psychological events within people and those social and biological events that surround them. The study of personality can be said to have its origins in the fundamental idea that people are distinguished by their characteristic individual patterns of behaviour—the distinctive ways in which they walk, talk, furnish their living quarters, or express their urges. Whatever the behaviour, personality researchers examine how people differ in the ways they express themselves and attempt to determine the causes of these differences. Although other fields of psychology examine many of the same functions and processes, such as attention, thinking, or motivation, the personality researcher places emphasis on how these different processes become integrated to give each person a distinctive identity, or personality. “The systematic psychological study of personality emerged from a number of different sources, including psychiatric case studies that focused on lives in distress, from philosophy, which explores the nature of humanity and from physiology, anthropology and social psychology. The systematic study of personality as a recognisable and separate discipline within psychology could be said to have begun in the 1930s with the publication in the USA of two textbooks, Psychology of Personality (1937) by Ross Stagner and Personality: A Psychological Interpretation (1937) by Gordon W. Allport, followed by Henry A. Murray’s Explorations in Personality (1938), which contained a set of experimental and clinical studies and by Gardner Murphy’s integrative and comprehensive text, Personality: A Biosocial Approach to Origins and Structure (1947). Yet personality research can also trace its ancestry to the ancient Greeks, who proposed a sort of biochemical theory of personality”. Personality has also been described as: “the enduring configuration of characteristics and behaviour that comprises an individual’s unique adjustment to life, including major traits, interests, drives, values, self-concept, abilities and emotional patterns. Personality is generally viewed as a complex, dynamic integration or totality shaped by many forces, including hereditary and constitutional tendencies; physical maturation; early training; identification with significant individuals and groups; culturally conditioned values and roles; and critical experiences and relationships. Various theories explain the structure and development of personality in different ways, but all agree that personality helps determine behaviour” (American Psychological Association or APA).

Five Factors

Psychologists for many decades, along with other social scientists, have been trying to determine if people universally exhibit identifiable clusters of personality traits. Applying factor analysis to many questions about personality traits to large samples of people throughout the world has led researchers to a high degree of high level consensus.

Specifically, at the highest order of generality, there appear to be five major personality dimensions which have come to be known as the Five Factors or Big Five. In alphabetical order, the Big Five are: Agreeableness, Conscientiousness, Emotional stability, Extraversion and Openness to experiences (Goldberg 1993; John & Srivastava 1999; McCrae & Costa 1999; Gurven et al. 2013). Emotional stability is often referred to by way of its opposite: Neuroticism. While the other four are predominantly healthy factors, Neuroticism is the most disturbing element or dimension of the Five-Factor personality model and the related Big Five personality model, characterised by a chronic level of emotional instability and proneness to psychological distress. “Neuroticism is the state of being neurotic or a proneness to neurosis, any one of a variety of mental disorders characterised by significant anxiety or other distressing emotional symptoms, such as persistent and irrational fears, obsessive thoughts, compulsive acts, dissociative states and somatic and depressive reactions. Compared with the more extreme Psychosis, the symptoms of Neurosis do not involve gross personality disorganisation, total lack of insight, or loss of contact with reality, but are nevertheless not traits which society would benefit from when present in its leaders. In psychoanalysis, “neuroses” are generally viewed as exaggerated, unconscious methods of coping with internal conflicts and the anxiety they produce. Most of the disorders that used to be called neuroses are now classified as anxiety disorders.” (APA) A “personality trait” is a characteristic pattern of thinking, feeling, or behaving that tends to be consistent over time and across relevant situations. The Big Five are a set of five broad, bipolar “trait dimensions” that constitute the most widely used model of personality structure. A considerable body of research has examined personality stability and change across the life span, as well as the influence of personality traits on important life outcomes, in terms of the Big Five. (Soto, 2018). The order by which the Big Five factors are described often depends on the matter being researched and the consequent correlation between the various factors, but they are also frequently displayed by way of the acronyms CANOE or especially OCEAN: Openness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness & Neuroticism. The Big-Five model of personality traits may be the most popular model of personality traits among personality psychologists. There are a variety of measures of the Big Five factors, with the Big Five Inventory of BFI, a frequently used 44-item assessment developed by John & Srivastava, using both facets and “trait adjectives” for each of the five factors: This is a short outline of the five factors together with the facets and trait adjectives often used to explain and analyse them: Openness to Experience: Highly open individuals have a broad rather than narrow range of interests, are sensitive rather than indifferent to art and beauty, and prefer novelty to routine. The Big Five Inventory Openness (as opposed to closedness to experience) facets (and correlated trait adjectives) are Ideas (curious), Fantasy (imaginative), Aesthetics (artistic), Actions (wide interests), Feelings (excitable) and Values (unconventional). Conscientiousness: Conscientious individuals are task focused and orderly, rather than distractible and disorganised. The Big Five Inventory Conscientiousness (as opposed to lack of direction) facets (and correlated trait adjectives) are Competence (efficient), Order (organised), Dutifulness (not careless), Achievement striving (thorough), Self-discipline (not lazy) and Deliberation (not impulsive). Extraversion: Highly extraverted individuals are assertive and sociable, rather than quiet and reserved. The Big Five Inventory Extraversion (as opposed to introversion) facets (and correlated trait adjectives) are Gregariousness (sociable), Assertiveness (forceful), Activity (energetic), Excitement-seeking (adventurous), Positive emotions (enthusiastic) and Warmth (outgoing). Agreeableness: Agreeable individuals are cooperative and polite, rather than antagonistic and rude. The Big Five Inventory Agreeableness vs. (as opposed to antagonism) facets (and correlated trait adjectives) are Trust (forgiving), Straightforwardness (not demanding), Altruism (warm), Compliance (not stubborn), Modesty (not show-off) and Tender-mindedness (sympathetic). Neuroticism: Neurotic individuals are prone to experiencing negative emotions, such as anxiety, depression and irritation, rather than being emotionally resilient. They tend to worry or ponder a great deal and are prone to having their feelings easily hurt. Emotional stability is concerned with being comfortably rather than excessively or inadequately self-confident, not prone to major mood swings and being even-tempered, especially when facing challenges and in coping with threats. The Big Five Inventory Neuroticism (as opposed to emotional stability) facets (and correlated trait adjectives) are Anxiety (tense), Angry hostility (irritable), Depression (not contented), Self-consciousness (shy), Impulsiveness (moody) and Vulnerability (not self-confident). The Big Five/Five Factor Model was developed to represent as much of the variability in individuals’ personalities as possible, using only a small set of trait dimensions. Many personality psychologists agree that its five domains capture the most important, basic individual differences in personality traits and that many alternative trait models can be conceptualised in terms of the Big Five/FFM structure (Soho & Jackson, 2018).

The Dark Triad 

Before we discuss Personality Disorders in general and “Cluster B” and the related “Dark Triad” in particular, we should perhaps consider “what is normal?” The American Psychological Association define NORMALITY as “a broad concept that is roughly the equivalent of mental health. Although there are no absolutes and there is considerable cultural variation, some flexible psychological and behavioural criteria can be suggested:
  1. freedom from incapacitating internal conflicts;
  2. the capacity to think and act in an organised and reasonably effective manner;
  3. the ability to cope with the ordinary demands and problems of life;
  4. freedom from extreme emotional distress, such as anxiety, despondency and persistent upset; and
  5. the absence of clear-cut symptoms of mental disorder, such as obsessions, phobias, confusion and disorientation.”
The Dark Triad (DT) is a collection of three interrelated, malevolent personality constructs: Narcissism, Psychopathy and Machiavellianism with the common denominator of disagreeableness. (Paulhus & Williams, 2002). Dark Triad research has grown exponentially in recent decades, with much of the literature focusing on establishing the profiles of socially aversive personalities. Studies investigating the Dark Triad with other personality traits have suggested that all the three relate to low honesty and low agreeableness. This suggests that the core of the Dark Triad lies in dishonesty, coldness and manipulation.

Narcissism may be the least dark of the dark traits, with an extraverted approach-oriented attitude to life, but also dominance, entitlement and superiority (Emmons, 1984).

Psychopathy especially relates to low empathy and emotional intelligence, which could facilitate exploitation of others.

Machiavellianism is distinguish by a combination of manipulativeness and a superficial or glib social charm (Christie & Geis, 1970). The tendency to lie is shared with Psychopathy associated with pathological lying and other deceptive behaviours. (McHoskey, Worzel, & Szyarto, 1998).

Lying, especially complex deceit, involves a significant cognitive or metal input, which seems to be less demanding on and more pleasurable for Psychopaths, indeed has been linked to positive emotions. Machiavellianism lying has been more associated with an increased mental effort, especially associated with deception. (Baughman et al, 2014).iv

Psychopathy and Narcissism relate to higher risk-taking and impulsivity as well as low empathy (Hare, 1985)v whereas individuals high in Machiavellianism can display a more cautious approach to life.

The exploitative, selfish nature of those high in the Dark Triad has led to theories trying to explain the existence of these traits from evolutionary perspective. One of the most commonly applied theories are the LHT, which posits that these traits are adaptive in the context of “fast strategies”. The Dark Triad traits could also facilitate a “Cheater Strategy”, which could be adaptive in extracting resources from the environment by the means of using others.

According to “Life History Theory” (LHT), fast life strategists are those who, possibly as a consequence of an unpredictable environment experienced during their childhood, favour behaviours that require minimal investment but offer fast gratification (Buss, 2015). Evidence indicates that they tend to prefer risk-taking behaviour (Griskevicius et al., 2011).

In essence they want what they want, now, and woe behold anyone who gets in their way of they “getting their own way” and “winning at all costs.

Individuals who score high on Dark Triad personality traits have been found to prefer a fast life strategy with “enhanced motivation for immediate resource acquisition and short-term benefits”, associated with a biased, strongly present-oriented time perspective and quite deviant from a balanced time perspective (BTP) or the difference between individuals’ time perception and the optimal time perspective, as well as the person-oriented approach of identifying groups of individuals with similar time perception, as it can alter with age.

Birkas et al found that Machiavellianism and Psychopathy were both found to be clearly deviant from a BTP, or wanted what they wanted immediately, higher scores on Narcissism were positively associated with a BTP profile, but only in the more elderly, suggesting they had learned over time that patience was virtue, even if few exhibited it (Birkás et al, 2018).

With “short-termism” associated with many low and high profile business ethics failures, this finding would suggest all three members of the Dark Triad are capable of putting short-term advantage (notably personal gain including “inter-personal winning” such as “getting their own way, now”)  before the best interests of their organisation (or nation), without the balancing of risk and reward which would typically be expected of responsible senior executives.

Men generally report higher scores on Machiavellianism and Psychopathy than women (eg Jonason et al., 2013), with this gender or sex difference usually explained by the generally faster life history strategy of men as compared to women (e.g., Furnham et al, 2013, Birkás et al, 2018).

Psychopathy and Machiavellianism have been found to be low in femininity, with Narcissism high in masculinity and low in femininity (Jonason and Davis, 2018).xiii

Narcissism has been well researched as a ,standalone concept, notably Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), one of the primary disorders in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders of the American Psychiatric Association’s (DSM-5; APA, 2013), which only partially deals with the related but even more challenging member of the Dark Triad – Psychopathy.

Research on Narcissism has identified two dimensions: Grandiose and Vulnerable (Miller, Hoffman, et al., 2011; Pincus & Lukowitsky, 2010).

Grandiosely narcissistic individuals are characterised by exhibitionism, immodesty or lack of humility/modesty, interpersonal dominance, self-absorption, callousness, and manipulativeness.

Vulnerably narcissistic individuals are characterised by psychological distress, negative affectivity (anxiety, shame), low self-esteem, distrustfulness, egocentrism, reactive anger, and hostility, distrust, selfishness and a need for attention and recognition (Dickinson & Pincus, 2003; Miller, Price, Gentile, Lynam, & Campbell, 2012).

While the DSM-5 criteria are primarily associated with Grandiose narcissism (Fossati et al., 2005; Miller, Hoffman, Campbell, & Pilkonis, 2008), the complete DSM-5 NPD description makes it apparent that vulnerability is ALSO thought to be involved as well:

“Vulnerability in self-esteem makes individuals with narcissistic personality disorder very sensitive to ‘injury’ from criticism or defeat. Although they may not show it outwardly, criticism may haunt these individuals and may leave them feeling humiliated, degraded, hollow, and empty.” (APA, 2013, p. 671).

While most narcissism research has been on the more overt grandiose branch, more have been conducting research into the contrast between the grandiose and vulnerable elements, predominantly confirming the existence of the two and the differences between them (e.g., Maples, Lamkin, & Miller, 2014).

Indeed it could be argued that vulnerable narcissism might in the future be included with disorders such as Borderline, as grandiose narcissism appears to be a more natural fit with its Dark Triad companions of Machiavellianism and Psychopathy.

Dark Triad rather then specific factor research assesses the collective or concurrent impact of the triad, remembering that individuals who display socially aversive traits will cause problems in whatever arena they operate.

Whether they display higher or lower elements of specific factors of the triad (including the Sadism associated with the “Dark Tetrad”) will be of little solace for those who have no option but to deal with them.

However being able to identify some traits more than others may allow their potential “playthings” or “victims” to design their own response or coping strategies and tailor these to the specific challenges these individuals present, typically designed to minimise their deleterious impact on the entity which would probably operate more collectively, harmoniously and with greater collaboration and less conflict without them.

Those on the receiving end of their highly challenging behaviour would probably notice a core of some form of self-centred narcissism, none known for any degree of empathy towards others.

For instance while all psychopaths are narcissists, only a minority of narcissists would meet the psychopathy criteria such as the PCL-R associated with Robert D Hare.

The capacity to regulate emotions is critical to mental well-being. Indeed successful control of affect partially depends on the ability to modulate negative emotional responses by way of cognitive strategies, with some people far more capable of regulating emotions than others.

Neuroscientific research suggests under or over activation of specific brain regions including the limbic regions, amygdalae, anterior cingulate, nucleus accumbens and elements of the prefrontal cortex are associated with either more or less effective coping strategies or suppression of negative emotion when facing stressful situations (Phan et al, 2005).

The Dark Triad and Interpersonal Callousness

The Dark Triad personalities share many common features (Jonason, Kavanagh, Webster, & Fitzgerald, 2011; Paulhus & Williams, 2002). Their similarities have been considered to arise from a common interpersonal callousness with research (Douglas, Bore, & Munro, 2012; Jones & Figueredo, 2013; Jones & Paulhus, 2011) suggesting that manipulation and callousness accounted for the associations among the facet scores of the Psychopathy, Narcissism and Machiavellianism scales and impulsivity also with Psychopathy and Narcissism. This common feature involving a common underlying deficit in empathy helps explain why they share a reputation as socially aversive (Rauthmann, 2012; Wai & Tiliopoulos, 2012). All dark triad personalities were associated with deficits in affective empathy, but showed little evidence of impairment in cognitive empathy, with primary (factor one) psychopathy the main predictor of empathic deficits within the dark triad. Callousness (lack of empathy) leads inevitably to the tendency to manipulate others. In other cases, the Dark Triad members display markedly different behaviour: Ego-promoting outcomes (such as relentless boasting and bragging) are best predicted by Narcissism; those involving reckless antisocial behaviour (such as violence and vandalism) are best predicted by Psychopathy; with long-term scheming (such as elaborate fraud) best predicted by Machiavellianism (Furnham et al., 2013). Indeed Furnham et al pose the question “if the Dark Triad members are not interchangeable, then why are they always positively correlated – regardless of the instrument used to measure them? One possibility is a common underlying element (Paulhus & Williams, 2002). Among the strongest candidates are disagreeableness, honesty-humility, social exploitativeness, lack of empathy (callousness) and interpersonal antagonism.” In essence, the literature suggests that: (a) ego-enhancement goals drive narcissistic behaviour, whereas instrumental goals drive Machiavellian and psychopathic behaviour; (b) Machiavellianism differs from psychopathy with respect to impulsivity; (c) all three have a callous core that engenders manipulation of others (Jones & Paulhus, 2011a).

The Dark Triad and the Big 5 Personality Traits – Openness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness & Neuroticism (OCEAN)

At the most general level, all three traits of the Dark Triad are negatively associated with Big 5 Agreeableness (Wu & LeBreton, 2011), largely due to their socially pernicious nature (Kowalski, 2001; Paulhus & Williams, 2002). Narcissism and Machiavellianism are positively associated with Neuroticism, but Psychopathy is negatively related (cf., Wu & LeBreton, 2011). Machiavellianism and Psychopathy are negatively related to Conscientiousness. Narcissism and Psychopathy are positively associated with Openness and Extraversion (Digman, 1997). Metaanalysis has revealed a more fine-grained set of inter-relationships between the Big Five and the Dark Triad (O’Boyle, Forsyth, Banks, & McDaniel, 2012). Notably, Narcissism is aligned with low Agreeableness and high Extraversion—which is consistent with dominant, noncommunal motives (Horowitz et al., 2006). Machiavellianism is primarily aligned with low Agreeableness. Psychopathy is aligned with low Agreeableness and low Conscientiousness. An agreeable person is unlikely to be represented on the Dark Triad. This does not mean that, for instance, a person low in Agreeableness is high on any Dark Triad characteristic, rather that people high on the Dark Triad are usually disagreeable.

One High Profile Example of The Dark Triad of Personality: a “Disordered Leader”

“Scrutiny of former US President Donald Trump’s public character in the light of the most recent version of the APA’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-V) certainly suggests striking similarities between Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) diagnosis and Trump’s persona.
  1. According to DSM-V, individuals who have a NPD diagnosis are characterised, among other things, by grandiosity, attention seeking, unawareness of one’s own motivations and excessive attunement to reactions of others (but only if perceived as relevant to self).
  2. By analysing the speech content and Twitter behaviour of Mr. Trump, researchers have come to the conclusion that his communication is grandiose, simplistic, impulsive and uncivil (Ahmadian, Azarshahi, & Paulhus, 2017; Ott, 2017).
  3. Trump’s tweets are characterised by lavish statements about his achievements, coupled by vicious attacks towards anyone who dares to criticise him, or his “administration”.
  4. The fragile nature of Trump’s ego (typical of Vulnerable Narcissism) is reflected in the large number of offending remarks directed toward others, including his own employees, before they became his-ex employees.
  5. His emotional fragility was also evident in his penchant for hiring and firing people in senior roles who, unless considerably sycophantic, would soon become casualties of his inability to accept criticism, nor accept criticism or opinions other than his own “different” worldview, not unlike a primary school child saying “I’m not playing with you anymore”.
  6. The New York Times maintained a list of people, companies and places that Trump has insulted since becoming a president. These insults paint a picture of a person who is impulsive, aggressive and easily offended.
  7. The Washington Post maintained a list of what they viewed to be his lies and deceit, eventually published in book format, which could have been portrayals of what he perceived the truth to be, or wanted matters to be considered by others, flattering him and disparaging others.
  8. His tendency for exaggeration started from Day One (largest ever attendance at an inauguration), evidence of grandiosity.
  9. His almost immediate ambition of dismantling the achievements of his predecessor seemed more attributable to personal pettiness, devaluation and trying to achieve “interpersonal dominance” than due consideration for the interests, needs and benefits of the citizens he was elected to serve.
  10. Trump’s communication style is suggestive of features which are common in patients who have received a diagnosis of Narcissistic Personality Disorder” (Lyons, 2019).
Revisiting the grandiosity section of the Diagnostic Interview for Narcissism (DIN) (Second edition) suggests the following assessment criteria (Gunderson J, Ronningstam E, Bodkin A. “The diagnostic interview for narcissistic patients”): The person:
  1. exaggerates talents, capacity and achievements in an unrealistic way.
  2. believes in their invulnerability or does not recognise their limitations.
  3. has grandiose fantasies.
  4. believes that they do not need other people.
  5. over examines and downgrades other people’s projects, statements or dreams in an unrealistic manner.
  6. regards themselves as unique or special when compared to other people.
  7. regards themselves as generally superior to other people.
  8. behaves self-centeredly and/or self-referentially.
  9. behaves in a boastful or pretentious way.
Revisiting the characteristics of Grandiose Narcissism:
  1. Self-centred and appears to be self-focussed.
  2. Feeling of superiority and invulnerability; the only person that matters.
  3. Interpersonal dominance; has to win in major and trivial interpersonal matters; needs these “victories”.
  4. Oblivious to or inconsiderate of the impact their actions have on others, or even how they are actually perceived by others (believing themselves to be liked and popular when they may actually be disliked and unpopular) hence the  term “oblivious narcissists” (Gabbard, 1989).
  5. Lacking knowledge of the impact they have on others contributes to an unrealistic view of themselves in relation to others (Gabbard, 1989, 1998; Kernberg, 1975; Kohut, 1971, 1977).
  6. Controlling others and situations is important; likes to be in control but dislikes it when others tell them what to do (may prefer to do the opposite).
  7. Belittling, criticising and even humiliating others seems to give them pleasure.
  8. Remorselessly take credit for the words, deeds and achievements of others; may even believe this to be true and argue with others who disbelieve or disagree with them.
  9. Overt presentation of grandiose fantasies, wealth, success and status.
  10. Can be very demanding with expectations of obedience and admiration; expect immediate and undivided attention of others, yet unaware or inconsiderate of the impact their demands of entitlement may have on them.
  11. Exhibitionism or a show-off.
  12. Talks self up and others down. Truth may be inconsequential.
  13. No real interest in other people, although this can be faked when suits their purposes.
  14. Arrogant & conceited while lacking in of humility/modesty (viewed as weakness).
  15. Apparent huge self-belief (even if this is a show).
  16. Inability to cope or deal with criticism.
  17. Devaluation and criticism of people that threaten self-esteem.
  18. Denial or lack of awareness of weaknesses.
  19. Exaggeration of abilities, talents and achievements, even fictitiously.
  20. More likely to regulate self-esteem through overt self-enhancement (over-claiming abilities or exaggerating situations to project superiority).
  21. Inflated demands of entitlement and superiority. Belief that others owe them something, even more so if they have achieved seniority of position.
  22. Exaggerated beliefs of self-importance, superiority, achievement, and ability.
  23. Manipulative behaviours designed to “get their own way”.
  24. Preoccupation with “fantasies about success, power, brilliance, beauty, or the perfect mate”; appear to believe the fiction they spin yet easily change their story if required.
  25. Consistent anger when confronted with unmet expectations, any perceived slight or being held accountable for words, deeds and decisions.
  26. Prone to easily exploding into rage, overreacting, and possibly even becoming aggressive whenever they feel attacked by even the slightest criticism.
  27. Diminished awareness of the cultural dissonance between their high expectations and reality, along with the damaging impact this has on relationships.
  28. Oblivious that arrogance or expectations of entitlement may make a poor impression on other people.
  29. Conflict within the environment is generally experienced as external to these people (not their fault), rather than as a measure of their own unrealistic expectations.
  30. Blame shifts when held to account; tend to blame others (and situations) for their own irresponsibility and failings.
Indeed, it is their very lack of insight into their impact on others which led to Gabbard (1989) to suggest the label “oblivious narcissists” to describe their social presentation and distinguish them from their vulnerable counterparts.

Successful Narcissists?

Despite being perceived as being as maladaptive, narcissism has been associated with success in areas such as leadership (Brunell et al., 2008; Harms, Spain & Hannah, 2011), job interviews (Paulhus, Westlake, Calvez, & Harms, 2013), show business (Young & Pinsky, 2006) and initial interactions with others (Paulhus, 1998). Narcissism has proven to be multidimensional, featuring both adaptive and maladaptive aspects (Back et al., 2013) who in differentiating between “narcissistic admiration and rivalry” argue that “Narcissism seems to be related to contradictory processes and consequences: Narcissists’ charisma and self-assuredness can give them tremendous energy that fascinates others, yet their aggressiveness and lack of empathy hinder their progress and turn many people off.” Evidence that narcissists differ is the now fairly well acknowledged distinction between grandiose and vulnerable narcissism (Pincus & Roche, 2011). Few psychologists would disagree that Donald Trump exemplifies grandiosity, with much of his effort devoted to self-promotion in both show business and the financial world. Indeed his fondness for diminishing people and preference for conflict suited the Apprentice TV show more than it did actual business, at which he was less successful (six bankruptcies), giving people who had not worked or managed in business the false impression that putting people down rather than building them up was what constituted good business practice. Grandiose narcissist’s ability to maintain their grandiosity by way of self-enhancement, makes them less susceptible than vulnerable narcissist’s to the chronic emotional consequences of threats to their entitled expectations (such as distress, interpersonal fearfulness and lower self-esteem). So does grandiosity help or hinder political success? One study suggested that U.S. presidents display high levels of grandiose but not vulnerable narcissism (Watts et al., 2013) while historians who have rated narcissism after the event have associated narcissism with charismatic leadership, creativity and overall performance among U.S. presidents (Deluga, 1997).

Positive or negative?

Self-esteem is healthy and one of the ingredients of a happy and successful life, certainly in terms of developing pleasant and mutually satisfying relationships. In moderation it contributes to self-confidence, creativity, innovation, vision, boldness, assertive, courage and when combined with a genuine interest in other people, their interests and needs and the desire to positively influence and motivate them to be the best they can be, it is not only beneficial but necessary. How can someone inspire others to be at their best if they don’t have a healthy degree of confidence in themselves and their own abilities? When also combined with the humility or modesty not to feel the need to flaunt their abilities or boast about their achievements, confident people can be great company, no matter the walk in life. In group situations they can prove to be a positive and constructive influence. Perhaps that is why the American Psychological Association defines self-esteem as “the degree to which the qualities and characteristics contained in one’s self-concept are perceived to be positive. It reflects a person’s physical self-image, view of his or her accomplishments and capabilities, and values and perceived success in living up to them, as well as the ways in which others view and respond to that person. The more positive the cumulative perception of these qualities and characteristics, the higher one’s self-esteem. A reasonably high degree of self-esteem is considered an important ingredient of mental health, whereas low self-esteem and feelings of worthlessness are common depressive symptoms.”i Like much else in life, the phrase “everything in moderation” and not to excess may be as apt when it comes to the positive and negative impact of people’s personality on the lives of others. Ironically or extraordinarily those whose confidence on the surface seems so great that others describe them as arrogant, so “full of themselves” that they promote themselves feel the need to diminish and disparage other people, psychologists believe may actually lack self-esteem, or have such a low opinion of themselves that they need other people to make them feel confident, including by way of treating them badly. In stark contrast to the healthy and positive ramifications of “a reasonably high degree of self-esteem”, the APA define “narcissism” very briefly and in a mere five words as “excessive self-love or egocentrism”.ii So when does healthy self-esteem become excessive and unhealthy self-love?” The APA define describe “secondary narcissism” as the “self-love that develops later in life, after the original “infantile primary narcissism”, and occurs when the libido (the general life force that provides energy for all types of activities) is withdrawn from “objects” and centred on the self.” iii iv While “object” in personality terms often means “other people”, it can have a broader meaning. An object or a “stimulus object” is “a thing, person, or condition that elicits a response or is the focal target of attention, perception or some other process; the “other” [can be] any person or symbolic representation of a person that is not the self and toward whom behaviour, cognitions or affects are directed”.v While many people are relatively self-less with their emotions directed at or satisfied by other people, others are more self-centred. Despite (or perhaps augmented by) a decade studying and researching psychology and neuroscience, especially to the degree it impacts on decision-making, my mind (hopefully not due to a “cognitive bias”) still reverts to the personal description by which I have mentally evaluated those I have observed make for healthy or unhealthy relations and good or bad supervisors, managers and leaders of other people:
  1. GIVERS are “more interested in others than themselves”, while
  2. TAKERS are “more interested in themselves than others.”
So the ability to show a genuine interest in other people and act accordingly is important when trusted with responsibility for other people, with “interest” also being one of the key aspects of the formative discipline of “positive psychology” and the related personality of those my research describes as “Constructive Leaders”. Positive Psychology is described as “a field of psychological theory and research that focuses on the psychological states (e.g., contentment, joy), individual traits or character strengths (e.g., intimacy, integrity, altruism, wisdom), and social institutions that enhance subjective well-being and make life most worth living.” While the term may have been used originally by Abraham Maslow, best known for his hierarchy of needs, its more modern pioneers and advocates include Martin E. P. Seligman and Barbara Fredrickson. The mission of positive psychology is to understand and foster the factors that allow individuals, communities, and societies to flourish (Seligman & Csikszentmihalyi, 2000). Fredrickson’s “broaden-and-build theory” posits that “experiences of positive emotions broaden people’s momentary thought-action repertoires, which in turn serves to build their enduring personal resources, ranging from physical and intellectual resources to social and psychological resources… The theory and findings suggest that the capacity to experience positive emotions may be a fundamental human strength central to the study of human flourishing.”(Fredrickson, 2001) This broaden-and-build theory of positive emotions (Fredrickson, 1998) states that certain discrete positive emotions—including joy, interest, contentment, pride, love, gratitude, serenity, hope, pride, amusement, inspiration, awe —“although phenomenologically distinct, all share the ability to broaden people’s momentary thought action repertoires and build their enduring personal resources, ranging from physical and intellectual resources to social and psychological resources.” As far as leadership is concerned, and indeed managing any group of people no matter the context, people expect their leader to be interested in them and to be generally encouraging towards them, indeed to be predominantly positive and constructive. At its most basic, people expect their manager and leader to be predominantly encouraging and put them in a good mood rand inspire them to “produce their best”, rather than be discouraging and demotivational and consequently put them in a bad mood, in which they may feel less inspired or motivated to perform their role towards the limits of their ability and endeavour. Research suggests that there may be “ two states in which a person, dyad, team or organisation may find themselves when engaging in the creation of a personal or shared vision: the positive emotional attractor (PEA) and the negative emotional attractor (NEA). These two primary states are strange attractors, each characterised by three dimensions: 1. positive versus negative emotional arousal; 2. hormonal arousal notably endocrine arousal of the parasympathetic nervous system versus sympathetic nervous system; and 3. neurological activation (Boyatzis, 2008) of the default mode network versus the task positive network. Boyatzis, Rochford and Taylor (2015) argue that arousing the PEA or positive emotional attractor is critical when creating or affirming a personal vision (i.e., sense of one’s purpose and ideal self). In essence, people need to be spending far more time in a good mood or experiencing positive emotions than in a bad mood or experiencing negative emotions if they are to be capable of initiating or responding to change or performing closer to their potential. The task then of the manager or leader should then be predominantly positive and encouraging, yet far too many are not, making people’s working lives more difficult and challenging than necessary and indeed than if they were managed or led by someone who was predominantly encouraging and positive by nature (Boyatzis et al, 2012) Too much negativity can detract from the ability to inspire and sustain outstanding leadership (Boyatzis, 2013). While business school students who have not yet experienced the workplace can be of the opinion that ruth-less-ness (an absence of compassion) has a valid role to play in business management and can even be associated with business “success”, research suggests that managing and coaching people with compassion can “inspire health, well-being and development in organisations.” (Boyatzis et al, 2013). In creating a personal or group vision, research recommends “getting oneself, a team, or organisation in the PEA (positive emotional attractor) before working on the vision. Arousing the appropriate neural and hormonal states is important so that emotional contagion can help spread the PEA state and also to build a stock of PEA in order to buffer the NEA (negative emotional attractor) that may occur later in the visioning process as a person moves from vision to action. Examples of how to arouse the PEA include discussing the purpose of the organisation, shared dreams or prospection of what one might become in the future, as well as discussing PEA components, like core values. Additionally, at the individual level, gratitude exercises are a powerful and fast way to evoke positive emotion and arouse the PEA.” This confirms a matter I observed throughout my career in industry and commented on in my first published article. When discussing “Corporate Change” and in advocating praising good work, however trivial, giving credit where due and apologising when wrong, I suggested that “well done and sorry don’t cost much to say… except perhaps if pride is temporarily hurt”(Clarke, 1997). What I failed to appreciate at the time was why some people regularly engaged in gratitude exercises and often inspired those they led, while for others any form of praise or encouragement seemed to pose them a great (and deep) problem, with their own “pride” seeming to pose a barrier to their ability to recognise that anyone other than themselves was even capable of performing well. Many well known people including former national leaders have commented in their public speaking that “optimists make opportunities of their difficulties, while pessimists make difficulties of their opportunities”. This observation alone suggests the importance of ensuring that those with a generally positive and encouraging disposition are employed in roles in which they can use their skills and personality to “make opportunities out of difficulties” and engage the talents of those they have responsibility to cooperate towards dealing with whatever the challenges of difficulties may be. Yet there are far too many employed in responsible roles whose very negativity and other aspects of their personality results in they failing to see when they are “making difficulties out of opportunities”, especially when they believe only they have the ability to solve difficulties (including those they may insufficiently appreciate that they created themselves) and no-one else matters, contributing to they seeming to derive some form of pleasure from making other people feel worse. We could or should perhaps ask the question: “how does that person make you feel when you have just been in their company?” Better or worse? Encouraged, uplifted and motivated or discouraged, demotivated and even humiliated? Self-centred people with no real interest in other people can fake such an interest when it suits them, but when it doesn’t their true selfishness can be evident, ultimately contributing in extreme to what I describe as “Destructive Leadership” as practiced by “Disordered Leaders”. Psychologists refer to extremes of self-centredness as “egocentrism” or “egocentricity”, described as: 1. the tendency to emphasise one’s own needs, concerns, and outcomes rather than those of others. 2. the tendency to perceive the situation from one’s own perspective 3. believing that others see things from the same point of view as oneself and that events will elicit the same thoughts, feelings and behaviour in others as in oneself. Contrary to common expectations of strong, dominant leaders also being self-centred and proud (characteristics typically associated with “takers”), research suggests that those “givers” who also display humility should most certainly not be associated in any shape or form with weakness. Jim Collins and his team examined many companies to find those which went from ‘Good to Great’ and their research found that all such companies, in contrast to less successful ‘comparison companies’ in the same industry, had what they describe as ‘Level 5 leadership during the pivotal transition years’. Citing five leadership levels, Collins notes that: “Level 5′ leaders who ‘build enduring greatness through a paradoxical blend of personal humility and professional will’ also ‘channel their ego needs away from themselves and into the larger goal of building a great company. It’s not that Level 5 leaders have no ego or self-interest. Indeed they are incredibly ambitious, but their ambition is first and foremost for the institution, not themselves… They set up their successors for success in the next generation, where others set up their successors for failure… They are resolved to do whatever it takes to make the company great, no matter how big or hard the decisions… They attribute success to factors other than themselves, yet when things go poorly, blame themselves and take full responsibility… They display a compelling modesty, are self-effacing and understated. In contrast, two thirds of comparison companies had leaders with gargantuan personal egos that contributed to the demise or continued mediocrity of the company.” (Collins, 2001) xvii Persuading those more interested in themselves to focus their primary attention on the group at large can pose an enormous challenge to their colleagues, as self-centred people often fail to recognise themselves as being selfish, even when alerted to the trait. If Abraham Lincoln was right to remark that: “human action can be modified to some extent but human nature cannot be changed” (Lincoln, 1860),xviii great caution should therefore be shown before appointing “takers” to leadership positions, irrespective of their other talents, lest their personal agendas and inability to empathise with colleagues or show remorse for their actions should lead their firms down a slippery ethical path. The same cannot be said about “givers”. Organisations are far more likely to be successful when leaders are selected who display a ‘paradoxical blend of personal humility and professional will’, who ‘channel their ego needs away from themselves and into the larger goal of building a great company’ and whose ‘ambition is first and foremost for the institution, not themselves’. When people in senior positions display the level of humility to downplay their own involvement in achievements and praise the role of others, provide encouragement to their colleagues or admit to their own errors and visibly forgive colleagues for their failings, others throughout the organisation are more likely to follow suit. Such organisations ‘live and learn’ from decisions which transpire to be mistakes and are not subsequently prevented from taking courageous decisions when in due course they are required. People trust such leaders and ‘genuine teamwork’ can be particularly evident in their organisations. There is no humility in humiliation nor humiliation in humility. Undoubtedly people better respond to leaders who show a greater interest in others than themselves, well capable of predominantly bringing joy and the other positive emotions to the group they lead. Of course being a “giver” alone does not make a great leader; many other characteristics are also required, but a core and genuine interest in the people being led, described as “interest” by the field of positive psychology, is more likely to encourage the required response than when the leader is a taker “more interested in self than others”. Yet there are far too many people in senior roles who routinely discourage and demotivate those they are supposed to be encouraging and motivating. No paper or article on leadership has ever described this critical role in society as the “art of demotivating a group of people to act against achieving a common goal” and yet this is what can happen far too frequently when the wrong type of person is selected or elected to leadership roles, especially takers “more interested in themselves than others”. Perhaps being“emotionally labile” (or moody) themselves, they consequently force their subordinates to not only spend far too much time experiencing negative rather than positive emotions, but also in turn activating the wrong hormones and the less effective brain regions (Boyatzis, 2012, 2013).

Narcissism – a Brief History (Yakely)

The legend of Narcissus in Greek mythology, from which the term narcissism derives, has become one of the most prototypical myths of modern times. The most popular version of the story is by Ovid in his work Metamorphoses, in which Echo, a mountain nymph, encounters Narcissus, a beautiful young man, who rejects her advances. Heartbroken, Echo lives out her life in desolation until only an echo of her voice remains. Nemesis, the goddess of revenge, punishes Narcissus by luring him to a pool of water, in which he catches an image of himself and, not realising it is his own reflection, falls in love with it. The more he gazes, the more infatuated he becomes. Eventually he realises that his love can never be reciprocated and, condemned to the same fate that he had inflicted on Echo, he remains in despair, fixated by his image until death; Echo, at his side, repeats his last words. Narcissism has become a defining feature of the modern era: interest in the concept has captured the imagination of the public, media and literature. In the 1970s the American journalist Tom Wolfe coined the phrase ‘the “Me” decade’ to describe the rise in celebration of the self (Wolfe 1976) and the American historian and social critic Christopher Lasch published The Culture of Narcissism, in which he explores the rise of narcissistic entitlement and decadence (Lasch 1979). These popularised texts have been paralleled by a growing body of academic interest and empirical research, particularly in the fields of psychology, social science and cultural studies. Within psychiatry, the concept of narcissism has evolved from early psychoanalytic theorising to its official inclusion as a personality disorder in psychiatric nomenclature. Havelock Ellis was the first theoretician to use the Narcissus myth to describe narcissism as a clinical entity, in his description of states of intense autoerotism or preoccupation with one’s own sexual body (Ellis 1898). Psychoanalysts subsequently elaborated the construct of narcissism as a personality characteristic of vanity and self-love that is not exclusively sexual, nor confined to the realm of pathology, but a normal part of human development. Otto Rank (1911) wrote the first psychoanalytic paper focusing on narcissism, and this was followed by the publication of Freud’s now classic text On Narcissism (Freud 1914). These papers highlighted the defensive function of narcissism in protecting the individual from feelings of low self-worth and self- esteem, as well as conceptualising narcissism as a dimensional psychological state that ranged from normal to pathological, forerunning the ideas of more contemporary personality trait theorists (Levy 2011). Later psychoanalysts expanded on the idea of a narcissistic personality type, for example in Wilhelm Reich’s ‘phallic–narcissistic character’ (Reich 1933), Karen Horney’s subdivisions of ‘aggressive–expansive’, ‘perfectionist’ and ‘arrogant–vindictive’ (Horney 1939) and Donald Winnicott’s notions of the true and false self (Winnicott 1960). However, the respective (and conflicting) theories of the psychoanalysts Heinz Kohut and Otto Kernberg might be said to have exerted the most influence on modern conceptualisations of narcissism and on shaping the construct of narcissistic personality disorder (NPD). Kohut’s self-psychology approach (Kohut 1971) offers the ‘deficit model’ of narcissism, which asserts that pathological narcis- sism originates in childhood as a result of the failure of parents to empathise with their child. The normal integration of the ‘grandiose self’ and ‘idealised parental imago’ does not occur and grandiose omnipotence emerges as a defence against fragmentation of the self. Narcissistic individuals are prone to experiencing emptiness and depression in response to narcissistic injury. By contrast, Kernberg’s object relations approach (Kernberg 1984) emphasises aggression and conflict in the psychological development of narcissism, focusing on the patient’s aggression towards and envy of others. In this ‘conflict model’, early childhood experiences of cold, indifferent or aggressive parental figures push the child to develop feelings of specialness as a retreat. These feelings evolve into a pathological grandiose self-structure, which defends against the child’s rage at his inability to internalise good objects. In pathologically narcissistic individuals, primitive defence mechanisms of idealisation, denigration and splitting predominate, the capacity for sadness, guilt and mourning is lacking, and the main affects are shame, envy and aggression. Social and personality models of narcissism These psychoanalytic theories, based on clinical work with narcissistic patients, were paralleled by developments in social critical theory. Following the sociologist and philosopher Theodore Adorno’s (1968) proposition that narcissism was a result of the collective ego’s defensive response to industrialisation and the changing economic and social structure of society, writers such as Wolfe and Lasch documented the rise of the cult of the individual, self-expression, self-admiration and materialism as key to economic prosperity, happiness and success, away from traditional American societal values anchored in family and community. More recently, accumulated empirical research findings from studies that document rising rates of narcissism in American college students between 1979 and 2006 revealed an ‘epidemic of narcissism’ within American society (Twenge 2009). Cultural studies have suggested that the USA is seen as a more narcissistic society, in which individualism, professional success, fame and material wealth are celebrated, in contrast to Eastern cultures in Asia and the Middle East, which promote collectivism and more shared parenting practices and where self-reports of narcissistic traits have been shown to being lower than in Western countries such as the USA (Foster 2003). The field of social–personality psychology and its research on assessment and factor analysis has increasingly influenced contemporary theories regarding narcissism, such as its links to shame, victimhood and aggression. There is now a large empirical literature in the field that conceptualises narcissism as a normative personality trait, which can be adaptive and maladaptive. Most of this research has relied on the Narcissistic Personality Inventory (Raskin 1979), the instrument most frequently used to measure narcissism, although it has been criticised for assessing adaptive components such as self-esteem, well-being and leadership at the same time as maladaptive features such as grandiosity and entitlement. Although the cognitive–behavioural literature on narcissism is relatively sparse in comparison with that on psychoanalytic and psychodynamic approaches, theoreticians and clinicians within the cognitive–behavioural tradition have more recently applied this approach to the study of NPD, in their emphasis on the social learning of core beliefs or self-schemas. Theodore Millon’s (1981) social learning perspective proposes that children learn about themselves and others from their parents’ behaviour, and in narcissistic individuals, beliefs about specialness and entitlement are thought to stem from early parental overindulgence. Others have pointed to parental abuse and neglect as instrumental in the development of pathological narcissism. Beck described dysfunctional core beliefs or schemas, stemming from early experiences of adverse parenting, associated with NPD that lead the person to be self-indulgent, demanding and aggressive, but also highlighted how these individuals often presented with symptoms of depression (Beck 1990). Cognitive theorists such as Jeffrey Young (Young 2003) have expanded Beck & Freeman’s (1990) original theories of core distorted beliefs and dysfunctional schemas via integration with interpersonal and gestalt perspectives and a particular focus on the role of negative early experiences and affects in the aetiology and treatment of NPD. Narcissism, narcissistic personality disorder and the DSM. The widespread use of the concept of pathological narcissism as a distinct personality type by clinicians influenced by psychoanalysts such as Kernberg and Kohut, as well as psychologists such as Millon, led to the introduction of narcissistic personality disorder into the third edition of the DSM (DSM-III) in 1980 (American Psychiatric Association 1980). The NPD construct was further refined and modified as it evolved through DSM-III-R (1987) and DSM-IV (1994) on the basis of the empirical findings of an increasing number of psychological studies identifying narcissism as a personality trait. However, these shifts in the diagnostic criteria for the disorder were criticised for losing some of the more dynamic variables present in its phenomenological manifestations. Authors such as Cain et al (2008) noted that DSM-IV pre- dominantly focused on the disorder’s grandiose features and did not adequately capture the underlying vulnerability that is evident in many narcissistic individuals. Inconsistencies in the conceptualisation of narcissism, including differences in describing its nature (normal, pathological), phenotype (grandiosity, vulnerability), expression (overt, covert) and structure (category, dimension, prototype), were reflected in the limited descriptions of these areas in the DSM- IV definition of NPD (Pincus 2010). Another criticism levelled at NPD as defined by the DSM is that it is one of the rarer personality disorders found in community and clinical samples, despite the widespread clinical observation of a much higher prevalence of problematic narcissistic traits in patients with personality difficulties. These shortcomings were to be ameliorated in a new model of personality disorder as a categorical–dimensional hybrid, which was intended to become the official approach to the diagnosis of all personality pathology and disorders in DSM-5 (American Psychiatric Association, 2013). This model is based on the assessment of core aspects of personality functioning and pathological personality traits and has received much support from researchers and clinicians in the personality disorder field. One of the main goals of the new classification in DSM- 5 was to increase the validity of mental disorder diagnoses by incorporating dimensional assessment, which is particularly relevant to NPD, given that narcissism occurs on a spectrum of severity from normal to pathological. However, disagreements within the personality disorder research community, as well as the American Psychiatric Association, resulted in this new model of personality disorder not being adopted by DSM-5, although it has been placed in Section III of the manual (‘Emerging measures and models’) as an area for future study (Skodol 2014). The diagnostic criteria for NPD in DSM-5 (American Psychiatric Association 2013) therefore remain identical to those in DSM-IV (Box 1).

What is narcissism? 

The term “Narcissistic Personality Disorder” derives its title from the Greek myth of Narcissus, a handsome youth who ignored the amorous advances of Echo who, according to Ovid, spent the rest of her life grieving for him until all that remained of her was her voice. Narcissus fell in love with something beautiful he saw in a lake, not realising it was his own reflection. He died of thirst and unrequited love because he would not leave the lakeside or touch the water lest he lose sight of his reflection. A narcissus flower grew by that lakeside and a prophecy which predicted that he would “live to a ripe old age, as long as he never knows himself” was never fulfilled, presumably because by falling in love with himself, actually the reflection of himself, he became too focused on “knowing himself” rather than making the effort to get to know others better. Perhaps the moral of the story continues today, with those who derive their pleasure from saying or doing something to make others happy ultimately perhaps living happier lives than those whose primary concern and focus is on “getting their own way” at the expense of the happiness of others. Irrespective of the version or nature of the myth, people who appear to be particularly interested in themselves are now termed “narcissists”. Those who have had dealings with people possessing the more extreme versions of this “self-love” (which some believe to be self-hatred) will soon appreciate that their behaviour is very real and certainly not a myth, even if they may insufficiently understand precisely what they may be dealing with. But not all “narcissists” could be diagnosed by psychiatrists or psychologists as having Narcissistic Personality Disorder or NPD. Some people may be primarily self-centred and want or need to get their own way but in many other situations also be well capable of being kind and considerate of the interests and needs of others, not seeking to stir up trouble and breed disharmony nor taking pleasure in being cruel and ruthless. Occasionally being selfish, only rarely being difficult while being flexible and adaptable most of the time could describe many people in society. Caring for others is not the same as being “careless”. Those who couldn’t care less about the interests, needs and welfare of others are those which society needs to be more careful and cautious of. It is those people with such a high level of self-esteem that they may be capable of wittingly or unwittingly damaging relationships and causing distress to others, especially when they don’t seem to care who they hurt as they seek to “get their own way” and who seem to be “fixed in their ways” and incapable of changing their behavior, which to others in due course may become predictable, who perhaps warrant being associated with “narcissism”.

The official NPD traits

The American Psychiatric Association’s “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders” (DSM–5) which the APA states “is the product of more than 10 years of effort by hundreds of international experts in all aspects of mental health. Their dedication and hard work have yielded an authoritative volume that defines and classifies mental disorders in order to improve diagnoses, treatment and research.” i
“Personality is the way of thinking, feeling and behaving that makes a person different from other people. An individual’s personality is influenced by experiences, environment (surroundings, life situations) and inherited characteristics. A Personality Disorder is a way of thinking, feeling and behaving that deviates from the expectations of the culture, causes distress or problems functioning and lasts over time.” ii
While many people can occasionally display difficult or unusual personality traits, to be classified as a disorder the traits need to be “inflexible”, meaning can be repeatedly observed without regards to time, place or circumstance, while also interfering with a person’s ability to function well in society, including causing problems with interpersonal relationships, termed “functional impairment”. A feature of Personality Disorders is that the personal characteristics evident to others may not cause the person themselves concern or pain, despite causing distress to those around them. The people displaying the characteristics may not believe there is anything wrong with them. It is the way they have always lived their lives and they may know no other way of doing so. Narcissistic Personality Disorder is indicated by five or more of the following symptoms or “official self-centred traits”: 1. Exaggerates own importance 2. Is preoccupied with fantasies of success, power, beauty, intelligence or ideal romance 3. Believes he or she is special and can only be understood by other special people or institutions 4. Requires constant attention and admiration from others 5. Has unreasonable expectations of favourable treatment 6. Takes advantage of others to reach his or her own goals 7. Disregards the feelings of others, lacks empathy 8. Is often envious of others or believes other people are envious of him or her 9. Shows arrogant behaviours and attitudes. Psychologists caution against ‘amateur’ diagnosis of people who may very occasionally display some of these characteristics or those associated with other Personality Disorders. Entirely normal people can behave badly especially when pressurised to do so. It is when these traits are pervasive and occur frequently or persistently that a diagnosis of Personality Disorder may be appropriate. While destructive business people may well display characteristics of all four Cluster B disorders, or others too, many are likely to display traits most associated with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD). NPD is described by the Mayo Clinic as “a mental condition in which people have an inflated sense of their own importance, a deep need for excessive attention and admiration, troubled relationships and a lack of empathy for others… NPD causes problems in many areas of life, such as relationships, work, school or financial affairs. People with NPD may be generally unhappy and disappointed when they’re not given the special favours or admiration they believe they deserve. They may find their relationships unfulfilling and others may not enjoy being around them. Treatment for Narcissistic Personality Disorder centres around talk therapy (psychotherapy).” The Mayo Clinic have also adapted the DSM criteria for NPD and noted the difficulty such people have in coping with criticism: “Signs and symptoms of Narcissistic Personality Disorder and the severity of symptoms vary. People with the disorder can: 1. Have an exaggerated sense of self-importance 2. Have a sense of entitlement and require constant, excessive admiration 3. Expect to be recognised as superior even without achievements that warrant it 4. Exaggerate achievements and talents 5. Be preoccupied with fantasies about success, power, brilliance, beauty or the perfect mate 6. Believe they are superior and can only associate with equally special people 7. Monopolise conversations and belittle or look down on people they perceive as inferior 8. Expect special favours and unquestioning compliance with their expectations 9. Take advantage of others to get what they want 10. Have an inability or unwillingness to recognise the needs and feelings of others 11. Be envious of others and believe others envy them 12. Behave in an arrogant or haughty manner, coming across as conceited, boastful and pretentious 13. Insist on having the best of everything — for instance, the best car or office. At the same time, people with Narcissistic Personality Disorder have trouble handling anything they perceive as criticism and they can: 1. Become impatient or angry when they don’t receive special treatment 2. Have significant interpersonal problems and easily feel slighted 3. React with rage or contempt and try to belittle the other person to make themselves appear superior pretentious?? 4. Have difficulty regulating emotions and behaviour 5. Experience major problems dealing with stress and adapting to change 6. Feel depressed and moody because they fall short of perfection 7. Have secret feelings of insecurity, shame, vulnerability and humiliation. iii While the Mayo Clinic also assert that “behind this mask of extreme confidence lies a fragile self-esteem that’s vulnerable to the slightest criticism” there is not universal agreement about this degree of vulnerability or perhaps some highly confident people may be very inwardly fragile and others not. Twenge and Campbell for instance do not agree that narcissists are by and large fundamentally insecure. While their research suggests that there are indeed “vulnerable narcissists” there are also many with significant and perhaps excessive self-esteem, described as “socially savvy narcissists who have the most influence on the culture”, a description most non-psychologists who have had dealings with such people would perhaps find it easier to agree with.iv Personality issues are complex and no two people are the same. The issue is certainly not “black and white” and no single list of behavioural traits precisely fits one person and not another. Some people portray strong evidence of one attribute and weak or none of another along a range or continuum of behavioural traits. Nevertheless there are many people in life who do generally portray similar traits, evident by the consistency of their behaviour Identification with a specific Personality Disorder may only be of particular importance to a specialist clinician, the only people qualified to make a diagnosis, as it is they who are tasked with also ascertaining which treatment program may make an inroad into addressing and ameliorating their behaviour which to others would be experienced as difficult and challenging. When over-confidence is an issue, as many such people generally believe any problems are the fault of others, they are unlikely to voluntarily seek treatment because they won’t consider it necessary. Indeed even if aware of any failings, they are likely to be denied, not a problem for those associated with lies and deceit. For instance some people with a Cluster B Personality Disorder are associated with PATHOLOGICAL LYING a “persistent, compulsive tendency to tell lies out of proportion to any apparent advantage that can be achieved… associated with people …who in some cases do not seem to understand the nature of a falsehood.” Too few who encounter such people though are aware of the concept of Personality Disorders, including the nine DSM traits, while even fewer have the skills to associate their behaviour with these traits and identify what may be their true psyche. That is why we have psychiatrists, psychologists and psychoanalysts, although it is highly unlikely that “special” and “arrogant” people will volunteer for examination or treatment, given that they believe any problems they may have are due to other people not themselves. To those who may encounter such people in business or elsewhere in society, the specific technical diagnosis though may be less important. The key point is recognition that they are different and appreciation that their motivations and emotions differ from those of many others in society, consequently they need to be handled and dealt with very differently if any semblance of a normal relationship is to be feasible. If at all possible, relationships with such selfish, difficult and proud people are best avoided. But if this is impossible, such as in the workplace, the better the understanding of their likely way of thinking, the more successfully other people can adapt their own thoughts, words and actions to deal with and respond to their predictably challenging behaviour Those capable of creating a storm in a tea-cup are best dealt with in a calm and unprovocative manner. They thrive on being critical but cannot cope with being criticised When not in receipt of praise, they will commend themselves. Astute people consequently learn to praise them and refrain from criticism and in so doing deny them the opportunity for conflict and minimise the harm they can do. Their extraordinary degree of self-belief and invincibility, low opinion of and disdain for other people, combined with their inability to adapt their behaviour and conviction that doing so is unnecessary, passes this burden on to everyone else who has to deal with them, no matter what the walk of life.

Healthy v Unhealthy Self Respect: Drawing the line between acceptable and unacceptable 

While narcissistic tendencies, excessive self-confidence and an inordinate focus on self-interest can be damaging, especially in the organisational and societal leadership context, it is important to appreciate that healthy levels of self-respect are important for everyone to function well in society. Perhaps there is nothing wrong with people believing in themselves and wanting to be the centre of attention? Within reason. Like other affairs of the mind, it is a matter of degree, a spectrum from low to high. Confidence is of course important and confident people are well capable of makings others feel similarly confident by praising, encouraging and respecting them. Where do we draw the line between acceptable modesty and unacceptable arrogance? At what stage does some people’s interest in themselves go from being natural and healthy to unnatural and obsessive? . But what might the difference be between healthy and unhealthy levels of self-respect? When do healthy levels of self-respect and self-confidence become unhealthy and perhaps even reach dangerous levels of narcissism? Could it be how they like to make other people feel? Confident, comfortable, included, encouraged, welcomed and appreciated or uncomfortable, excluded, discouraged, belittled, maltreated and unappreciated? Might healthy people, especially those we refer to as “givers” being “more interested in others than themselves”, more capable of “constructive” management and leadership, take pleasure in boosting other people, making them feel confident, respected, assured, secure, satisfied, encouraged and inspired to produce their best? Might unhealthy people, especially those we refer to as “takers” being “more interested in themselves than others”, more capable of “destructive” management and leadership, seem to take a particular pleasure in diminishing other people, making them feel tentative, lacking in confidence, disrespected, insecure, dissatisfied, discouraged, perhaps even belittled, nervous, hesitant and doubting their own ability? Indeed some people can be very comfortable making others uncomfortable. This is not what people expect because the majority of people find it difficult to appreciate that a minority of people in society actual differ from the majority. They think differently, behave differently, respond differently and have different motivations, emotions and reactions. Consequently they need to be dealt with differently. While few would disagree that those with the ability to inspire others to perform close to their potential possess one of the ideal core managerial requirements, nevertheless organisations still somehow persist in promoting people to managerial positions whose greatest talent may be promoting themselves, while failing to notice that this can be at the expense of damaging the confidence and self-respect of other people, especially those they are tasked with managing and leading. One warning sign to look for could be when they just don’t seem to care at all for other people, maybe can’t and when some may seek to deliberately hurt others, especially when this may appear to give them satisfaction, as this may be indications of a disordered personality. A lack of empathy, care and consideration for the interests and needs of other people, especially a lack of guilt and remorse for many forms of wrongdoing, including denigrating and humiliating other people, especially when combined with a lack of conscience, all indications of specific Personality Disorders, do not auger well for responsible management of society’s businesses, organisations and entities, even the very nations of our society themselves. Recognising that the behaviour of difficult people differs from the norm is an important step in learning how to respond to the challenges they present. Identifying if not quite understanding their sometimes bizarre behaviour will allow others to learn how to adapt their own responses to diminish the opportunity for conflict, because the narcissist won’t. Or can’t. While some narcissists will not harm others unless they challenge their personal domain, others will not only seek to be cruel to and traumatise others but actually take pleasure in doing so, without remorse. In terms of “The Dark Triad” – Narcissism, Malignant narcissism or Machiavellianism and Psychopathy – the ability to covertly conceal more overtly egotistical qualities while still being deceitful and manipulative may be one of many further factors determining whether the narcissist may also be Machiavellian or possess some of the traits associated with other related disorders, including Psychopathy. Psychopaths possess strong narcissistic tendencies, but just like many capable of being diagnosed with Antisocial Personality Disorder would not be diagnosed with psychopathy, nor would many narcissists, indeed only a small proportion. Many people with milder narcissistic tendencies can appear to be well capable of extending forms of perhaps pseudo-kindness to others, sometimes by actions if not always by words or emotional or tactile warmth, whether they can share in their emotions are not. What they cannot seem to do though is put the interests of others before their own. They are well capable of acting in accordance with the interests of others – when this coincides with their own self-interest. However, when there is a choice, however trivial, their internal, innate necessity to prevail can appear to mask the benefits of any other outcome. Those who expect them to consider the outcome of decisions on an organisation, its staff or reputation, or on wider society, will be disappointed unless this coincides with them getting their own way and whatever they perceive their self-interest to be. If they cannot prioritise the interests and welfare of members of their own family unit over their own at home, how can they be expected to do so in an organisational context? Getting their own way is at the very core of their persona. Their primary stakeholder is themselves and this is not a conscious decision, it is an innate characteristic, the way they are made. Yet we continue to elect people displaying these tendencies to leadership positions across all elements of society, including business. When they cannot (genuinely) say thanks, cannot say sorry, cannot provide encouragement, cannot show a real interest in the interests of others, they should not be permitted to become team leaders or supervisors let alone managers or senior executives. No matter what their other qualities or credentials may be. When some people can only see and experience other people as objects not people, they shouldn’t be given captaincy of a school sports team let alone an organisation When some people can only criticise and rarely or never praise, why are they given responsibility for other people? When some people can only discourage and rarely or never encourage, why are they given responsibility for other people? When some people can only talk about themselves and rarely or never others, why are they given responsibility for other people? When some people’s pride seems to dominate their behaviur, why are they given responsibility for other people? When some people lie as a matter of course, manipulate and deceive, spread false rumours, take pleasure in being cruel to others, why are they given responsibility for other people? What a wicked web they weave when at first they seek to deceive.Indeed their behaviour would appear to be documented in the Psalms and proverbs written thousands of years ago, referred to as “wicked”. When some people seem more focussed on me me me than we we we, why are they given responsibility for other people? When some people seem incapable of successfully controlling their own lives and emotions. why are they trusted with responsibility for those of others, especially when they may seek to damage than protect them?

Who or What are Psychopaths?

The term “Psychopath”, being derived from psyche (mind) and pathos (disease), in effect refers to “mental illness”. Indeed at one stage it was a “catch all” term for behavior which was difficult to properly understand and for which other categories did not seem adequate. Despite significant inroads into understanding what may constitute the psychopathic mind, in some respects, especially as far as non-psychologists are concerned, little has changed because some of their behavior is well beyond the comprehension of the vast majority of society who possess a conscience. Indeed one way of beginning to understand psychopathy is to associate it with inexplicable or unconscionable behavior. What makes psychopathy particularly perplexing is that some of the related undesirable behaviors suggest that the culprits may lack a sense of morality, or if they could tell right from wrong, this did not seem to influence their subsequent actions. Indeed these could appear to have been impulsive, as if they were acting on the spur of the moment to satisfy themselves in a wide variety of ways, but without adequate consideration of the consequences, not only for others, individual victims of their callousness, or extraordinarily even for themselves, let alone the organization which did not quite realize what they were actually employing or promoting. Surely everyone can tell right from wrong and this guides much of their behavior, much of the time, even if when it most suits them, they still do wrong? Surely those who do engage in a variety of forms of wrongdoing know they have done something wrong, even if this doesn’t result in a (courageous) apology or an attempt at making some form of appropriate reparation? Surely everyone is capable of accepting responsibility for words and deeds which cause distress to others, without having to blame others for their failings? Surely everyone is capable of experiencing warm emotions and sharing these with others, by way of “putting themselves in their shoes”? Surely everyone is capable of kindness and compassion, even a little, and knowing when showing this may be the most appropriate response to a distressing situation? Surely everyone is capable of the courage required to extend forgiveness to those who in some way may have wronged them, without holding grudges and being consumed by the necessity to seek revenge? Surely everyone is capable of “prosocial behavior” which benefits one or more other people, such as an act of kindness? Surely everyone is capable of being highly responsible and appreciating their role in society, “doing good” as best they can and making their contribution to making the world a better place, no matter how trivial the act of responsibility, respect or even random kindness. Especially when no credit or praise is sought by someone capable of modesty and humility? Surely everyone knows when they are about to do something unsafe or dangerous and how the avoidance of words and deeds which could disadvantage and distress others could make society that little bit safer for everyone else? Or maybe not. What makes psychopathy unusual and one of the more complex personality disorders is that it consists of the ABSENCE of some traits associated with normal, compassionate living and the PRESENCE of other “pathological” traits associated with selfish, difficult, proud and challenging behaviour, in all walks of life. As psychopaths can also be very charming and smart, often adept with words and conveying a good impression, many other people could spend their entire working or personal lives with someone and, while knowing there is “something wrong here”, may not realize they were dealing with either a personality disorder in general, or a psychopath in particular. That is one of the reasons that I embarked on conducting this research, to alert people to the extraordinary world of personality disorders and the havoc some such people can cause within and outside society’s organiations and how their self-centred lack of responsibility may make them highly inappropriate to hold any position of responsibility, especially when their traits are “pathological” and associated with one, or more likely, a combination of the range of “Personality Disorders”. “Pathological” can refer to something that is “extreme, excessive, or markedly abnormal”, and in terms of medicine and psychology the extreme could be particularly “indicative of disease” or “altered or caused by disease”, so “pathological lying” or “pathological emotional reactions” are not only extremes but those which could be due to some form of abnormality or disorder.vi A “Personality Disorder “is “a way of thinking, feeling and behaving that deviates from the expectations of the culture, causes distress or problems functioning and lasts over time.” In addition to the way such people think (cognition) and feel (affect), the motivations (conation) of some “Disordered Leaders” appears to differ from those of many other people in society. vii Psychopathy itself is not only often and perhaps understandably misunderstood, but is also frequently confused with ‘sociopathy’ and ‘anti-social personality disorder’. Antisocial refers to behaviour that sharply deviates from social norms and also violates other people’s rights, which contrasts starkly with prosocial behaviour which benefits one or more other people, such as an act of kindness. Leading psychopathy researcher Prof Robert D Hare describes the differences as follows: Sociopath is the term preferred by clinicians, researchers and many sociologists and criminologists who believe the syndrome is “forged entirely by social forces and early experiences”, or what laypeople refer to as “nurture”. Psychopath is preferred by clinicians and researchers who believe that “psychological, biological and genetic factors ALSO contribute to development of the syndrome”, or what may be referred to as “nature and nurture”. Antisocial Personality Disorder (APD or ASPD) is described by the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) by way of a long list of antisocial and criminal behaviours to assist diagnosis, more readily identifiable than personality traits such as empathy. Compared with psychopathy, or sociopathy, Antisocial Personality Disorder predominantly refers ONLY to a cluster of criminal and antisocial behaviours (more readily identifiable, even by non-psychologists), but NOT the personality traits most associated with psychopathy. Hence many people, especially criminals, capable of being diagnosed with ASPD would fall short of the far more stringent criteria required for psychopathy diagnosis. This is because Psychopathy is broader than ASPD, defined by a cluster of: 1. BOTH socially deviant behaviours typified by irresponsibility, impulsivity and poor behavioural including anger controls (associated with ASPD) 2. AND personality traits, emotional and interpersonal, which may be more difficult to assess, including the absence of personality traits associated with “normality” and the presence of an extraordinary groups of “abnormal” traits, derived form a lack of humanity, notably: 3. the LACK of guilt, remorse, regret, responsibility, empathy, fear, truth-telling, ethics, morality and conscience, long-term goals, kindness and warm, welcoming feelings and emotions, including the capacity to love and be loved and the ability to take criticism or extend mercy, forgiveness and compassion to others, or respond appropriately to others people when they are kind to them, because at the end of the day their greatest incapacity is their inability to genuinely appreciate and understand other people and act humanely towards them, given that they are only capable of seeing them as inanimate objects, not real people with their own feelings and emotions, which nevertheless they can still go to great lengths to damage, as they can seem to derive personal pleasure not from generosity and love but meanness and cruelty; those without a sense of wrong must have something wrong with them; 4. the PREVALENCE of glib or superficial charm, grandiosity or significant self-belief (associated with “narcissism”), a need for excitement and proneness to boredom, the ability to give a “good impression” yet be deeply and callously manipulative, deceitful and cunning, including pathological lying and changing lies and stories on a whim without seeming to be bothered about doing so or being caught being untruthful, together with an inability to learn from prior experience or accept responsibility for words and deeds which may cause distress to others, being always right and never wrong, believing themselves to be much better than others and possessing talents they actually deeply lack, as well as a tendency to blame others for all their failings, hold deep grudges against people they believe may have wronged them, even if they have not, and telling lies about them designed to discredit them, a “distortion campaign” or “psychopathic character assassination”, because they thrive on vindictiveness and hatred, which can be long-lasting even if their victims may never quite discover the reason for their animosity towards them, so they cannot be believed as there can be a deep disconnect between their words, actions and intentions, to the degree that it is far safer to first believe the opposite of what they say or assert, not falling for their external charisma which may transpire to be skin-deep, especially when they engage in false flattery of others for the purpose of personal advantage, evaluating situations based on “what’s in it for me?”, as ultimately their primary driving force and deepest motivation is their self-interest, because given their fundamental inner coldness the only person they are capable of having any real interest in is themselves, which with their extraordinary impulsiveness and thoughtlessness means even on the spur of the moment they will do anything it takes to “get their own way” and “win at all costs”, irrespective of the consequences for other people or organizsations and even, extraordinarily, themselves, given their exceptional sense of invincibility and their delusional self-belief convincing them they can do anything they want to, even if (others know that) they are fundamentally ill-equipped for many of the tasks they are trusted with, including responsible management and leadership.

Subclinical Psychopaths

So “psychopathy” is a group of related personality traits most associated with violations of social norms and behaviour quite the opposite of what is normally expected and typically deemed to be acceptable in the environment and society they inhabit. Yet many studies suggest that people with psychopathic traits in “subclinical” populations, neither hospitalised nor imprisoned, do not necessarily display overtly “antisocial, self-defeating behaviours”, with their behaviour typically being far more covert, cunning, callous, devious, deceitful, manipulative and mean, no matter what area of society they are permitted to operate in. Indeed in brief their behaviour is more likely to be mean than meaningful, as they innately prefer harm and humiliation to humility, cold calculation to compassion and themselves to other people. The terms self-interest and self-centredness could have been invented for them, given the extraordinary degrees of invention they will go to satisfy themselves, especially if this disadvantages others, as they get a greater personal kick out of win-lose rather than win-win. Those who appoint fundamentally irresponsible people, cleverly covert psychopaths, to positions of responsibility in due course may regret giving their trust to those who do not experience regret and are far more adept at taking than giving back. Those who expect any form of kindness to be reciprocated will be disappointed, given they thrive on harm and hidden hatreds and holding grudges which drive their necessity to extract deeply disproportionate retaliation and revenge. Being uncooperative and doing the opposite of what others want are characteristics more associated with primary school children than leaders of business and society. Being insensitive to the interests, needs and emotions of other people yet highly sensitive to any form of criticism or rebuke, producing a disproportionate response, feelings of hatred and the imperative of having to retaliate and exact revenge are not qualities which endear leaders to those they lead. Those who feel supremely self-confident but cannot experience the feelings of others do not have what it takes to inspire and motivate others to produce their best. Givers, being more interested in others than themselves, make for better leaders, especially of other people, than those takers who are fundamentally more interested in themselves than others; Global society needs leaders who find it easy to love and impossible to hate, rather than those who find it easy to hate and impossible to love. Those who cannot even adequately manage their own emotions cannot be trusted with responsibility for the lives and emotions of others. As far as leadership concerned, all the intelligence in the world is of little or no value, if none of it is emotional “Subcriminal “is a very important expression given our discussion of the role of “selfish, difficult and proud” as well as challenging and domineering people throughout global society, but what does subcriminal actually mean? The term “clinical” relates to the observation and treatment of actual patients, with medical and/or mental conditions, rather than theoretical or laboratory studies. In circumstances of a disease or condition, clinical refers to one or other of these causing observable and recognisable symptoms. So “subclinical” relates to or denotes a disease which is not necessarily severe enough to present definite or readily observable symptoms. Instead subclinical psychopaths show deliberate and “strategically adaptive behaviours in response to cues during reciprocal social interactions”, using their positive talents including charm, intelligence and eloquence to advance through society, masking many of their true traits, much of the time. What can be particularly confusing is that psychiatrists, psychologists and other mental health professionals may also use the term“psychopathology” when referring (a) to their consideration of what may be features of some form of mental illness in individuals or collectively, as well as (b) the scientific study of mental disorders. Despite the similarity in language, “psychopathology” does not refer to “psychopathy” per se, rather what may be the underlying issues or reasons behind any mental illness or disorder, including a personality disorder or mood disorder. Professor Robert Hare has described psychopaths as “social predators”, “remorseless predators” or in some cases “lethal predators’” and has stated that “psychopathic depredations affect people in all races, cultures, and ethnic groups, and at all levels of income and social status”. In his book “Without Conscience” Hare deals with the issue of “successful psychopaths”, so termed it seems because they achieve both “success” in society, especially in terms of position, status and often wealth too. Their greatest “success” though could be in hiding their true traits much of the time, hence avoiding detection and being treated differently as the abnormal people they are, including avoiding facing imprisonment for devious and manipulative behaviour which, although not necessarily criminal in nature, could be judged by others (not themselves0 to be deeply unethical and amoral. “Successful psychopaths” is a term Hare strongly disagrees with, preferring to refer to such challenging people as “subcriminal psychopaths”: “Many psychopaths never go to prison or any other facility. They appear to function reasonably well – as lawyers, doctors, psychiatrists, academics, mercenaries, police officers, cult leaders, military personnel, businesspeople, writers, artists, entertainers, and so forth – without breaking the law, or at least without being caught and convicted. These individuals are every bit as egocentric, callous and manipulative as the average criminal psychopath; however their intelligence, family background, social skills and circumstances permit them to construct a facade of normalcy and to get what they want with relative impunity. Some commentators refer to them as “successful psychopaths”. Others argue that individuals of this sort benefit society. Just as they are able to ignore society’s rules, the argument goes, intelligent psychopaths are able to transcend the bounds of conventional thought, provide a creative spark for the arts, the theatre, design, and so on. Whatever the merits of this argument, they are more than offset – in my view – by the broken hearts, shattered careers, and used-up people left in their wake as they cut a zig-zag route through society, driven by a remorseless need to “express themselves”. Rather than refer to these people as successful psychopaths – after all, their success is often illusory and always at someone else’s expense – I prefer to call them subcriminal psychopaths. Their conduct, although technically not illegal, typically violates conventional ethical standards, hovering just on the shady side of the law. Unlike people who consciously adopt a ruthless, greedy and apparently unscrupulous strategy in their business dealings, but who are reasonably honest and empathetic in other areas of their lives, subcriminal psychopaths exhibit much the same behaviours and attitudes in all areas of their lives. If they lie and cheat on the job – and get away with it or are even admired for it – they will lie and cheat in other areas of their lives. I am certain that if the families and friends of such individuals were willing to discuss their experiences without fear of retribution, we would uncover a rat’s nest of emotional abuse, philandering, double-dealing and generally shoddy behaviour These rat’s nests are sometimes made public in a dramatic fashion. Think of the many high-profile cases in which a pillar of the community commits a serious crime [and] in the process of investigations by the police and news media the perpetrator’s dark side is revealed. Many such cases are vividly portrayed in books and movies and the shocked public asks “where did they go wrong?” and “what made them do it?” The answer, in most cases, is that the culprit didn’t just suddenly “go wrong”. Individuals who frequent the shady side of the law stand a good chance of slipping over the edge. In such cases the crime is simply a natural consequence of a deviant personality structure that has always been present but that, because of good luck, social skills, cover-ups, a fearful family, or friends and associates who conveniently refused to see what was going on, had not previously resulted in a criminal act that came to the attention of the justice system. Nevertheless, high-profile cases have considerable value. Typically they are well documented, alerting us to the fact that such people exist, and that before being caught they were relatives, neighbours or co-workers of people just like us… A frightful and perplexing theme runs through the case histories of all psychopaths: a deeply disturbing inability to care about the pain and suffering experienced by others – in short, a complete lack of empathy, the pre-requisite for love… Learning to behave according to the rules and regulations of society, called socialisation, is a complex process. On a practical level it teaches children “how things are done”. In the process, socialisation – through parenting, schooling, social experiences, religious training, and so forth – helps to create a system of beliefs, attitudes and personal standards that determine how we interact with the world around us. Socialisation also contributes to the formation of what most people call their conscience, the pesky inner voice that helps us to resist temptation and to feel guilty when we don’t. Together, this inner voice and the internalised norms and rules of society actors act as an “inner policeman”, regulating our behaviour even in the absence of any external controls, such as laws, our perceptions of what others expect of us, and real-life policemen. It’s no overstatement to say that our internal controls make society work. Our collective amazement and fascination with the psychopath’s utter disregard for rules suggests, by comparison, the power our “inner policemen” actually have over us. However, for psychopaths the social experiences that normally build a conscience never take hold. Such people don’t have an inner voice to guide them: They know the rules but follow only those they choose to follow, no matter what the repercussions for others. They have little resistance to temptation and their transgressions elicit no guilt.” Yet, perhaps because many people do not know how to identify a “subcriminal psychopath”, they hold many roles in society, from very senior to quite junior. This puts not only the sanity of those who have to deal with them at risk, but also the successfully smooth-running nature and, when mistrusted with seniority of position, ultimately the reputation and even viability of organisations which erroneously employ them. They can be notoriously difficult to spot, not only because many are very talented, including being gifted at the “ICE” characteristics of Intelligence, Charisma and Eloquence, but also being deeply devious and manipulative and, lacking guilt, remorse and an active conscience, will stop at nothing to “get their own way” and “win at all costs”, totally oblivious to any adverse consequences for anyone or anything else. But how could this be? What is missing in the make up of the psychopath which can allow them to be both charming and cruel?

What is missing?

Professor Hervey Cleckley, perhaps the pioneer of the modern understanding of psychopathy,  in his groundbreaking book “The Mask of Sanity” describes the effect of the combination of the traits both absent and prevalent in a psychopath: “He is unfamiliar with the primary facts or data of what might be called personal values and is altogether incapable of understanding such matters. It is impossible for him to take even a slight interest in the tragedy or joy or the striving of humanity as presented in serious literature or art. He is also indifferent to all these matters in life itself. Beauty and ugliness, except in a very superficial sense, goodness, evil, love, horror and humour have no actual meaning, no power to move him (The Mask of Sanity p40). He is, furthermore, lacking in the ability to see that others are moved. It is as though he were colourblind, despite his sharp intelligence, to this aspect of human existence. It cannot be explained to him because there is nothing in his orbit of awareness that can bridge the gap with comparison. He can repeat the words and say glibly that he understands and there is no way for him to realise that he does not understand (p40 ). The surface of the psychopath, however, that is, all of him that can be reached by verbal exploration and direct examination, shows up as equal to or better than normal and gives no hint at all of a disorder within. Nothing about him suggests oddness, inadequacy, or moral frailty. His mask is that of robust mental health (p383). Yet he has a disorder that often manifests itself in conduct far more seriously abnormal than that of the schizophrenic. Inwardly, too, there appears to be a significant difference. Deep in the masked schizophrenic we often sense a cold, weird indifference to many of life’s most urgent issues and sometimes also bizarre, inexplicable and unpredictable but intense emotional reactions to what seems almost irrelevant. Behind the exquisitely deceptive mask of the psychopath the emotional alteration we feel appears to be primarily one of degree, a consistent levelling of response to petty ranges and an incapacity to react with sufficient seriousness to achieve much more than pseudo-experience or quasi-experience. Nowhere within do we find a real cause or a sincere commitment, reasonable or unreasonable. There is nowhere the loyalty to produce real and lasting allegiance even to a negative or fanatic cause… His rational power enables him to mimic directly the complex play of human living. Yet what looks like sane realisation and normal experience remains, in a sense and to some degree, like the plays of our simian typist… In relatively abstract or circumscribed situations, such as the psychiatric examination or the trial in court, these abilities do not show impairment but more or less automatically demonstrate an outer sanity unquestionable in all its aspects and at all levels accessible to the observer. That this technical sanity is little more than a mimicry of true sanity cannot be proved at such levels. Only when the subject sets out to conduct his life can we get evidence of how little his good theoretical understanding means to him, of how inadequate and insubstantial are the apparently normal basic emotional reactions and motivations convincingly portrayed and enunciated but existing in little more than two dimensions.” Since the words and especially actions of psychopaths can be very hurtful to other people, it is assumed they are not emotionally attached to the people they harm, indeed their lack of empathy can be very difficult for other people to understand, a matter discussed in a separate chapter. Yet according to the PCL-R checklist, psychopaths can also be very careless even in the way they treat themselves. They often fail to change their own behaviour in a manner that would prevent them from experiencing future discomfort, as they seem to be incapable of learning from their prior experiences, especially from their mistakes, so it should not be a surprise to find them re-offending, termed recidivism. They, and those who have no option but to deal with them, can experience or endure “Groundhog Day” every day, not just due to the inflexible nature of personality disorders in general, but due to the extraordinary inability of psychopaths to learn from prior experience. Together with a lack of empathy, guilt and remorse, these are amongst the traits which psychopathy researchers, including Cleckley and Hare, associate with the disorder. What they have observed is that imprisoned criminals display both Factor 1 and 2 psychopathy behaviors while subcriminal psychopaths, floating around all areas of society, causing harm to many who cross their paths, less likely to be imprisoned even if they should be, typically display more “Factor 1 than Factor 2” behaviours. Questions we now need to consider include on what bases are potential psychopaths assessed and diagnosed, what are the respective “Factor 1 and Factor 2” traits and behaviours, and what is the “PCL-R” checklist?

How are Psychopaths diagnosed? Are all Narcissistic?

Too many in society appear unaware what day-to day behavioural traits self-centred leaders display, particularly those who may be capable of being diagnosed with any of a range of Personality Disorders, including Narcissistic and Anti-Social or Psychopathic/Sociopathic. While Psychopaths/Sociopaths are narcissistic, displaying a “grandiose sense of self” and often a “glib” or superficial charm, most narcissists are not psychopaths or sociopaths and ultimately, while prioritising themselves over others and deeply motivated by their self-interest, they may prove to be less cruel, abusive, sadistic or harmful than those also displaying deeper psychopathic tendencies. Some narcissistic people are cuter, more adaptable, devious, deceitful and manipulative than others. Those with more exhibitionist and histrionic tendencies may find it harder to control the self proclamations of their brilliance, especially in contexts and organisations where this is either expected or self-promotion contributes to progression through the ranks. In some organisational cultures pride rather than modesty is rewarded, rather than a touch of humility being appreciated, indicative of a more self-less than self-centred personal nature which ultimately can achieve far more in terms of respect and followers actually being inspired to do what the leaders want done, rather than being bullied, intimidated and even humiliated into letting the leader “get his or her own way”, which may not necessarily coincide with the best interests or stated purposes of the organisation at large. Other narcissists are far more subtle and tactful, well capable of masking these tendencies when so required, including in groups and organisations where modesty is preferred to arrogance as the medium for progression. So what are the measures mental health professionals use to make such decisions? Various lists of personal attributes have been compiled by experienced psychiatrists and psychologists to aid their peers diagnose a variety of “Personality Disorders”. Yet everyone is different so perhaps very few individual personalities would match everything from one list yet contain none of the traits described by another. For instance the exaggerated sense of self-importance associated with “narcissism” is also a feature of other disorders. Perhaps the Olympic flag or the Venn diagram better conveys the complexity associated with matching any one person’s mild or seriously disordered personality with the characteristics of particular disorders. Indeed the specific potential diagnosis per se may initially be less important to those who share their professional or personal lives with people who they realise are quite selfish, difficult and proud than actually appreciating that aspects of their behaviour may be abnormal and differ from the norm. Just recognising that a co-worker (or friend or family member) may have a disordered mind may initially be more important than associating their resulting behaviour with any particular disorder or disorders. Some psychologists believe that the “catch all” category of Antisocial Personality Disorder is too broad and was included in the ‘Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders’ because of the difficulty even experts have in diagnosing psychopathy, partially due to the propensity of psychopaths to convincingly lie during interviews with all parties including experienced psychologists and psychiatrists. Antisocial Personality Disorder predominantly refers ONLY to a cluster of criminally versatile and antisocial behaviours which are more readily identifiable, maybe even by non-psychologists, possibly including juvenile delinquency and cruelty, proneness to boredom, a need for stimulation, sometimes immediately for no apparent reason, and a lack of realistic long-term goals. However Psychopathy is defined by a cluster of BOTH socially deviant behaviours, typified by irresponsibility, impulsivity and poor behavioural controls, sometimes referred to as “Factor 2 Psychopathy”, AND personality traits which may be more difficult to assess, as these involve emotional depth and interpersonal abilities, both apparent and absent, sometimes referred to as “Factor 1 Psychopathy”. Antisocial Personality Disorder is not actually Psychopathy as it predominantly refers only to a group of antisocial and criminal behaviours whereas Psychopathy is defined by both such socially deviant behaviours which are more readily identifiable AND a range of personality traits requiring greater expertise to identify including empathy, egocentricity and guilt.

The Psychopathy Checklist

While diagnosis with psychopathy technically requires significant evidence of both Factors 1 and 2, especially when diagnosed using the Psychopathy Checklist (PCL) which became the Psychopathy Checklist-Revised (PCL-R) devised by Professor Robert D Hare and his team, including the anti-social behaviour more apparent in imprisoned criminals, many prisoners are not psychopaths and many un-imprisoned psychopaths may not display overtly anti-social or criminal behaviours. Some are far too clever to do that, preferring covertly subtle deceit and emotional harm to more overtly aggressive behaviour and violent intimidation.

During Hare’s early years as a clinical psychologist working with imprisoned criminals he noticed that many of the tests for apparent psychopathy were of the “self-reporting” variety, with devious criminals well capable of manipulating the results to portray the outcome they most desired.. Nor was there any universal acceptance of what constituted psychopathic traits. So starting with the research findings of Professor Hervey Cleckley, both from academic papers and his ground-breaking masterpiece “the Mask of Sanity”, he and his team starting developing a more interview-based approach providing a more reliable rating of psychopathic traits. As Hare describes himself in his own masterpiece, “Without Conscience”: “Many criminals are able to fake the results of psychological tests without too much difficulty… I decided to grapple with the classification problem by not relying solely on self-reporting. To gather my data, I assembled a team of clinicians who were thoroughly familiar with Cleckley’s work. They would identify psychopaths for study in the prison population by means of long, detailed interviews and close study of file information. I provided these “raters” with Cleckley’s list of the characteristics of psychopathy to serve as a guideline. As it turned out, agreement between the clinicians was generally very high; the few disagreements that arose were resolved by discussion. Still, other researchers and clinicians were never certain about just how we made our diagnoses. Therefore, my students and I spent more than ten years improving and refining our procedures for ferreting out the psychopaths out of the general prison population. The result was a highly reliable diagnostic tool that any clinician or researcher could use and that yielded a richly detailed profile of the personality disorder called psychopathy. We named this instrument the Psychopathy Checklist. For the first time, a generally accepted, scientifically sound means of measuring and diagnosing psychopathy became available. The Psychopathy Checklist is now used worldwide to help clinicians and researchers distinguish with reasonable certainty true psychopaths from those who merely break the rules.” Factor 1 & 2 Traits Psychopathy is often described as consisting of a variety of moderately correlated, overarching dimensions, often referred to as Factor 1 and Factor 2 Psychopathy, F1 and F2 or Primary and Secondary Psychopathy. While a variety of measures have been derived from research into the behaviour of such disordered people, nevertheless they are concerned with not dissimilar traits in reasonably similar groupings, even if the precise terminology differs. Several well-validated measures of psychopathy exist, with the most widely used being the Psychopathy Checklist-Revised (PCL-R; Hare, 1991), which assesses F1 and F2, as well as four facets (interpersonal, affective, lifestyle and antisocial) derived from factor analyses (Hare et al., 1990). The PCL-R involves both a relatively time consuming semi-structured interview of a few hours and a file review of all available information, used by the psychologically qualified interviewer to rate the presence of 20 characteristics. The PCL was originally developed in the 1970s by Canadian psychologist Robert D. Hare for use in psychology experiments, based partly on Hare’s work with male offenders and forensic inmates in Vancouver, and partly on an influential clinical profile by American psychiatrist Hervey M. Cleckley first published in 1941, The Mask of Sanity. The PCL-R is widely used to assess individuals in high security psychiatric units, prisons and other settings, of benefit in deciding who should be detained or released, or who should undergo what kind of treatment. It is also used for its original purpose, to carry out basic psychology studies of psychopathy. PSYCHOPATHY CHECKLIST–REVISED (PCL-R) FACTOR 1: INTERPERSONAL-AFFECTIVE SCALE (PRIMARY / CORE PSYCHOPATHY) FACET 1A INTERPERSONAL Glibness or superficial charm Grandiose sense of self-worth Pathological lying Conning or Manipulative/Devious FACET 1B AFFECTIVE / EMOTIONAL Lack of remorse or guilt Shallow affect / Cold emotions Callous or Lack of empathy Failure to accept responsibility FACTOR 2: SOCIAL DEVIANCE SCALE (SECONDARY PSYCHOPATHY) FACET 2A LIFESTYLE Need for stimulation Parasitic lifestyle Lack of realistic long-term goals Impulsivity Irresponsibility FACET 2B ANTISOCIAL Poor behavioural controls Early behavioural problems Juvenile delinquency Revocation of conditional release Criminal versatility PCL-R Factor 1 is labelled “selfish, callous and remorseless use of others”. Factor 2 is labelled as “chronically unstable, antisocial and socially deviant lifestyle”. There is a high risk of recidivism, or repeat offending among criminals, and generally low likelihood of rehabilitation for those labelled as having “psychopathy” on the basis of the PCL-R ratings in the manual for the test, although treatment research is ongoing. PCL-R Factors or Facets 1a and 1b are correlated with narcissistic personality disorder, extraversion and positive affect. Factor 1, sometimes described as Core or Primary personality traits of psychopathy, may even be beneficial for the psychopath in terms of non-deviant social functioning, hence the term “successful psychopaths”. PCL-R Factors or Facets 2a and 2b are particularly strongly correlated to antisocial personality disorder and borderline personality disorder and are associated with social deviance, sensation seeking, low socioeconomic status, reactive anger, criminality, impulsive violence and a higher risk of suicide. The two factors are nonetheless correlated and there are strong indications they do result from a single underlying disorder, especially in males. PCL-R Factor 1 items are more important in measuring and generalising the construct of psychopathy in women than Factor-2 items.

From Two to Four factors

Hare’s original PCL-R work (1991) was based on Two Factors described as “Interpersonal/Affective”, which became known as Factor 1 Psychopathy, consisting of Glibness or superficial charm, Grandiose sense of self-worth, Pathological lying, Conning/Manipulation, Lack of remorse/guilt, Shallow affect, Callous/Lack of empathy and Failure to accept responsibility. Factor 2 was described as “Behavioural/Lifestyle” and consisted of Need for stimulation, Parasitic lifestyle, Lack of realistic long-term plans, Irresponsibility, Impulsivity, Juvenile delinquency and Revocation of conditional release. The 20 PCL-Revised checklist also contained three further items which although relevant did not quite match what became known as Factor 1 and Factor 2: Many short-term marital relationships, Promiscuous sexual behaviour and Criminal versatility. Given Robert Hare’s own four decades of research, perhaps the most apt way to understand the 20 traits his lifetime of experience with perhaps life’s most challenging people, especially imprisoned criminals, led him to most associate with psychopaths, is to adapt some of his own descriptions from Chapters 3 and 4 of his own extraordinarily revealing book, the aptly titled “Without Conscience”. Following further research, both by his own team and others, Hare’s work evolved from a “two factor” to a “four-factor model” of psychopathy (2003). It is this categorisation of the initial two factors broken into four “facets” that is explained here, with many aspects other than the mostly overtly criminal being as capable of being displayed by the businessperson, public servant, social, community, educational, religious, sporting or political manager or leader, or indeed anyone else in global society, as the multi-convicted, repeat-offending “hardened” criminal. If amongst the reasons such people have not yet being “caught” or “imprisoned” is that their traits are less well known and international judicial systems have not yet learned how to adapt to deal with the peculiar “sub-criminal” behaviour of psychopaths throughout the many societies in a world of predominantly law-abiding and considerate people, maybe everyone else needs to better understand what very visible behaviour and less visible absence of feelings and emotions which Hare and other specialists in this field look for to identify perhaps life’s most irresponsible people, those who have developed a well-practiced expertise at pretending to be responsible.

FACTOR 1: “INTERPERSONAL-AFFECTIVE” SCALE (PRIMARY OR CORE PSYCHOPATHY)

Factor 1 involves feelings and relationships and describes how exceptionally self-centred and callous psychopaths can be, using others without any semblance of guilt or remorse.

FACET 1A: “INTERPERSONAL FACET”: RELATIONSHIPS

Psychopaths manipulate others for self-centred purposes, using superficial charm and deceit to exploit other people, notably for personal advantage or even just for the thrill of disadvantaging others. While many people could be described as “social animals”, enjoying the pleasure of the company of other people, psychopaths are better described as “social predators”.

Glibness or superficial charm (smooth-talking & insincere)

Psychopaths have a tendency to be smooth and engaging, charming and slick. They can be extremely verbally facile and their charm could never be associated with shyness or being self-conscious. They are never afraid to say anything and are rarely short of an opinion. They can be extremely tactless but when told so they can fail to see they did anything wrong. Conversations are an opportunity for them to show others how brilliant they are, not for others to join in. Their fondness for hearing themselves speaking means when excited they can fail to spot opportunities for other people to contribute to the discussion, or can interrupt them as soon as another thought – even on a totally different topic – comes into their head. “Psychopaths are often witty and articulate. They can be amusing and entertaining conversationalists, ready with a quick and clever comeback, and are able to tell unlikely but convincing stories that cast themselves in a good light. They can be very effective in presenting themselves well and are often very likeable, entertaining and charming. To some people, however, they seem too slick and smooth, too obviously insincere and superficial. Psychopaths may ramble and tell stories that seem unlikely in light of what is known about them. They are also well capable of feigning expertise in areas in which they have no real training or experience. One of the tell-tale signs, though, is their smooth lack of concern at being found out.” They can fool some of the people all of the time and even all of the people some of the time, but eventually their combination of behaviour, words, deeds and extraordinary blend of character traits should permit many others to see through their charisma to reveal their true inner coldness. Mark Twain is attributed to have said “it is easier to fool people than to convince them that they have been fooled”. Irrespective of the author, the phrase could have been written by someone with a deep understanding of the actual quite basic, self-centred and impulsive motivations of the psychopathic mind: “what’s in it for me?” People who get to know them well will realise that charisma can be skin-deep. In due course they will learn to prefer the company (and leadership) of less overtly charismatic but well-meaning people, with an abundance of human decency and all the warm emotions which allow them to be genuinely interested in other people, rather than those who are obsessed with themselves and seek positions of power to maximise their sense of achievement rather than use it astutely for the reasons they were trusted with it. At the end of the day charm towards others needs to be seen to be accompanied by a genuine interest in those being charmed, rather than a technique to somehow gain an advantage for the charmer at the expense of those being charmed.

Grandiose sense of self-worth (arrogant, egocentric with a superiority complex)

The self-centredness of psychopaths is well beyond the comprehension of most normal, kind and compassionate people, too decent to even contemplate let alone appreciate their true emotional impoverishment and the depth of their arrogance, selfish motivations and impulsive opportunism. Psychopaths have a self-lovingly, narcissistic and grossly inflated view of their own self-worth and abilities, often well beyond their real talent level, a truly astounding degree of egocentricity and self-absorption and a bewildering sense of entitlement. Superlatives have not yet been created to adequately explain their extraordinary degree of self-importance and how superior they feel to everybody else. Those who feel the necessity to say “do you (not) know who I am?” ultimately can prove not to posses the characteristics to set the leadership example for other people, who they may be incapable of showing a genuine interest in in the first place. Personal pride seems to tule their lives, allowing them to practice humiliation and discouragement rather than the humility and encouragement which gains respect rather than disrespect and even disrepute. They believe themselves to be the centre of the universe, as exceptionally superior human beings who are justified in living according to their own rules, irrespective of societal norms or the harm they can do to other people due to their fundamental lack of humanity. Psychopaths often come across as arrogant, assertive, shameless, self-aggrandising, boastful braggarts – self-assured, opinionated, domineering and cocky. They love to have power and control over others and seem incapable of believing that other people have valid opinions which may differ from theirs. Indeed they can even hold deep grudges against such people, purely for the “crime” of proffering a different opinion to theirs. How dare they? The subsequent punishment will surpass the crime they may not even now they have committed. Managers have been known to have been fired for reasons they have failed to understand, except they were seen to have openly disagreed with their CEO, even when what they said was absolutely right and their narcissistic leader quite wrong. When such former-employees were told at their unexpected exit-interview “it is not personal” this really meant “this is deeply personal, do you not know I am always right”. Yet we allow such arrogant and flawed people to become leaders, mistaking their arrogance and self-belief for leadership potential, when they cannot even manage their own emotions let alone take responsibility for the lives and feelings of others. They can appear to be charismatic or ‘electrifying’ to some people, with a “magnetic personality”, which allows them to talk themselves into situations and positions of responsibility in society for which they are otherwise incredibly ill-equipped, until this is discovered too late, given their fundamentally irresponsible and entirely self-centred nature, too often initially concealed by their ICE traits of Intelligence, Charisma and Eloquence.

Pathological lying

Psychopaths seem proud of their ability to lie. Many observers get the impression that psychopaths can sometimes be unaware that they are lying; it is as if the words take on a life of their own, unconcerned by the speaker’s knowledge that the observer is aware of the actual facts. Their capacity for untruthfulness can range from being crafty, shrewd, sly, clever and cunning to deeply deceptive, deceitful, dishonest, devious, unscrupulous and manipulative, all of which are innately natural talents. They simply cannot be believed at all, on any matter, although most people who have not yet got to know them well personally are, given their own trusting nature, more likely to believe than disbelieve them. What a mistake this can prove to be. The psychopaths’s indifference to being identified as a liar is absolutely extraordinary; it causes the listener to wonder about the speaker’s sanity. More often, though, the speaker is taken in. When caught in a lie or challenged with the truth, they are seldom perplexed or embarrassed – they simply change their stories or attempt to rework the facts so that they appear to be consistent with the lie. The results are a series of contradictory statements and a thoroughly confused listener, unaware who or what to believe. Those who know them well appreciate that the best approach is to first totally disbelieve them and indeed to first believe precisely the opposite of what they may assert, especially when they make adverse comments about the behaviour or character of other people. If they say that other people said or did “black”, instead appreciate it is more likely that the truth was “white”, until proven to be otherwise. Bizarre but true, given that they simply cannot be believed at all.

Cunning, Manipulative and Devious

Unscrupulous to their core, meaning lacking any form of scruples for behaviour which many others could not even consider engaging in, psychopaths will avail of any form of deceit and deception to gain an advantage over others, especially for personal gain. Indeed their greatest deceit can be the powerful impression they are well practiced at giving of being honest and caring, when they can be unbelievably dishonest and couldn’t care less for anyone but themselves. Deceiving others by acting “normal” most of the time, with their surface-level appeal masking their below-the-surface abnormality, including manipulating others to assist them achieve their goals and “get their own way” in many trivial and significant matters, are amongst their greatest talents. The degree of callousness they can engage in is extraordinary, given their total lack of concern for the emotions of those on the receiving end of their insensitive ruthlessness, whose resulting suffering may even contribute to their personal pleasure. Lying, deceiving and manipulation are natural talents for psychopaths. With their powers of imagination in gear and beamed on themselves, psychopaths appear amazingly unfazed by the possibility – or even by the certainty – of being found out. Their statements often reveal their belief that it would be foolish of them not to exploit the weaknesses of others. In addition, they can be very astute at determining what those weaknesses are and at using them for their own benefit. The capacity to con friend and foe alike makes it a simple matter for psychopaths to perpetuate fraud, embezzlement and impersonation. Some of their operations are elaborate and well thought out, whereas others are quite simple. Whatever the scheme, it is carried off in a cool, self-assured, brazen manner. Given their glibness and the facility with which they lie, it is not surprising that psychopaths successfully cheat, bilk, defraud, con and manipulate people and, being devoid of conscience and the capacity to experience guilt or remorse, have not the slightest compunction about doing so.

FACET 1B: “AFFECTIVE FACET”:

FEELINGS & EMOTIONS

Psychopaths are emotionally shallow and experience little or no remorse, guilt, empathy, love, sympathy or compassion, can thrive on hatred rather than love and seek revenge even for trivialities and rather than mercy and forgiveness. Their lack of warm emotions allows them to be cold, calculating and ruth-less, meaning sympathy-less. Being quite dispassionate about other people, given that they lack what it takes to contribute to humanity, they view life as concerning what they can take for themselves rather than give for the benefit of others. They seem to wear special sun-glasses, with mirrors on the inside of their lenses, so when they look out on the world they can only see matters from their own perspective. When they evaluate situations, no matter how interested they can appear to be in other people or even the organisation or entity which employs them, what is really and covertly happening in their mind is their persistent consideration of “what’s in it for me?” No matter how convincingly they try to give the impression to the contrary, they deeply and fundamentally lack what makes most people human.

Lack of remorse or guilt

Psychopath’s utter lack of feelings for the misfortune or suffering of others, especially when they have contributed to this, contributes to their not feeling the pangs of guilt for actions which distress others. They show a stunning lack of concern for the devastating effects their actions have on others. They can be completely forthright about the matter, calmly stating that they have no sense of guilt, are not sorry for the pain and destruction they have caused, and there is no reason for them to be concerned. They can sometimes verbalise remorse but then contradict themselves in words and actions. Their lack of remorse or guilt is associated with a remarkable ability to rationalise their behaviour and to shrug off personal responsibility for actions that cause shock and disappointment to family, friends, associates and others who have played by the rules. Just as extraordinary is their inability to learn from prior experience, which can explain why they can repeatedly behave in the same manner in similar situations and seem to repeat what others would see as their mistakes, time and time again. This though allows astute observers to both avoid what triggers their cold-hearted cruelty and identify them in the midst of normal people, to begin to deny them the situations and responsible positions in society from which they can practice their remorseless irresponsibility. Those who abuse power, lose power, but only after many have suffered, whether employees or citizens, including during the length periods when their sole priority became maintenance of power, irrespective of the cost to others. Even after the organisations (or nations) they led, or mis-led, have collapsed, with many people’s lives adversely affected, they can still wonder what they did wrong. Those without a sense of wrong must indeed have something wrong with them.

Shallow Affect / Cold Emotions

Most people derive happiness from saying or doing something to contribute to the happiness and wellbeing of others. Psychopaths can thrive on contributing to the unhappiness of others. There is no limit to the variety of methods they can find to make others unhappy, both in a subtle or covert manner, far more adept at discouragement and humiliation than praise and encouragement. The term “cold-hearted” could have been invented for psychopaths, given their inability to experience feelings of sympathy for the victims of their cruelty. They can be very vindictive and seek revenge against those who may only in some trivial way offended or disagreed with them, holding them in deep contempt. Their fundamental lack of emotional warmth denies them the ability to love or be loved. While capable of showing “consideration” for other people, when the circumstances suit them, this could not be equated with “compassion” or genuine kindness, which they are incapable of. Their ability to be charming and even gregarious hides their true inner emotional coldness, especially in interpersonal dealings, which can be starkly revealed when others say or do something which offends them or challenges their self-interest. Psychopaths seem to suffer a kind of emotional poverty that limits the range and depth of their feelings. While at times they appear cold and unemotional, they are prone to dramatic, shallow and short-lived displays of feeling. Careful observers are left with the impression that they are playacting and that little is going on below the surface. Many clinicians have commented that the emotions of psychopaths are so shallow as to be little more than “proto-emotions”: primitive responses to immediate needs. Psychopaths lack the physiological responses normally associated with fear. The significance of this finding is that, for most people, the fear produced by threats of pain or punishment is an unpleasant emotion and a powerful motivator of behaviour. Fear keeps us from doing some things, but it also makes us do other things. In each case, it is emotional awareness of the consequences that impels us to take a particular course of action. Not so with psychopaths; they merrily plunge on, perhaps knowing what might happen, but not really caring. For most of us, fear and apprehension, are associated with a variety of unpleasant bodily sensations, such as sweating of the hands, a “pounding heart”, dry mouth, muscle tenseness or weakness, trembles and “butterflies” in the stomach. Indeed wee often describe fear in terms of the bodily sensations that accompany them: “I was so terrified my heart leapt into my throat”; “I tried to speak but my mouth went dry”; and so forth. These bodily sensations do not form what psychopaths experience as fear. For them, fear – like most other emotions – is incomplete, shallow, largely cognitive in nature, and without the physiological turmoil or “colouring” that most of us find distinctly unpleasant and wish to avoid or reduce. (p129) The psychopath lacks an important element of experience – in this case, emotional experience – but may have learned the words that others use to describe or mimic experiences that he cannot really understand. (p134) Psychopaths have only a vague comprehension of the extent of their emotional poverty. In the final analysis, their self-image is more defined by possessions and other visible signs of success and power than by love, insight and compassion, which are abstractions and have little inherent meaning for them.

Callous lack of empathy

Their total lack of feelings for other people allows them to be treat other people tactlessly and coldly, no different than if they were a shopfront mannequin, being totally incapable of being genuinely considerate for the interests and needs of other people, who they can look down on with great contempt, especially when totally unwarranted. Many of the characteristics displayed by psychopaths – especially their egocentricity, lack of remorse, shallow emotions and deceitfulness – are closely associated with a profound lack of empathy – an inability to construct a mental and emotional ‘facsimile’ of another person. They seem unable to ‘get into the skin’ or to ‘walk in the shoes’ of others, except in a purely intellectual sense. The feelings of other people are of no concern to psychopaths. Because of their inability to appreciate the feelings of others, some psychopaths are capable of behaviour that normal people find not only horrific but baffling. Psychopaths display a general lack of empathy. They are indifferent to the rights and suffering of family and strangers alike. If they do maintain ties with their spouses or children, it is only because they see their family members as possessions, much like their stereos or automobiles. Indeed it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that some psychopaths are more concerned with the inner workings of their cars than with the inner worlds of their “loved” ones.

Failure to accept responsibility; tendency to deflect blame & ability to engage in impression management

Psychopaths can show an abject failure to accept responsibility for their actions, reflected in low conscientiousness, an absence of dutifulness and antagonistic manipulation of others in lieu of accepting responsibility. Usually they have handy excuses for their behaviour, and in some cases they deny that it happened it at all. Although sometimes a psychopath will admit to having performed the actions, he will greatly minimize or deny the consequences to others. Although they are also well capable of stating that their victims got what they deserved, in an ironic twist, psychopaths frequently see themselves as the real victims. Equally ironic is their ability to seek sympathy from others, perhaps described as “poor me”, even if based on entirely false and highly imaginative claims, given their own inability to feel sympathy for other people, including those they may have greatly wronged. Indeed their lack of “ruth” or sympathy or compassion can lead to them or their behaviour or both being described as “ruth-less”. Tragically (p115) these victims often cannot get other people to understand what they are going through. Psychopaths are very good at putting on a good impression when it suits them, and they often paint their victims as the real culprits. As one victim described the situation: “But everyone, including my doctor and lawyer and my friends blamed me for the problem. He had them so convinced that he was a great guy and that I was going mad, I began to believe it myself. Some wanted to know what I had done to make him act so strangely”. Lacking conscience for their misbehavioyr including their outrageous distortions of reality, damaging the reputation of other people is an area at which they excel, well described as “character assassination” or “distortion campaigns”. Other people just do not know who or what to believe. This is why one of the most salient pieces of advice in dealing with psychopaths when hearing a tall tale about someone else, especially when this does seem to be particularly out of character, is first believe the opposite, unless and until the story can be independently verified, unlikely as this may be given their ability to convincingly lie then just change their story without any qualms when found out. Their ability to seem to believe their own lies and inventions, about events or other people, is perhaps unparalleled throughout human existence. Yet their inability to accept responsibility for their many failings and callous misbehaviour is only matched by the veracity of the yarns they spin about those entirely innocent people they decide to blame instead. Lacking what many may describe as the very essence of humanity, psychopaths are not deterred by the possibility that their actions mean hardship or risk for others. They may even derive deep pleasure from cruel words and deeds which most other people throughout society couldn’t even contemplate.

FACTOR 2: “SOCIAL DEVIANCE SCALE” (SECONDARY PSYCHOPATHY)

FACET 2A: “LIFESTYLE”

Need for stimulation and excitement

Psychopaths have an ongoing and excessive need for excitement, thrills, taking chances and doing things that are risky. They long to live in the fast lane or “on the edge,” where the action is. In many cases the action involves breaking the rules. They often move from place to place and job to job searching for a fresh buzz. They can describe “doing crime” for excitement or thrills, enjoying “the adrenaline rush”. The flip side of this yearning for excitement is an inability to tolerate routine or monotony, so they can fail to work at the same job for any length of time, or to finish tasks that they consider dull or routine. Psychopaths can have poor self-discipline in carrying tasks through to completion because they are easily bored.

Impulsivity – reckless, potentially dangerous behaviours undertaken with little consideration for the consequences

Impulsivity is defined as a predisposition towards unplanned or rapid reactions to stimuli without the consideration of possible negative consequences (De Wit, 2009) and the term could have been invented for psychopaths. Psychopaths are well capable of engaging in behaviours that are unpremeditated and lack reflection or planning. They can find it a great challenge to resist temptation, frustrations and urges. They can engage in foolhardy, rash, unpredictable, erratic and reckless acts, evidence of a lack of deliberation without due consideration of the consequences, not only for others but even themselves. They are unlikely to spend much time weighing the pros and cons of a course of action or considering the possible consequences. ‘I did it because I felt like it’ is a common response. More than displays of temper, impulsive acts often result from an aim that plays a central role in most of the psychopath’s behaviour: to achieve immediate satisfaction, pleasure or relief. So family members, employers and coworkers typically find themselves standing around asking themselves what happened—jobs are quit, relationships broken off, plans changed, houses ransacked, people hurt, often for what appears little more than a whim. Psychopaths tend to live day-to-day and to change their plans frequently. They give little serious thought to the future and worry about it even less. Their impulsiveness, concern only for the moment and lack of allegiance to people or causes makes them unpredictable, careless and undependable.

Lack of realistic long-term goals

Although psychopaths often claim to have specific goals, they show little understanding of the qualifications required. They can have no idea how to achieve their goals and have little or no chance of attaining them. Some can display a nomadic existence, seeming to be aimless and lacking direction in life. Psychopaths feel that their abilities will enable them to become anything they want to be, even if their self-confidence and grandiosity can seem extraordinary to those familiar with their actual abilities. Although their aspirations may be more akin to dreams than realism, their clear inability to learn from prior experience does not deter them from equating past ambitions with subsequent failures to achieve these aspirations Given their penchant for trying to impress people with their extraordinary achievements and exceptional talents, however imaginary and unlikely these may appear to those who actually do know them, their illusions could not be equated with having any realistic, longer term goals. Irresponsibility Psychopaths consider the rules and expectations of society inconvenient and unreasonable, impediments to the behavioural expression of their inclinations and wishes. They make their own rules, both as children and as adults. Impulsive, deceitful children who lack empathy and see the world as their oyster will be much the same as adults. The lifelong continuity of the self-serving, anti-social behaviour of psychopaths is truly amazing. Obligations and commitments mean nothing to psychopaths. They do not honour formal or implied commitments to people, organisations or principles. Psychopaths are not deterred by the possibility that their actions may cause hardship or risk for others and are frequently successful in talking their way out of trouble. Although perhaps the most fundamentally irresponsible people in society, one of the challenges that everyone else faces in dealing with them is, given their unscrupulously deceitful nature, they often have great expertise in acting as if they were highly responsible. While they can pretend to be considerate of the interests and needs of both other people and even society itself, sometimes extremely convincingly so, at the end of the day they are not, given that they are probably the most self-centred people in society and struggle to prioritise the interests and needs of anyone but themselves, especially when situations arise which threaten their self-interest, given that their primary goal is to “get their own way, irrespective of the cost to others”. Giving a good impression is one of their fortes, especially when this masks their fundamental inner coldness and total disinterest in anyone or anything but themselves, even deriving pleasure from being . Until this is understood, they will be misunderstood. Notorious for their unreliability and irresponsibility, they simply cannot be trusted with any positions of responsibility, yet extraordinarily global society continues to appoint them to seniority of position, until it can often be too late to appreciate that their extraordinary mindset leads to unfortunate consequences given their ‘consistent irresponsibility’, well capable of routinely acting against the common good and doing so with ‘emotional impunity’.

Parasitic lifestyle

Devoid of the very facets of life which contribute to living with deep humanity, the lifestyle and life choices of psychopaths can reflect their necessity for exploitation rather than warm and meaningful relationships, allowing them to derive their pleasures instead from engaging in intentionally manipulative and self-centred behaviour. While some can be very ambitious, and will go to great lengths to “get their own way”, irrespective of the costs to others or even the organisation which employs them, others can display a lack of motivation and poor self-control. This can include financial dependence on others and an inability to accept, undertake or complete responsibilities.

FACET 2B: “ANTISOCIAL”

“Psychopaths do meet current legal and psychiatric standards for sanity. They understand the rules of society and the conventional meanings of right and wrong. They are capable of controlling their behaviour and they are aware of the potential consequences of their acts. Their problem is that this knowledge frequently fails to deter them from antisocial behaviour. They understand the intellectual rules of the game but the emotional rules are lost to them. [Nevertheless] psychopaths certainly know enough about what they are doing to be held accountable for the irresponsibility of their actions.” (CC P143 )

Poor behavioural controls

Psychopaths can find it very difficult to withhold their irritability, annoyance and impatience and can be very aggressive, threatening and verbally abusive. They can display inadequate control of anger and temper and are well capable of acting hastily. Besides being impulsive – doing things on the spur of the moment – psychopaths are also highly reactive to perceived insults or slights and can display inappropriate expressions of anger. Most of us have powerful inhibitory controls over our behaviour, even if we would like to respond aggressively, we are usually able to “keep the lid on”. In psychopaths these inhibitory controls are weak and the slightest provocation is sufficient to overcome them. As a result psychopaths are short-tempered or hot-headed and tend to respond to frustration, failure, discipline and criticism with sudden violence, threats and verbal abuse. They take offence easily and become angry and aggressive over trivialities, and often in a context that appears inappropriate to others. But their outbursts, extreme as they may be, are generally short-lived, and they quickly resume acting as if nothing out of the ordinary has happened. It’s not unusual for psychopaths to inflict serious physical or emotional damage on others, sometimes routinely, and yet refuse to acknowledge that they have a problem controlling their tempers. In most cases, they see their aggressive displays as natural responses to provocation.

Early behavioural problems

Many psychopaths began to display a variety of unacceptable behaviours from an early age, with “early behavioural problems” referring to the pre-teens period or trouble caused before the age of thirteen. While cruelty to animals and other children, including siblings, can be external “tell-tale signs” of the internal lack of empathy experienced even at a young age, not all adult psychopaths display such overt youthful cruelty. Most though would engage in some forms of disruptive or dysfunctional behaviour such as lying and cheating, intimidation and bullying, vandalism, theft, fire-starting and other forms of destruction, alcohol use, sexual activity, truancy from school and running away from home. It should not be a surprise to find they continue in a similar vein later in life.

Juvenile delinquency

Teenage behaviour problems, between the ages of 13-18; are referred to as juvenile delinquency, especially criminal behaviour. While these can be a continuation of the “early behavioural problems”, they usually involve elements of aggression, exploitation, antagonism, manipulation and other indications of cold, callous ruthlessness and a lack of consideration for other people, even those who are most kind to them. As adults, some can display a cold indifference to their own children. Nature and nurture can both play a role. While some are raised in disruptive environments and struggle to “socialise”, perhaps not having been shown the best example by peers or family, many come from well-adjusted families which may suggest nature and genetics could be contributory factors. While many teens can occasionally engage in difficult and disruptive behaviour, the range of difficulties psychopaths get involved with can be more extensive and serious compared with those of siblings and friends raised in similar settings.

Conduct Disorder

Conduct Disorder describes children and adolescents who systematically violate the basic rights of others or break social rules and norms that someone of a similar age would be expected to follow. To be diagnosed with this condition, individuals must have displayed at least 3 of the following symptoms during the previous 12 months, including at least one over the prior 6 months: Aggression to people or animals: 1. bullies, threatens or intimidates others often 2. starts physical fights often 3. has used a weapon that could cause serious physical harm to others (eg. Brick, bat, broken bottle, knife) 4. has been physically cruel to people 5. has been physically cruel to animals 6. has stolen from someone while confronting the victim (eg. mugging, purse snatching, extortion, armed robbery) 7. has forced someone into sexual activity Destruction of property: 10. has deliberately engaged in fire-setting with the intention of causing serious damage 11. has deliberately destroyed others’ property (other than by fire-setting) Deceitfulness or theft: 14. has broken into someone’s house, building or car 15. often lies, cons or deceives others to obtain goods or favours or to avoid obligations 16. has stolen items of some value without confronting the victim, such as forgery or shoplifting without breaking and entering. Serious violations of rules: 17. often stays out at night despite parent’s curfew, before teenage years 18. has run away from home overnight at least twice while living in their parents’ home, or the home of a parental surrogate (or once without returning for a lengthy period) 19. often skips school, which begins before teenage years. By definition, these symptoms cause a significant impairment in the individual’s ability to function in their life roles at school, work, or in their relationships with peers and family. If at least one of the symptoms start before age 10, Conduct Disorder can be classified as Childhood-Onset Type or as Adolescent-Onset Type if none of the symptoms start before age 10. If the age of onset is unknown, it is labeled as Unspecified Onset. If only a minimum number of required symptoms are displayed and these cause only minor harm to others, Conduct Disorder is considered to be mild. When many of the symptoms are displayed, or some symptoms cause considerable harm to others, Conduct Disorder is considered to be severe. Cases which fall somewhere in between these two extremes are described as Moderate Conduct Disorder. Conduct Disorder which began before the age of 15 is one of the conditions for diagnosis with Antisocial Personality Disorder from the age of 18, according to the requirements of the DSM of the US APA.

Revocation of conditional release

While many accept the responsibility of early release from prison sentences, psychopaths are less capable of the level of responsibility required. They can engage in actions or omissions of required actions, in serious violations of the terms of their probation or other “conditional release” from imprisonment due to technical violations such as carelessness, low deliberation, or failing to appear and other breaches of conditions of early release. These can result in revocation or withdrawal of their early release, further examples of their inability to accept responsibility for their own behaviour or appreciate the consequences of their actions.

Criminal versatility

While some can engage in the same type of wrongdoing, psychopaths can show a great ability to engage in a wide diversity of criminal acts, indeed many forms of criminal offences. These are not always engaged in for a specific reason, rather for the thrill of taking part and getting away with crimes.

Non Factor 1 and 2 behaviours

Many short-term marital relationships: Given their lack of any real interest in other people, except what they can do for them, they struggle to show commitment to any long-term relationships including marital. While people are useful to them they are capable of being treated reasonably well, at least much of the time, but when they are no longer deemed to serve a purpose they can be rapidly and callously discarded, further adding to the degree of unreliability and undependability they display in many areas of their lives. Promiscuous sexual behaviour: Again their lack of anything which could be termed warm emotions means they can see others as tools to be used for their own gratification, with no meaningful attempt to be anything but indiscriminate and opportunistic, leading to a variety of superficial and momentary relationships, many affairs, and even a variety of simultaneous relationships, adding to the thrill of avoiding being caught.

THREE FACTORS EXCLUDING ANTI-SOCIAL

In 2001, when Hare’s analysis of psychopathy was explained by way of two not the subsequent four factors, researchers Cooke and Michie, then at Glasgow Caledonian University, using statistical analysis involving “confirmatory factor analysis”, suggested that a three-factor structure may provide a more effective model, with those items from PCL-R Factor 2 strictly relating to antisocial behaviour (criminal versatility, juvenile delinquency, revocation of conditional release, early behavioural problems and poor behavioural controls) not utilised for their assessment of what constitutes psychopathy. While those more familiar with psychopathy from experience with imprisoned criminals may disagree, those more accustomed to psychopathic behaviour outside the more overtly criminal fraternity, indeed across almost all other areas of society, which Hare prefers to describe as “sub-criminal psychopaths”, may be better able to relate with the non-social-deviance aspects. Indeed they may find them more apparently relevant to the coldheartedly ruthless behaviour exhibited by the self-centred individuals employed in business, politics, government, public sector, education, religion, charities, sports and other activities in society which do not normally lead to trial and imprisonment, even if they could or should more frequently than they do. Proponents of models of psychopathy without the anti-social criminality required for diagnosis as a psychopath may argue that it is the other more arrogant, interpersonal, affective, impulsive and cold-heartedly empathy, guilt and conscience-free nature of their personality, which permits or leads them to engage in anti-social behaviour, given the right (or rather wrong) social background and opportunity, or rather fails to prohibit them from behaving unethically or in a devious, manipulative or corrupt manner in business, organisational and political life. Lacking the fear or anxiety which most experience means engaging in unethical, corrupt and antisocial acts may even appear to be thrilling or exciting, especially when there is an interpersonal element, as “getting their own way” (especially  when this denies others  getting theirs) appears to be one of their primary motivations. Indeed as not only “winning” but furthermore “winning at all costs” irrespective of the consequences (for others, their organisation or even themselves) can also seem to be a primary motivator, the absence of fear, guilt, empathy or indeed any warm emotions means their victory, especially over other people and whether major or trivial, irrespective of the situation, becomes their over-arching priority, with morality, ethics or harm to others just not a concern, or maybe even an ambition. When their cold-hearted and ruth-less (compassion-free) demeanour, which may derive pleasure from being cruel and even sadistic towards others, is allied to their extraordinary self-centredness and impulsivity, there really is no barrier or impediment  to they engaging in a manner which those with an “active conscience”  wouldn’t or couldn’t even contemplate. When those working (or living) with them appreciate that their prompt reaction to any matter or situation arising involving choices or deliberations is to instantaneously evaluate “what’s in it for me?”, even if this is purely denying others something they desire, they will learn to adapt their own thought-process or behaviour to minimise the opportunity of such situations arising. Giving them little or no opportunity to act impulsively and make poor decisions could be cutting off the fuel supply for their insatiable necessity to personally prevail, inflame issues and cause trouble. Indeed given their deep deceit and thrill they derive from lying, even involving no semblance of either truth or reality, other more adaptable people will in due course learn to initially believe the opposite of what they say or assert (until independently verified), do the opposite of what they want to do (more likely to be in line with organisational or national rather then personal goals) and especially to propose precisely the opposite of what others want them to do, given that they struggle to be agreeable and get a thrill from being disagreeable. Indeed it is their very maladaptive nature which allows their more intellectually intelligent colleagues to adapt their own thinking and behaviour to minimise the degree of harm they are capable of inflicting on others and the entity which employs them, one of their sources of “stimulation and excitement”. Given the thrill they get from winning and personally prevailing, they have no impediment to lying, deceiving and spreading malicious rumours about those they see to be their rivals (even if not, given their sometime paranoia) or who may have offended them in any way, even if they didn’t and this is just their ultra-competitive perception. Those who may hear them “badmouthing” others including their most loyal supporters or those apparently closest to them, let alone those they perceive to be rivals or enemies, will do well to appreciate that what psychologists call a “borderline distortion campaign” or “psychopathic character assassination” is very much par for their own personality and character and the best policy again may be to “believe the opposite” Indeed it may even be beneficial to inform the person whose character is being distorted or assassinated about this, tactfully, because otherwise they may be unaware why they are being ignored or criticised professionally and/or socially. When such self-focussed people are trusted with organisational or group responsibility, their disdain or even contempt for anyone other than their (brilliant) selves, necessity to treat others poorly rather than well, in effect being critical or discouraging rather than positive and encouraging, leads to unnecessary high-conflict situations and combative organisational cultures which those involved may simply describe as being “not a nice place to work”. Yet such scenarios are far too prevalent throughout global workplaces and tolerated when they should not be. No matter the apparent talents or achievements of such people, they are outweighed by the negatives and downsides, especially when it results in other people underperforming or feeling stressed and forced to take their talents elsewhere to more conducive environments where they will be better appreciated and perhaps make a significant contribute. How can this be achieved? By decision-makers including those responsible for hiring and firing being no longer charmed by those who transpire to be charmless, impressed by those whose necessity to intimidate and humiliate others needs to be seen as weakness rather than strength of character, whose eloquence and smart talk transpires to have no direct link with actual intentions, actions or reality and whose necessity to do “whatever it takes” to personally prevail irrespective of any damaging consequences may be better associated with narcissism and impulsivity than decisiveness and cold contempt for other people, loyalty only to themselves and lack of any apparent early warning system regarding matters of conscience, ethics, morality, responsibility or social responsibility as possible indications of psychopathy, indicated by the three facets associated with interpersonal, relationship and lifestyle situations being anything other than normal, especially when there doesn’t seem to be any genuine concern for the interests and needs of the organisation or anyone but themselves. Cooke and Michie devised their own terminology for such situations and scenarios, otherwise in many respects concur with Hare’s analysis of psychopathic traits as they divided the remaining non-socially deviant items into three factors: 1. Arrogant and Deceitful Experience (ADI), or interpersonal style, 2. Deficient Affective Experience (DAE), and 3. Impulsive and Irresponsible Behavioural lifestyle (IIL) which with some variation roughly correspond to the PCL-R factors 1a, 1b and 2a. Following further research, both by his own team and others in the same field of applied psychology, Hare’s work evolved from a “two factor” to a “four-factor model” of psychopathy (2003). Table X compares the PCL-R Four Factor model with Cooke and Michie’s Three Factor Model. PSYCHOPATHY CHECKLIST–REVISED (PCL-R) WITH COOKE AND MICHIE’S THREE FACTOR MODEL FACTOR 1: COOKE & MICHIE ADI or Arrogant and Deceitful Experience and PCL-R INTERPERSONAL-AFFECTIVE SCALE (PRIMARY / CORE PSYCHOPATHY) Glibness or superficial charm Grandiose sense of self-worth Pathological lying Conning or Manipulative/Devious FACTOR 2: COOKE & MICHIE DAE or Deficient Affective Experience and PCL-R SOCIAL DEVIANCE SCALE Lack of remorse or guilt Shallow affect / Cold emotions Callous or Lack of empathy Failure to accept responsibility FACTOR 3: COOKE & MICHIE IIL or Impulsive and Irresponsible Lifestyle and PCL-R SOCIAL DEVIANCE SCALE (SECONDARY PSYCHOPATHY) Need for stimulation Parasitic lifestyle Impulsivity Irresponsibility The PCL-R traits omitted from the Cooke & Michie model are: Lack of realistic long-term goals, Poor behavioural controls, Early behavioural problems, Juvenile delinquency, Revocation of conditional release and Criminal versatility. The difference between the “interpersonal/emotional” (Factor 1) and “socially deviant” (Factor 2) aspects, has contributed to some psychopathy researchers, including Cooke and Michie, to propose that the Factor 1 items indicative of “Arrogant and Deceitful Experience” and “Deficient Affective Experience” or lack of emotional depth, as well as some of the Factor 2 items typified by an “Impulsive and Irresponsible Lifestyle”, but without the overtly anti-social and criminal tendencies, may well explain the behaviour of those apparently “successfully” employed in organisations throughout global society but who, as Hare argues, should not be so described as their apparent “success” will always be at the expense of other people. I would add such people may even threaten the long-term viability of the organisation itself. Indeed I believe when employed in senior roles within organisations they should be regarded as a “viability liability” which could be worthy of inclusion in an organisational psychopathy checklist Although still deeply cunning, manipulative, deceitful, impulsive, untruthful and expert liars, with their “shallow emotions” including little or no empathy well capable of cold cruelty and remorseless rumours, including verbal disparagement of others, sometimes known as “psychopathic character assassination”, which may involve partial or total distortion of reality or “the truth”, possibly arising from a “delusional” mindset, while also displaying many of the behaviours discussed in this research, they may for instance be less physically violent. This though may be as much due to warmer and kinder (or less harmful) family upbringing and a more favourable social background as any better degree of “behaviour controls”. Those familiar with their tendencies may well have reason to always be slightly scared of such people, knowing their impulsivity may result in the necessity to “walk on eggshells” given their propensity for sudden anger outbursts. Ironically their inability to control their own emotions may also be accompanied by a necessity to “control” other people and situations.

ANTISOCIAL PERSONALITY DISORDER & OTHER INTERPRETATIONS OF PSYCHOPATHY

What is Antisocial Personality Disorder? DSM 301.7: Definition and Symptoms

Antisocial Personality Disorder is a type of character style that becomes apparent by age 15 at the latest, and represents a pervasive and stable pattern of disregarding and violating the rights of others, necessitating four elements of A, B, C and D for diagnosis. This diagnosis (B) can only be made after age 18, and the individual (C) must also have had Conduct Disorder that began before age 15. Furthermore (D), these symptoms do not occur during the course of Schizophrenia or a Manic Episode. It is the behavioural matters referred to as (A) which may be most relevant, with Antisocial Personality Disorder being defined by three or more of the following seven symptoms: 1. A failure to conform to social norms regarding lawful behaviour, indicated by repeatedly performing acts that would be grounds for arrest; 2. Acting in deceitful ways, such as lying repeatedly, using aliases and giving false names, and conning others for personal gain or pleasure; 3. Acting impulsively (engages in risky and dangerous acts without seeming to care about the consequences) and fails to plan ahead; 4. Is often irritable and aggressive, can be violent and often physically fights or assaults others; 5. Acting recklessly and tends to disregard the safety of self and others; 6. “Consistent irresponsibility”: is constantly irresponsible, and repeatedly fails to meet work obligations or honor financial obligations; 7. Lacks remorse, and seems indifferent to or does not find it unacceptable to engage in behavior which involves hurting, mistreating or stealing from others.

Antisocial Personality Disorder is NOT Psychopathy 

Many psychiatrists and psychologists would appear to believe that the “catch all” category of Antisocial Personality Disorder is too broad and are disappointed with its inclusion in the DSM or “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders” in lieu of a proper categorisation of psychopathy or what was formerly referred to as “sociopathic personality disorder”, not to be confused with the term “psychopathology” meaning underlying reasons for a mental illness,. One reason cited is the difficulty even experts have in diagnosing psychopathy, partially due to the propensity of psychopaths to convincingly lie during interviews with all parties and hide their true inner coldness related traits, including from experienced psychologists and psychiatrists, wearing what I refer to as their “mask of normality”, at least much of the time. While the Cooke and Michie model describes psychopathy without the necessity for anti-social and criminal behaviour for diagnosis as a psychopath, so too do other models such as the Triarchic and PPI-Revised which we will discuss shortly, after first considering why Anti-Social behaviour is NOT psychopathy. Anyone who has been on the receiving end of, indeed perhaps been a victim of, psychopathic behaviour may recognise the cold-hearted, callous and ruthless traits described by these models as well as the first three of Hare’s four facets, many arising from a lack of empathy and indeed basic humanity. Extraordinarily the APA in updating their DSM since its earliest variants have almost been seen to have done quite the opposite – they have INCLUDED the anti-social behaviour in their pseudo or partial description of what approximates psychopathy, entitled Anti-Social Personality Disorder, and EXCLUDED the emotional, affective and narcissistic matters which better describe the callous ruthlessness most associated with the psychopath. Hare explained that when the DSM-III was initially released it was assumed that the average clinical psychologist was not expected to be able to reliably assess personality traits such as empathy, egocentricity and guilt and as a consequence ASPD diagnosis guidance was based on what clinicians could more readily assess: objective, socially deviant behaviour. In effect the DSM has no satisfactory primary categorisation of psychopathy, despite the devastating effect such people can have on the lives of others, with the complexity of the problem recognised by a better attempt to do so included as an Appendix to DSM-5 introduced in 2013, indicative of a future direction which may better resolve this problem. The statistics vary but as a rule of thumb approximately 30% of those with ASPD may also be capable of also being classified as psychopaths. For instance, Kiehl (2006) observed that:
“ASPD has been criticised for overly relying on antisocial behaviours, while excluding many of the affective and interpersonal characteristics considered to be central to the construct of psychopathy. ASPD also has been questioned on grounds of specificity in forensic populations. Nearly 80–90% of inmates in a maximum security prison fulfil the criteria for ASPD, while only 15–25% score above the diagnostic criteria for psychopathy”,
indicative of why the DSM definition of ASPD in lieu of Psychopathy has been so heavily criticised.

Emotions and Affect

So what appears to be most missing from the definitions of ASPD and Psychopathy, which being derived from psyche (mind) and pathos (disease), in effect refers to “mental illness” or perhaps even more literally a “diseased mind” or “disordered mind”. Psychopathy is broader than ASPD, defined by a cluster of : BOTH socially deviant behaviours typified by irresponsibility, impulsivity and poor behavioural controls (associated with ASPD) AND personality traits, emotional and interpersonal, which may be more difficult to assess, including the ABSENCE of some traits associated with normal, compassionate living and the PRESENCE of other “pathological” traits associated with selfish, difficult, proud and challenging behaviour. Recall that a Personality Disorder is “a way of thinking, feeling and behaving that deviates from the expectations of the culture, causes distress or problems functioning and lasts over time.” In addition to the way such people think (cognition) and feel (affect), the motivations of some “Disordered Leaders” appears to differ from those of many other people. Traditionally three components of the mind have been identified:
  1. 1. The term “affect” in psychology refers to “any experience of feeling or emotion, ranging from suffering to elation, from the simplest to the most complex sensations of feeling, and from the most normal to the most “pathological” emotional reactions. Often described in terms of positive affect or negative affect, both mood and emotion are considered affective states.”
  2. 2. The term “cognition” although often considered to mean the “thinking” role of the brain, actually refers to “all forms of knowing and awareness, such as perceiving, conceiving, remembering, reasoning, judging, imagining, and problem solving.”xv
  3. 3. The term “conation” along with affect and conation one of the three traditionally identified components of the mind refers to “the proactive (as opposed to habitual) part of motivation that connects knowledge, affect, drives, desires, and instincts to behaviour. The behavioural basis of attitudes is sometimes referred to as the conative component”xvi, with “conative” described as “characterised by volition or self-activation toward a goal.”
So when affect or affective is mentioned, it typically refers to feelings, moods and emotions, including anger, fear, surprise, happiness, disgust and contempt, as well as how these are displayed (termed “affect display”) such as facial expressions, gestures, postures or other bodily movements that demonstrate an emotional state. Yet (extraordinarily) it is such important matters of feelings, moods and emotions which have been excluded from the DSM definition of Antisocial Personality Disorder (ASPD) which over the years has moved further and further away from the far wider variety of traits and behaviours most associated with psychopathy. So while the terms “psychopathy” and “sociopathy”, although different to some and identical to others, are in many respects interchangeable, especially by those who believe “sociopathy” is somehow more socially acceptable and less dangerous a term than “psychopathy”, neither are interchangeable with “anti-social personality disorder”. The “interpersonal” and “affective” or external display of interior emotional matters which have been excluded from the primary definition of ASPD but which are thought to be integral aspects of psychopathy include: 1. their “shallow effect” LACK of guilt, remorse, regret, responsibility, empathy, fear, truth-telling, ethics, morality, conscience, long-term goals, kindness, warm, welcoming feelings and emotions, the capacity to love and be loved, the ability to take criticism or extend mercy, forgiveness and compassion to others, or respond appropriately to others people when they are kind to them, as well as 2. the way they think, perceive themselves as superior and behave also differs from most others in society, given their glib or superficial charm, grandiosity or significant self-belief, or “narcissism”, a need for excitement and proneness to boredom, the ability to give a “good impression” yet be deeply and callously manipulative, deceitful and cunning, including pathological lying and changing lies and stories on a whim without seeming to be bothered about doing so or being caught being untruthful; an inability to learn from prior experience or accept responsibility for words and deeds which distress to others; being always right and never wrong, believing themselves to be much better than others and possessing talents they actually deeply lack; a tendency to blame others for all their failings, hold deep grudges and telling lies about others; thriving on vindictiveness and hatred, who cannot be believed as there can be a deep disconnect between their words, actions and intentions, to the degree that it is far safer to first believe the opposite of what they say or assert, 3. Their “conation” differs from many others in society as they evaluate situations based on “what’s in it for me?”, as ultimately their primary driving force and deepest motivation is their self-interest, because given their fundamental inner coldness the only person they are capable of having any real interest in is themselves, which with their extraordinary impulsiveness and thoughtlessness means even on the spur of the moment they will do anything it takes to “get their own way” and “win at all costs”, irrespective of the consequences for other people or organisations and even, extraordinarily, themselves, given their exceptional sense of invincibility and their delusional self-belief convincing them they can do anything they want to, even if (others know that) they are fundamentally ill-equipped for many of the tasks they are trusted with, including responsible management and leadership. Other people need to be warned not to allow themselves to fall for their external charisma which may transpire to be skin-deep, especially when they engage in false flattery of others for the purpose of personal advantage. Indeed it could be argued that Psychopathy is not adequately recognised amongst the Cluster B Personality Disorders at all, or very partially at best, rather is better represented in the huge self belief and egotistical element within DSM’s Narcissistic Personality Disorder and the interpersonal difficulties associated with DSM’s Borderline Personality Disorder and the cold-hearted cruelty associated with Sadistic Personality Disorder, despite the harm and havoc which those with psychopathic traits wreak both on lives of others and ultimately on society itself. With cigarette packets containing significant health warnings, what should other people be warned about and what could the DSM better assist clinicians with as their diagnoses can also result in health warnings about any form of relationship including doing business with such people? What may also explain their poor treatment of and disrespect for other people, also permitting their anti-social behaviour, is what is also most missing from the DSM description of ASPD – their fundamental lack of humanity. At the end of the day their greatest incapacity is their inability to genuinely appreciate and understand other people and act humanely towards them, given that they are only capable of seeing them as inanimate objects, not real people with their own feelings and emotions, which they can still go to great lengths to damage, as they seem to derive personal pleasure not from generosity and love but meanness and cruelty; those without a sense of wrong must have something wrong with them. So should matters such as meanness, fearlessness, hatred, cold-hearted ruthlessness and a fondness for playing mind-games not be included with the diagnostic criteria for psychopathy?

The triarchic model

The triarchic model suggests that different conceptions of psychopathy emphasize three observable characteristics to various degrees. Analyses have been made with respect to the applicability of measurement tools such as the Psychopathy Checklist (PCL, PCL-R) and Psychopathic Personality Inventory (PPI) to this model. Boldness: Low fear including stress-tolerance, toleration of unfamiliarity and danger, and high self-confidence and social assertiveness. The PCL-R measures this relatively poorly and mainly through Facet 1 of Factor 1. Similar to PPI Fearless dominance. May correspond to differences in the amygdala and other neurological systems associated with fear. Disinhibition: Poor impulse control including problems with planning and foresight, lacking affect and urge control, demand for immediate gratification, and poor behavioural restraints. Similar to PCL-R Factor 2 and PPI Impulsive anti-sociality. May correspond to impairments in frontal lobe systems that are involved in such control. Meanness: Lacking empathy and close attachments with others, disdain of close attachments, use of cruelty to gain empowerment, exploitative tendencies, defiance of authority and destructive excitement seeking. The PCL-R in general is related to this, but in particular some elements in Factor 1. Similar to PPI, but also includes elements of subscales in Impulsive anti-sociality.

Psychopathic Personality Inventory (PPI-Revised)

The Psychopathic Personality Inventory (PPI-Revised) is another personality test for traits associated with psychopathy in adults, designed to measure personality dispositions independent of antisocial behaviours, whereas the PCL-R explicitly incorporates such behaviours. The PPI was developed by Scott Lilienfeld and Brian Andrews to assess these traits in non-criminal (e.g. university students) populations, though it is still used in clinical (e.g. incarcerated) populations as well. In contrast to other psychopathy measures, such as the Hare Psychopathy Checklist (PCL), the PPI is a “self-report” scale, rather than interview-based, assessment. It is intended to comprehensively index psychopathic personality traits without assuming particular links to anti-social or criminal behaviours. It also includes measures to detect impression management or careless responding. The Psychopathic Personality Inventory (PPI; Lilienfeld & Andrews, 1996) was developed as a self-report measure of psychopathy, and as a more easily administered and less time-consuming alternative to the PCL-R. Nevertheless, the PPI is marked by the standard limitations of self-reports, such as reliance on respondents’ insight and honesty, both of which may be particular problems among psychopathic individuals (Lilienfeld, 1994). Most commonly, factor analytic studies report that PPI consists of a three-factor structure: F1 (Fearless Dominance), F2 (Impulsive Antisociality) and Coldheartedness, the last of which does not load appreciably on either factor and is thus treated as a stand-alone factor (Benning, et al., 2003; Patrick et al., 2006; but see Neumann, Malterer, & Newman, 2008, for an alternative factor structure). Some of the traits measured by the PPI differ from those measured by the PCL-R, with the most noticeable difference being the conceptualisation and operationalisation of Factor 1. Whereas PCL-R Factor 1 assesses interpersonal and affective traits such as grandiosity, lack of empathy and callousness (Hare, 1991), PPI-I captures relatively adaptive features of stress immunity, social potency and fearlessness, which are related to such traits as risk taking without fear of consequences, low anxiety and social dominance (Benning et al., 2003; Miller & Lynam, 2012). Indeed, the PPI and PCL-R were intended to assess psychopathy somewhat differently, as the PPI was designed to measure personality dispositions independent of antisocial behaviours, whereas the PCL-R explicitly incorporates such behaviours (Lilienfeld & Andrews, 1996). xix The items used in the original version of the PPI were based on a number of conceptual constructs theorised (by previous researchers such as Hervey Cleckley and Robert D. Hare) to be related to psychopathy. It consists of a series of statements to which subjects respond on how accurately the statement describes them using a 4-point Likert scale (“False, “Mostly False”, “Mostly True”, “True”). Factor Analysis of the initial 160 items revealed 8 factors: Machiavellian Egocentricity (ME), Social Potency (SOP), Carefree Nonplanfulness (CN), Fearlessness (F), Blame Externalization (BE), Impulsive Nonconformity (IN), Stress Immunity (STI): and Coldheartedness (C). Additionally, the PPI also included two special validity scales designed to detect participants who were giving random, inconsistent, or insincere answers. This was to avoid attempts at malingering, and to eliminate subjects who seemed to have difficulty understanding multiple items. In 2005, the PPI was revised. The new version, called the PPI-R, included a reorganisation of the 8 subscales into two (sometimes three) new higher-order factors: PPI-1: Fearless Dominance (FD), consisting of the Social Potency, Stress Immunity and Fearlessness subscales, associated with less anxiety, depression and empathy as well as higher well-being, assertiveness, narcissism and thrill-seeking: 1. Social Potency (SOP): The ability to charm and influence others. 2. Stress Immunity (STI): A lack of typical marked reactions to traumatic or otherwise stress-inducing events. 3. Fearlessness (F): An eagerness for risk-seeking behaviours, as well as a lack of the fear that normally goes with them. PPI-2: Self-Centred Impulsivity (SCI), consisting of the Carefree Nonplanfulness, Impulsive Nonconformity, Machiavellian Egocentricity and Blame Externalisation subscales, associated with impulsivity, aggressiveness, substance use, antisocial behaviour, negative affect and suicidal ideation: 4. Carefree Nonplanfulness (CN): Difficulty in planning ahead and considering the consequences of one’s actions. 5. Impulsive Nonconformity (IN): A disregard for social norms and culturally acceptable behaviours. 6. Machiavellian Egocentricity (ME): A lack of empathy and sense of detachment from others for the sake of achieving one’s own goals. 7. Blame Externalisation (BE): Inability to take responsibility for one’s actions, instead blaming others or rationalising one’s behaviour. PPI-3: Coldheartedness (C): 8. Coldheartedness (C): A distinct lack of emotion, guilt, or regard for others’ feelings. A person may score at different levels on the different factors, but the total score indicates the overall extent of psychopathic personality. Higher scores on PPI Factor I are associated with emotional stability and social efficacy, as well as reduced empathy. Higher scores on PPI Factor II are associated with maladaptive tendencies, including aggressiveness, substance use problems, negative feelings and suicidal ideation. Scores on the two major factors tend to be only moderately correlated or related to each other. The coldheartedness factor is an interesting aspect of the PPI model. Although independent analyses of the PPI’s factor structure have shown support for the validity of the 2-factor model, there is some data that suggests that a 3-factor model, separating coldheartedness, may have advantages. Many analyses of the PPI tend to exclude Coldheartedness and focus only on Fearless Dominance (FD) and Self-Centred Impulsivity (SCI), but some studies have shown the two factors to be less statistically reliable when Coldheartedness is not also considered separately. Thus, some researchers are starting to use it as a distinct third factor in their analyses, as such meanness was a central part of Cleckley’s conceptualisation of a psychopath (from The Mask of Sanity). Coldheartedness has also been shown to be distinct from the other two factors when comparing across other personality models, such as the Five Factor Model (FFM). In particular, Coldheartedness has significantly negative correlations with the Openness and Agreeableness dimensions of the FFM. The Fearless Dominance (FD) and Self-Centered Impulsivity (SCI) factors are similar to the concepts of Primary and Secondary psychopathy. Like Primary Psychopathy, which is associated with callousness, shallow affect, manipulation and superficial charm, Fearless Dominance (FD) traits are related to a lack of emotional responsivity but accurate perception of those emotions in others. Conversely, Secondary Psychopathy, which is associated with impulsivity and lack of long-term goals, and is related to hostile behavior, and Self-Centered Impulsivity (SCI), are related to difficulties in both emotional perception and control of negative emotional responses, such as anxiety, irritation, and aggressiveness.

Megalomania

Narcissism as sometimes referred to as egoism and previously as megalomania, or “an unnaturally strong wish for power and control, or the belief that you are very much more important and powerful than you really are”. “Narcissism is characterised by traits such as dominance, self-confidence, a sense of entitlement, grandiosity and low empathy. There is growing evidence that individuals with these characteristics often emerge as leaders, and that narcissistic CEOs may make more impulsive and risky decisions.” “Narcissism is more likely to relate to reactive aggression in circumstances where the narcissistic egos or goals are under threat.” In addition to the separately identifiable “Grandiose-Manipulative” (GM) and “Daring-Impulsive” (DI) traits apparent in narcissistic (and psychopathic) individuals, the cold hearted and ruth-less (sympathy-free) or “Callous-Unemotional” (CU) trait refers to an absence of any genuine concern for the feelings and needs of others, viewed as little more than objects for manipulation. “There has been a growing interest in how narcissistic leaders affect the organisations that they lead (as observed by O’Reilly et al, 2013 vii e.g., Maccoby, 2007; Padilla, Hogan, & Kaiser, 2007; Rosenthal & Pittinsky, 2006). viii ix x Research has suggested that narcissistic leaders—typically characterised by dominance, self-confidence, a sense of entitlement, grandiosity and low empathy—can both positively and negatively influence organisations. On the positive side, narcissists are more likely to be seen as inspirational, succeed in situations that call for change, and be a force for creativity (Deluga, 1997; Gupta & Spangler, 2012; Maccoby, 2007). xi xii xiii On the negative side, narcissistic leaders have been shown to be more likely to violate integrity standards (e.g., Blickle, Schlegel, Fassbender, & Klein, 2006; O’Connor, Mumford, Clifton, Gessner, & Connelly, 1995). xiv xv Narcissistic leaders have unhappy employees and create destructive workplaces (Blair, Hoffman, & Helland, 2008), and inhibit the exchange of information within organisations (Nevicka, De Hoogh, Van Vianen, Beersma, & McIlwain, 2011). xvi xvii While provocative, most of the empirical research on narcissism has been conducted using student samples. There is, however, some interesting theorising about how narcissism among senior managers might affect organisations (e.g., Campbell, Hoffman, Campbell, & Marchisio, 2011; Padilla et al., 2007). Rosenthal and Pittinsky (2006: 617), for example, note that “narcissists have the charisma and vision that are vital to effective leadership,” but that these leaders are also prone to bullying subordinates, violating ethical standards, and making risky decisions.

NPD Diagnosis

While the DSM is very much the diagnostic tool for mental health professionals in the USA, and of course beneficial for international clinicians and researchers, the global reference tool of all illnesses, including mental, is the ICD-11 from the World Health Organisation. The “International Classification of Diseases 11th Revision” describes itself as “the global standard for diagnostic health information”. The DSM and ICD aim to become closer over time and this convergence ambition is reflected in “both the Alternative DSM-5 Model for Personality Disorders (AMPD) and the chapter on personality disorders (PD) in the recent version of ICD-11 embody(ing) a shift from a categorical to a dimensional paradigm for the classification of Personality Disorders.” “The “Alternative Model”, which was the product of the DSM-5 Personality and Personality Disorder Work Group, was approved by the DSM-5 Task Force and was intended for inclusion in Section II of DSM-5, “Diagnostic Criteria and Codes.” However, the APA Board of Trustees voted to put the new model in Section III and to continue with the categories and criteria from DSM-IV for the personality disorders in DSM-5 Section II.” Indeed Section III of DSM-5 is no longer an “appendix” but includes tools to enhance diagnosis, as well as models for an evolving DSM of the future. DSM-5 Task Force Chair David Kupfer, MD, emphasised that Section III “is not a dumping ground for material that doesn’t belong in Section II. What we are trying to do here is provide tools and techniques that can enhance the clinical decision-making process” by psychiatrists and other mental health professionals. Section III of DSM-5 contains “some diagnostic categories that require further research and/or more time for clinicians to become acquainted with before being included in Section II, as well as usable tools that should enhance diagnosis of the conditions listed in Section II.” Skodol et al (2015) describe the related four step AMPD assessment process as beginning “with an evaluation of impairments in four elements of personality functioning—identity, self-direction, empathy, and intimacy—that were identified in the existing clinical literature as core aspects of personality disorder that can be reliably assessed… measured in combination on a single 5-point scale of severity”, essentially from non-existent or mild to severe. “The second step in the assessment of a personality disorder is an evaluation of pathological personality traits. The Alternative Model describes pathological personality according to five personality trait domains—negative affectivity, detachment, antagonism, disinhibition, and psychoticism—which correspond to the pathological “poles” of the well-known and widely validated five-factor model of personality. Each trait domain consists of three to six more specific personality trait “facets” (e.g., emotional lability in the negative affectivity domain; impulsivity in the disinhibition domain).”. The DSM-5 (APA, 2013) Section III Alternative Model states that the “essential features of a personality disorder are impairments in personality (self and interpersonal) functioning and the presence of pathological personality traits” and for ALL personality disorders the impairments in personality functioning and the individual’s personality trait expression are:
  1. relatively inflexible and pervasive or consistent across a broad range of personal and social situations;
  2. relatively stable across time (with onsets that can be traced back to at least adolescence or early adulthood);
  3. not better explained by another mental disorder;
  4. not solely attributable to the physiological effects of a substance or another medical condition (e.g., a drug of abuse, medication); and are
  5. not better understood as normal for an individual’s developmental stage or sociocultural environment.
To diagnose Narcissistic Personality Disorder, the DSM-5 Alternative Model requires the following criteria to be met: A. Significant impairments in personality functioning manifest by: 1. Impairments in self functioning (a or b): a. Identity: Excessive reference to others for self-definition and self-esteem regulation; exaggerated self-appraisal may be inflated or deflated, or vacillate between extremes; emotional regulation mirrors fluctuations in self-esteem. b. Self-direction: Goal-setting is based on gaining approval from others; personal standards are unreasonably high in order to see oneself as exceptional, or too low based on a sense of entitlement; often unaware of own motivations. AND 2. Impairments in interpersonal functioning (a or b): a. Empathy: Impaired ability to recognise or identify with the feelings and needs of others; excessively attuned to reactions of others, but only if perceived as relevant to self; over- or underestimate of own effect on others. b. Intimacy: Relationships largely superficial and exist to serve self-esteem regulation; mutuality constrained by little genuine interest in others‟ experiences and predominance of a need for personal gain AND B. Pathological personality traits in the Antagonism domain, characterised by: a. Grandiosity: Feelings of entitlement, either overt or covert; self-centredness; firmly holding to the belief that one is better than others; condescending toward others. b. Attention seeking: Excessive attempts to attract and be the focus of the attention of others; admiration seeking.

Grandiose and Vulnerable Narcissism

“Empirical interest in narcissism was incited from the addition of a form of maladjusted narcissism to the third edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders (DSM-III; American Psychiatric Association, 1980) in its inclusion of Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD)”. Dickinson and Pincus (2003) reported that the “DSM category was based mostly on the work of Kernberg (1975) who conceived grandiosity as the primary overt characteristic in narcissistic pathology” (pathology meaning “any departure from what is considered healthy or adaptive”). Since then “both contemporary theorists of narcissism (Akhtar & Thomson, 1982; Cooper, 1981, 1998; Kohut, 1971; Wink, 1996) and clinicians who specialise in personality pathology have delineated two different types of narcissistic characters (Gabbard, 1989, 1998; Gersten, 1991; Masterson, 1993; Røvik, 2001). The first is a grandiose subtype, the personality reflected in the representation of NPD in the DSM, whereby narcissistic pathology is described as grandiose, arrogant, entitled, exploitative and envious. The second subtype is regarded as a vulnerable narcissistic personality, which is described as overtly self-inhibited and modest but harbouring underlying grandiose expectations for oneself and others (Gabbard, 1989, 1998).” Gabbard (1989) proposed that “oblivious” narcissists are “unaware of his or her impact on others, whereas the “hypervigilant” are acutely aware of others’ reactions… Between these two endpoints will be many narcissistic individuals who are much smoother socially and who possess a great deal of interpersonal charm.” Heinz Kohut courageously challenged Freudian orthodoxy and the medical control of psychoanalysis in America. His influential book “The Analysis of the Self” became known not only for its innovative and “systematic approach to the psychoanalytic treatment of narcissistic personality disorders” but his “self psychology model” considerably advanced both understanding and treatment not only of narcissism in particular but personality disorders in general.i “According to Kohut’s self psychology model, narcissistic psychopathology is a result of parental lack of empathy during development. Consequently, the individual does not develop full capacity to regulate self esteem. The narcissistic adult, according to Kohut’s concepts, vacillates between an irrational overestimation of the self and irrational feelings of inferiority, and relies on others to regulate his self esteem and give him a sense of value. In treatment, Kohut recommends helping the patient develop these missing functions. Kohut proposes that the therapist should empathically experience the world from the patient’s point of view (“temporary indwelling”) so that the patient feels understood… Using Heinz Kohut’s self psychology model, the goal of therapy is to allow the patient to incorporate the missing self object functions that he needs into his internal psychic structure. Kohut calls this process transmuting internalisation. In this sense, these patients’ psyches are “under construction” and therapy is a building time. In order to achieve this goal, a therapist does not just try to imagine what feelings a certain situation might evoke, but rather can feel what the patient felt in that situation. This has been referred to as “temporary indwelling.” This empathy has been credited with being one of the vehicles for making lasting changes in therapy. Without it, the patient, whose self is too weak to tolerate more aggressive interpretation, would not benefit from therapy and in fact may suffer more damage.” Kohut was also known for his writing on the role of empathy between clinician and patient during therapy, with kindness by the therapist and caring for the person emotionally suffering facilitating client introspection, helping move their relationship to a deeper level. The well-intentioned empathic nature and accurate interpretation by the clinician together with an accompanying insight on the part of the patient permits a deeper form of empathic connection and patient introspection, enhancing treatment outcome. “Man can no more survive psychologically in a psychological milieu that does not respond empathetically to him, than he can survive physically in an atmosphere that contains no oxygen.” Kohut described empathy as “the capacity to think and feel oneself into the inner life of another person” and wrote that “the empathic understanding of the experience of other human beings is as basic an endowment of man as his vision, hearing, touch, taste and smell.” More recent research is consistent with Kohut’s (1971) early conceptualisation of grandiose and vulnerable narcissistic characters… The grandiose character is evident in the overt display of infantile grandiosity which evolves from archaic, unfulfilled narcissistic needs that are repressed early in childhood. The vulnerable character generally presents with overt low self-esteem and shame, shifting from entitled narcissistic demands to a complete denial of these needs, experiencing shame and a sense of fragility.” “Wink (1991) interpreted the two principal components of narcissism as grandiose and vulnerable. The grandiose component was associated with exhibitionism, aggression, sociability, dominance and self-acceptance. The vulnerable component, however, was associated with psychological distress, lowered sociability and lowered self-acceptance. Spouses of participants rated both grandiose and vulnerable partners as bossy, cruel, arrogant, argumentative and demanding. In contrast, only the vulnerable subtypes were rated by their spouses as dissatisfied, anxious and bitter, whereas only grandiose subtypes were rated by their spouses as aggressive and exhibitionistic.

Grandiose Narcissists

The grandiose types have also been labeled “oblivious narcissists” (Gabbard, 1989, 1998) because of their observed lack of insight into the impact they have on others.

The grandiose narcissistic individual is more likely to regulate self-esteem through overt self-enhancement, denial of weaknesses, intimidating demands of entitlement, consistent anger in unmet expectation and devaluation of people that threaten self-esteem. They have diminished awareness of the dissonance between their expectations and reality, along with the impact this has on relationships. Grandiose fantasies are an aspect of the individual’s overt presentation. Any conflict within the environment is generally experienced as external to these individuals and not a measure of their own unrealistic expectations. The findings of Dickinson and Pincus (2003) concerning the overt social presentation of the grandiose narcissistic subtype were consistent with both theory (Kernberg, 1975; Kohut, 1971, 1977) and research (Hibbard & Bunce, 1995; Pincus & Wiggins, 1990; Wink, 1991) on this character style. Grandiose participants were rated as higher in personality disorder criteria for NPD, Antisocial Personality Disorder and Histrionic Personality Disorder. With regard to NPD criteria, this finding is consonant with the background of the development of the DSM category. The higher ratings on the criteria for Antisocial Personality Disorder and Histrionic Personality Disorder were also in line with past research that indicated considerable comorbidity of these Cluster B personality disorders with NPD (e.g., Morey, 1988). Comorbidity is the simultaneous presence in an individual of more than one illness, disease or disorder. The antisocial, narcissistic and histrionic personality disorders have criteria that belie a dramatic interpersonal presentation, with a tendency toward exhibitionism, attention-seeking and difficulties empathising with others. They are “overtly perceived as grandiose, arrogant and exhibitionistic.” The grandiose narcissists reported interpersonal difficulties of a domineering and/or vindictive nature, low interpersonal distress and the majority selected attachment styles associated with positive self-representation (Secure, Dismissive). Grandiose narcissistic individuals expect another’s immediate and undivided attention, and are oblivious to the effect their direct demands of entitlement have on others. By virtue of their ability to maintain the grandiose self through self-enhancement, grandiose narcissistic individuals are less susceptible than their vulnerable peers to the chronic emotional consequences of threats to entitled expectations (e.g., distress, lowered self-esteem, interpersonal fearfulness). When provided with the opportunity, these individuals will say positive things about themselves and dismiss any potential weaknesses. Research (Hibbard & Bunce, 1995; Pincus & Wiggins, 1990; Wink, 1991; Dickinson and Pincus (2003) that suggests that these individuals are actively self-enhancing, vindictive, aggressive, exhibitionistic and exploitative, while denying significant emotional or interpersonal stress.” While they perceive themselves positively with regard to their experience in relationships and are likely to be dominant and assertive, others would likely describe their impact upon others more negatively than they themselves would perceive. This overall finding confirms past theory and research that suggests that these individuals lack knowledge of the impact they have upon others, and thus, have an unrealistic view of themselves in relation to others (Gabbard, 1989, 1998; Kernberg, 1975; Kohut, 1971, 1977). Indeed, this very lack of insight into their impact upon others is what incited Gabbard (1989) to enlist the label “oblivious narcissists” to describe their social presentation and distinguish them from their vulnerable counterparts.

Vulnerable Narcissists

The vulnerable subtype has been garnished with a variety of labels including closet narcissist (Masterson, 1993), hypervigilant narcissist (Gabbard, 1989), hypersensitive narcissist (Hendin & Cheek, 1997), vulnerable narcissist (Gersten, 1991; Hibbard & Bunce, 1995; Wink, 1991), and covert narcissist (Akhtar & Thomson, 1982; Cooper, 1998; Wink & Donahue, 1997). Vulnerable narcissistic personality is observed as overtly presenting with shyness, constraint and even the appearance of empathy. Underlying this presentation, however, lies a covert core organised around grandiose expectations and entitlement. Vulnerable narcissists are less equipped to use self-enhancement strategies (including self-praise) to modulate self-esteem, often needing external feedback from others to manage their self-esteem. They are more likely to experience conflict around their entitled expectations, attempting to disavow or deny the underlying entitlement and continual disappointments. Denial is a defence mechanism in which unpleasant thoughts, feelings, wishes or events are ignored or excluded from conscious awareness, an unconscious process that functions to resolve emotional conflict or reduce anxiety. However, the disavowal of their own entitled expectations leads to brewing anger and hostile outbursts, followed by the experience of shame and depression. The fluctuation between shame/depression and overt anger influences the impression of rather labile (or moody) emotions. Vulnerable narcissistic individuals experience much greater anxiety in developing relationships with others because of the tenuous nature of their self-esteem. Chronic hypersensitivity and disappointment stemming from unmet entitled expectations is intolerable enough to promote social withdrawal and avoidance in an attempt to manage self-esteem (Cooper, 1998; Gabbard, 1989, 1998; Gersten, 1991; Kraus & Reynolds, 2001; Wink, 1991). However there appears to be considerable confusion in the diagnosis of NPD among clinicians (Gunderson, Ronningstam, & Smith, 1991), which may be due in part to differing theories of narcissism that guide the assessment of psychopathology (Cooper, 1998). If the recognition of two types of narcissistic disorders is valid, overlooking the vulnerable type could contribute to false negative problems (narcissism not identified) and false positive problems (narcissism misidentified as another pathology). Vulnerable narcissism could be misdiagnosed with at least two other distinct DSM personality disorders: Avoidant Personality Disorder (AVPD) and Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). In the diagnosis of  Avoidant PD, there are several criteria that may overlap with vulnerable narcissism:
  1. Avoidant individuals are observed as appearing shy and being fearful of developing close relationships with others.
  2. Individuals with AVPD may meet criteria for experiencing fears of feeling humiliated, rejected or embarrassed within individual relationships.
  3. Finally, Millon (1996) proposes that the use of fantasy in individuals with AVPD is a major element in the presentation and perpetuation of this disorder. The use of fantasy has also long been denoted as primary to the realm of narcissism.
The vulnerable narcissist is likely to exhibit significant interpersonal anxiety, avoidance of relationships and use of fantasy, but this is guided by a core of entitled expectations. Vulnerable narcissists may avoid relationships in order to protect themselves from the disappointment and shame over unmet expectations of others, in contrast to fears of social rejection or making a negative social impact typical of Avoidant PD. Another false positive diagnosis that may occur as a result of misinterpreting vulnerable narcissism is in the diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). As with social avoidance, the emotional lability of the vulnerable narcissist is influenced by their covert entitlement and difficulties managing disappointment and self-esteem threat. In contrast, the emotionally lability of the individual with BPD is a byproduct of unrealistic anaclitic (powerlessness and fear of abandonment) needs (e.g., the need for a strong caretaker to manage his or her fears of being independent).’ Borderline PD has been denoted as a severe form of character pathology by many theorists (Kernberg, 1975; Millon, 1996). Dickinson and Pincus’ found less statistical convergence of their vulnerable research candidates with borderline personality disorder which they believed confirmed their assertion that significant differences exist between the two distinct personality styles. Despite the overt emotional lability of both borderline and vulnerably narcissistic individuals, there are meaningful differences in the types of problems these individuals would be expected to experience (Kernberg, 1975; Masterson, 1993).

Developmental Splitting between Grandiose & Vulnerable and Constructive & Destructive

“Though both constructs share the central concept of self-centredness, they manifest in very different personality types, which Wink (1991) originally referred to as the “two faces” (p. 590) of narcissism: subclinical Grandiose narcissists are extraverted, socially bold and even charming, Vulnerable narcissists, on the contrary, are introverted, defensive and avoidant. While narcissistic grandiosity is characterised by overt expressions of feelings of superiority and entitlement, narcissistic vulnerability reflects hypersensitivity and introversive self-absorbedness. Grandiose narcissism displays substantial correlation with extraversion, while vulnerable narcissism correlates highly with introversion… Clinical observations show that patients diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder (NPD), a pathological form of narcissism, display co-occurring or oscillating states of grandiosity and vulnerability”. “A recent systematic investigation found that individuals identified as grandiose narcissists are likely to display episodes of vulnerable narcissism as well” (Gore and Widiger, 2016). “In reality, the individual feels quite inferior about himself, using the defence mechanism of splitting to remain unaware of the conflict between his expression of grandiosity and his feelings of inferiority” (Kernberg, 1975) (Carr, 2008) Splitting is “a primitive defence mechanism used to protect oneself from conflict, in which objects provoking anxiety and ambivalence are dichotomised into extreme representations (part-objects) with either positive or negative qualities, resulting in polarised viewpoints that fluctuate in extremes of seeing the self or others as either all good or all bad. This mechanism is used not only by infants and young children, who are not yet capable of integrating these polarized viewpoints, but also by adults with dysfunctional patterns of dealing with ambivalence; it is often associated with borderline personality disorder.” v People with emotional personality disorders often experience overwhelming emotions and struggle to integrate the concept that good and bad can co-exist in another person… For people with a Cluster B disorder including borderline, “splitting” is a commonly used defence mechanism that is done subconsciously in an attempt to protect against intense negative feelings such as loneliness, abandonment and isolation. Splitting causes a person to view everything and everyone in black and white, ‘absolute’ terms. It stops them from being able to recognise or accept paradoxical qualities in someone or something and doesn’t allow for any “grey areas” in their thinking. Seeing and responding to the world in these extremes, through either a filter of positivity or negativity, can leave the disordered person exhausted and emotionally drained. It can also lead to strains or fractures in their relationships as those close to the person become more and more affected by their behaviour. A common symptom is emotional dysregulation – this is where a person is less able to manage their emotional responses than individuals who don’t struggle with a personality disorder. Therefore, when a person with the disorder splits and perceives something or someone to be entirely good or bad, they are likely to respond in a way that falls outside what would be expected. These extreme emotions can be exhausting, both to the person with the disorder and those who are closest to them, who could be friends, family or coworkers. When a real or perceived slight is then experienced by the disordered person, this can cause them to feel disappointed, betrayed, unloved or abandoned, and view the other party as entirely bad. The individual may then become angry, or withdraw entirely. vi Splitting can also be used by psychopaths to create a narrative whereby they are the victim. “Within the area of psychoanalysis, splitting refers to a coping mechanism whereby an individual, unable to integrate certain particularly difficult feelings or experiences into the overall ego structure, compartmentalises his or her reaction to those feelings or experiences. This is also often referred to as ego disintegration or, in extreme cases, dissociation. Splitting was first described by Sigmund Freud, and was later more clearly defined by his daughter Anna Freud. Splitting can be explained as thinking purely in extremes, e.g. good versus bad, powerful versus defenceless and so on. A two-year-old child cannot see a person who does something unpleasant to the child (e.g. not feeding him when he is hungry), as possessing just one or a few bad characteristic(s). This is too complicated for the not yet fully developed brain. The other can only been seen as all bad at that moment in time. However, when this person gratifies the child, he will be perceived as all good again. Splitting can be seen as a developmental stage and as a defence mechanism.” In the object relations theory of Melanie Klein, she states that children are born with two primary drives: a caring, loving one and a destructive, hateful one. All humans struggle throughout their entire lives to integrate these two drives into constructive relations. An important step in the development of children is to overcome the splitting of these two drives, which is the central theme of the paranoid-schizoid position, conceived of by Melanie Klein as the state of mind existing in babies of three or four to six months of age, but one that is constantly returned to throughout life to greater or lesser degrees. Klein emphasises that the good and bad parts of the self are projected onto or into the object, such as the mother. This represents the operation of the life and death instincts, of love and hate. As the child matures and as a result of predominantly good experiences being taken in, the baby gradually begins to be able to bring together the good and bad objects into a single object. viii As an Object Relations Theorist, Klein sees emotions as always existing in relation to other people or “objects” of emotions or feelings. In the paranoid schizoid position, relations are also characterised by being all “good” or all “bad”. People in the child’s world are thus split into two objects, hence the “schizoid” in paranoid schizoid. According to Klein, splitting refers to the separation of the things the child loves (good, gratifying objects) and the things the child hates (bad, frustrating objects)… The child has to learn that others and objects can be good and bad.ix In the developmental model of Otto Kernberg, the overcoming of splitting is also an important developmental task. The child has to learn to integrate feelings of love and hate. If a person fails to accomplish this developmental task, borderline pathology can develop. The borderline personality is not able to integrate the good and bad images of both self and others. Kernberg also states that people who suffer from borderline personality disorder have a ‘bad representation’ which dominates the ‘good representation’. Splitting creates instability in relationships, because one person can be viewed as either all good or all bad at different times, depending on whether he or she gratifies needs or frustrates them. This, and similar oscillations in the experience of the self, lead to chaotic and unstable relationship patterns, identity diffusion and mood swings. People who are diagnosed with a narcissistic personality disorder also use splitting as a central defence mechanism. They do this to preserve their self-esteem, their overall evaluation or appraisal of their own worth.. They do this by seeing the self as purely good and the others as purely bad. The use of splitting also implies the use of other defence mechanisms, namely devaluation, idealisation and denial. Denial is a defence mechanism postulated by Sigmund Freud, in which a person is faced with a fact that is too uncomfortable to accept and rejects it instead, insisting that it is not true despite what may be overwhelming evidence. When viewing people as all good, the individual is said to be using idealisation: a mental mechanism in which the person attributes exaggeratedly positive qualities to the self or others. When viewing people as all bad, the individual employs devaluation: attributing exaggeratedly negative qualities to the self or others. Heinz Kohut’s “self-object transferences” involved idealisation and mirroring, or copying what someone else is doing while communicating with them. Kohut stated that, with narcissistic patients, idealisation of the self and the therapist should be allowed during therapy and then very gradually will diminish. To Kohut, idealisation in childhood is a healthy mechanism. If the parents fail to provide appropriate opportunities for idealisation (healthy narcissism) and mirroring (how to cope with reality), the child does not develop beyond a developmental stage in which he sees himself as grandiose but in which he also remains dependent on others to provide his self-esteem. Indeed before Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) took its present name, it was commonly referred to as Megalomania, a term first used by Heinz Kohut in 1971. Narcissistic personality disorder is thus a psychological disorder resulting from a person’s belief that he or she is flawed in a way that makes the person fundamentally unacceptable to others. This belief is held below the person’s conscious awareness. Indeed such a person would typically deny thinking such a thing if questioned. In order to protect themselves against the intolerably painful rejection and isolation they imagine would follow if others recognised their supposedly defective nature, such people make strong attempts to control others’ view of them and behaviour towards them. The common use of the term “narcissism” refers to some of the ways people defend themselves against this narcissistic dynamic: a concern with one’s own physical and social image, a preoccupation with one’s own thoughts and feelings and a sense of grandiosity. There are, however, many other behaviours that can stem from narcissistic concerns, such as immersion in one’s own affairs to the exclusion of others, an inability to empathise with others’ experience, interpersonal rigidity, an insistence that one’s opinions and values are “right” and a tendency to be easily offended and take things personally. To the extent that people are narcissistic, they can be controlling, blaming, self-absorbed, intolerant of others’ views, unaware of other’s needs and of the effects of their behaviour on others, and require that others see them as they wish to be seen. People who are narcissistic commonly feel rejected, humiliated and threatened when criticised. To protect themselves from these dangers, they often react with disdain, rage, and/or defiance to any slight, real or imagined, xiv all of which are traits this research associates with “Destructive Leadership” as (mal) practiced by “Disordered Leaders”.

Ruthless Callousness v Constructive Responsibility

When easily distractible racehorses are required to wear blinkers, they may not actually be blinkered at all. Rather they are forced to look forward while ignoring distractions, with the purpose being to move as expeditiously as possible, sometimes jumping over a variety of obstacles. If such a garment could be designed for narcissistic leaders it could prove to be very beneficial because they actually may be innately blinkered, as looking out for and prioritising any interests other than their own can seem to pose them a considerable challenge. What many organisations may inadequately appreciate is that their greatest obstacle to harmonious progress could actually be their own leaders, due to their blinkered brains and truly illicit, illegitimate and potentially dangerous mindsets. Perhaps the most apt analogy is that narcissistic people, including those I describe as “Disordered Leaders”, would seem to wear spectacles, but not normally manufactured ones with a focus on seeing the world they inhabit more clearly, which may well be impossible. Rather they wear mirror spectacles (or contact lenses), with a dual purpose, one being preventing others from seeing what may be going on in the mind behind them. But these are not normal mirror glasses, with the mirror on the outside of the glass, they serve a further and more alarming purpose. Rather they are specially designed and manufactured with the mirror on the inside of the glass, so when they look out all they see is themselves and their insatiably personal goals and ambitions, prioritising which is perhaps their singularly most important goal in life, perhaps oblivious to any other concerns, most certainly not what others may describe as morality or ethics. Their spectacles, like their minds, appear to be focused only on themselves. The challenge for others is that no glasses have yet been made capable of facilitating revealing who they actually are, one of the ambitions of this research. However there are ways that the door into their real mindset can be gradually opened. Given their penchant for hiding their truer state behind a “mask of normality”, psychologists suggest that they will not always reveal themselves by way of conspicuous acts of demonstrably unethical or visibly harmful behaviour, rather by way of many minor acts of subtle cruelty. Too many people (including business school students) somehow believe that “ruthlessness”, or a lack of compassion or sympathy for the situation of others, has not only a role to play but may even be “necessary” to be “successful” in business. Perhaps if they were consistently on the receiving end of the unnecessary ruthless and fear inducing callousness practiced by “Disordered Leaders”, they might change their opinion and prefer to work for those who specialise in praise and encouragement rather than discouragement, rebuke and even humiliation. As such behaviour is quite the opposite of the “motivating people to achieve common goals” expected of leaders, maybe their necessity to put-down rather than build-up those unfortunate to work with or for them means they have already failed in their primary leadership role, one they perhaps should not have even been considered for in the first place? They are unlikely to appreciate that there is no humility in humiliation, nor humiliation in humility. As Blanchard and Peale wrote in The Power of Ethical Management:
“People with humility don’t think less of themselves; they just think about themselves less”.
This is quite the opposite of self-centred and “care-less” leaders whose primary if not exclusive focus is on themselves, their number one goal is satisfying their self-interest and  when most tested are revealed to “couldn’t care less” about anyone or anything other then themselves. Indeed do such people even warrant or deserve the title of “leader”, especially when the “tone at the top” example they set is less than admirable? If business “success” is judged purely in terms of personal or corporate wealth or the  seniority of position achieved by an individual, undoubtedly a callous attitude to other people and situations can lead to some degree of “success”, especially in the short term, but at what cost? Do the means justify the ends if position or wealth or both are achieved unscrupulously? Are “ruthless” people respected or trusted by their peers? Will other people actually seek to do business with them again, or (once bitten, twice shy) will they take their custom to people and businesses where there is reciprocal and mutual respect and indeed good-will and favourable intent between the parties? Fortunately this is the situation prevailing in the vast majority of business (and other) healthy, trusting and generally positive and constructive, mutually beneficial relationships. I opened a short discussion on business ethics on Irish national radio (the morning of a conference at the national football stadium Croke Park involving a variety of bodies including EBENI, Business in the Community and Transparency International) almost a decade ago by asking “would you do business with someone you do not trust?” That should be a rhetorical question, yet at the time I did not fully understand why so many seemed to ignore or not consider the possible impact on trust (and reputation) when they engaged in behaviour which risked damaging trust to gain some advantage over the other party. Before I started researching the impact of those with Personality Disorders, I failed to appreciate why (perhaps arising from a moment’s impulsivity) those who sought “win-lose” outcomes considered their short-term “victory” worthwhile, when it invariably resulted in (a) damaged trust, (b) a loss of respect and an end not only to (c) the specific relationship but potentially (d) any future business between the entities they represent and (e) perhaps damage further afield also, as word of their “unscrupulousness” (signifying lack of conscience) spread to others who would then also not consider doing business with them either, given that (f) their reputation had been damaged. Perhaps Socrates was right to liken “good name” to a fire – far easier to keep kindled than relight when (foolishly) allowed to be extinguished. A decade later I now appreciate that there is a minority of society who take an inordinate and perhaps sadistic pleasure in “getting their own way” and their primary cognitive goal of “winning at all costs” is all the more powerfully perceived within their disordered mind when their victory also damages others emotionally. The more rational may well doubt in such situations whether anyone won at all. They damage trust when they lie, deceive, manipulate and seek to assassinate the character of those they believe to be opponents, often quite falsely. They actually seem to believe their own lies, deceit, perjuries, falsehoods and misinterpretations. They want others to do what they want, yet may themselves be incapable of taking advice. There is a significant disconnect between their words and deeds. To them, (shallow) words and (empty) promises are meaningless and un-heartfelt, lacking sincerity or association with genuine effort to follow them with appropriate or beneficial action. They want others to understand them for their idiosyncrasies but show little or no genuine interest in other people. They want others to forgive them for their errors but cannot say sorry when they are wrong, nor even seem to experience remorse. They want others to be grateful towards them but towards others have an attitude of ingratitude. They are constantly critical but overreact to anything they perceive to be criticism, even if not or none was intended. They seem to forget what their true job responsibilities should be, or to whom, yet do not forget those people who they believe have wronged them. They hold deep grudges often for trivial reasons, not even satisfied by extracting severely disproportionate revenge. Those familiar with the body language and facial expressions of the most self-centred may begin to appreciate that their immediate and indeed instantaneous reaction to any situation is to mentally consider “what’s in it for me?” Such a mindset does not result in fair and balanced decision-making, especially when their self-interest is not only their primary interest but perhaps their only concern, inconsiderate of the consequences for anyone or anything else, certainly not trust, respect or reputation. Furthermore when there is a minority in society who do not experience “fear” as most others do, they are unlikely to be able to evaluate the “risks” attaching to situations and hence seek the highest possible “rewards” inconsiderate of the risks or downside potential, even if catastrophic. Yet as we seem to fall for their “Intelligence, Charm and Eloquence” (and intimidation which we erroneously associate with strength rather then weakness of character) we allow such ICE-cold and ruth-less people lead not only significant businesses but also governments and financial institutions, the one sector of industry which particularly requires a more sensible;e and cautious approach to the risk-reward evaluation. No wonder so many financial intuitions have collapsed throughout history, damaging many innocent people both financially and emotionally when they placed their trust (and money) in the wrong type of self-obsessed leaders. Indeed it may well be that those who do not experience fear themselves who seem to derive the most pleasure from fear-induced behaviour towards others in not just business but many other forms of group and organisational life too, all with inevitable and predictable deleterious outcomes – for others. When others experience their cold, unblinking stare or emotion-less smirk when they seem to succeed in damaging others emotionally, questions really need to be asked why they were promoted or elected to seniority of position in the first place, especially when they become more associated with havoc than harmony and selfishness than self-less-ness. When their “successes” are always at the expense of others, should they really be regarded as being “successful” at all? That is why it is important or indeed imperative that more people become familiar with the behaviour particularly associated with the “Cluster B” group of Personality Disorders to both DENY this dangerous sub-group of society the power they will inevitably abuse (for some form of personal advantage) and DIMINISH the degree of harm and damage they can do both to people, institutions and even the very fabric of local, national and international society. While “Constructive Leaders” create welcoming, encouraging and cooperative cultures and indeed FUN work-places (which psychologists well describe as “playful”) and are well capable of “bringing out the best” in those they can be trusted to lead, those “Disordered Leaders” who practice “Destructive Leadership” who derive their primary pleasure from making others feel worse, including by way of FEAR and usually unnecessary rebuke, humiliation and conflict, need to be better identified and denied the power they crave but will inevitably abuse. Let me repeat that they are unlikely to appreciate that there is no humility in humiliation, nor humiliation in humility. Those who can understand how other people feel and are capable of experiencing and sharing their emotions with them, can be trusted with responsibility for other people (see the role of “mirror neurons” in Leadership – what neuroscience suggests). Those who do not or cannot should not be trusted with responsibility for the lives and emotions of others when they cannot even properly manage their own. Nor can those who suffer a deep disconnect between their words, promises and actions (and brain regions as revealed by fMRI) especially when they seem to be totally inconsiderate of the consequences of their actions (for others and extraordinarily even themselves) and when caught lying are totally “unfazed” and just change their story as if nothing happened. There must be something wrong with those who do not seem to possess a sense of wrong. Yet we make such people leaders (or do not do enough to prevent them) before we realise how wrong we were to do so, often too late to undo some of the damage they have already done, apparent to almost everyone else except themselves. Even when the organisations they mis-lead collapse, with many people’s lives adversely affected, they can fail to see what they make have done wrong, blaming all their failings on everyone and anything but themselves. “Blame cultures” develop in the entities they mis-lead when the most irresponsible fail to accept responsibility for words and mis-deeds which transpire to do more harm than good and result in more conflict than cooperation and havoc than harmony. At its most basic, rational, sensible, responsible, motivational and even visionary “Constructive Leaders” seek “win-win” outcomes from business situations. Even if the “win” is not entirely equal, once both parties believe they have “won” or done well out of the situation, they are likely to do further business together as the opportunity arises and maybe even pass on favourable recommendation to others. It is not unusual in such (normal) situations to hear business people, executives and employees, say “a great deal of our business comes from word-of-mouth referral”. This undoubtedly contributes to their “success”, being both emotionally satisfying and profitable (assuming pricing and margins are well considered and appropriate to the potential volume of trade between the parties). Matters such as mutual respect and appreciation as well as a generally harmonious workplace environment whereby people look forward to coming in to work and feel inspired to “give their best” effort and maybe even “perform to their potential”, especially when they are included rather than excluded an encouraged not discouraged, are also judged to be part and parcel of business (or organisational) “success”, notably as cooperation and collaboration is more likely to produce more constructive and well considered outcomes and ideas for the future when people feel their talents and effort are appreciated. In the majority of businesses (led by “Constructive Leaders”) this is the case and indeed the people involved take cooperation, job-satisfaction and a healthy and perhaps vibrant and dynamic “corporate culture” for granted. It is the “norm” they have come to expect when the people in charge are positive, constructive, warm and welcoming by nature, as even when they have to be critical they do so sensibly and considerately and do not have to resort to humiliation to get their message across to people who made a mistake or may be under-performing. Such leaders feel good when making others feel good about themselves. And (shock, horror) lo and behold they also achieve (warranted) seniority of position and (deserved) personal wealth when the business they mange astutely is itself “successful” and the people they employ, manage and lead themselves feel appreciated and “committed to achieving common goals”, one of the primary aims or goals of “leadership”. Furthermore such (kind, considerate, positive and enthusiastic) managers and leaders are liked and respected by not only employees but the breadth of other “stakeholders” too, notably customers and suppliers:, all of whom want to pursue an ongoing and satisfying commercial (and personal) relationship with them. Business “success” across many measures including but also well beyond merely position, title and wealth is achieved by the vast majority in society without having to resort to being “ruthless”, involving treating others in a rude, disrespectful and maybe even cruel and callous manner, or cheating people commercially, as even if they felt like doing so on occasions they have the common sense and emotional intelligence recognise that doing so is quite counterproductive and may necessitate a subsequent apology. If the byline for the movie “Love Story” was “love means never having to say sorry”, perhaps the same should apply to common-sense, constructive and mutually satisfying “win-win” business dealings too? However more cold, calculating and ruth-less ”Destructive Leaders” (perhaps incapable of experiencing regret, guilt or remorse), may not be so altruistically or motivationally motivated, “getting their kicks” out of engineering “win-lose” outcomes and thriving on disagreement, dissent and conflict. When such leaders consistently feel good from making others feel bad about themselves, there is clearly “something wrong”, perhaps an indication of a “Personality Disorder”. Yet somehow bosses who not only discourage but also seek to humiliate and damage others emotionally are misconstrued as being “strong leaders” when the truth of the matter could be that is the more humble who may possess far finer character and in turn be better trusted and respected. I will never forget being in a project meeting when a senior consultant enquired of his junior who had just returned from a client meeting “did you make him cry?” and laughed before I realised he was serious. Perhaps we could also assert that there may be “something wrong” with those who consistently prefer and “go out of their way” to seek “win-lose” to “win-win” outcomes from even trivial situations? Once they “win” and are “seen to win” in the immediate situation or in the very short-term (often the time period their “vision” is limited to, especially if they are impulsive by nature), the impact on the longer-term relationship is inconsequential, failing to recognise that healthy, mutually satisfying relationships are one of the keys to longer term “success”, not just in business but well beyond the world of commerce too. Ruth-less-ness (which could be renamed “kind-ness-less”) is more indicative of “Destructive Leadership” and a cruel, self-centred and perhaps even sadistic mindset which takes pleasure in the misery of others, than any realistic belief that it can either motivate others or lead to anything other than damaged relationships. Even if callous disrespect, ruth-less actions or any form of cheating leads to a “one-off” victory and apparent short-term “success”, any further business between the parties is likely to be hindered or even rendered impossible. “Constructive Leaders” who are strong and courageous as well as kind, considerate and empathetic, are more than capable of taking “tough” decisions when so required. It is a misnomer that people need to be “ruth-less” meaning “sympathy-free” and maybe even lacking in remorse to be able to take difficult decisions. Indeed quite the contrary. Unlike those more ruthless, unkind and even cruel by nature, who may thrive on causing upset for others, because they “understand people” and are “emotionally intelligent”, “Constructive Leaders” are capable of “weighing-up” the options and the impact on all concerned, even if negative, as they will try to minimise any deleterious impact to the degree possible on the entity and it’s people. There is a major difference between being “strong and courageous”, not shirking required actions nor running away from problems as they arise, and being “ruthless” which involves a lack of compassion and consideration for the interests, needs, feelings and emotions of other people, all of which are required of leaders. While the most mean and cold-hearted can “get their kicks” and derive their own pleasure from diminishing and humiliating other people and trying to “win” at the expense of others in both relationships and transactions, they somehow seem to lack the “nous” required to appreciate that such a policy may result in the other party not only never wanting to deal with them ever again, but even more damaging, they may even choose to “bad-mouth” the ruthless to other current or potential business partners, customers and suppliers. One-off gains do not lead to longer-term success or even survival, especially when they result in impaired trust and damaged reputation. Seeking to actively harm others and damage relationships in business (or elsewhere) is not a policy that rational people would consider, only the most irrational. The “win-win” preferred by “Constructive Leaders” ultimately achieves more than the “win-lose” sought by “Destructive Leaders”, especially when their incessant need to achieve “personal victories” can damage morale and the very fabric or culture of the organisation, causing the best employees, customers and suppliers to take their talents and business elsewhere, even to their most ardent rivals. When performing the not so pleasant task of considering amongst the worst people we have met during our careers and indeed lives, it makes us appreciate the many far finer and more admirable qualities of the very best, who even thinking about lifts us and brings a smile to our faces, those who do have the talents and skills to manage, lead and maybe even transform whatever organisation or entity is fortunate to count them as one of its own. Perhaps it is considering and describing the far too prevalent “Destructive Leadership” most associated with “Disordered Leaders” which makes us appreciate the many merits associated with those I describe as “Constructive Leaders” . It is this larger cohort of people who undoubtedly would “make the world a better place” if somehow they were able to respond to the unspoken wishes of those led by “Destructive Leaders” and walk in the door next Monday morning, having replaced them, treating everyone the same, with the respect they would like to be treated themselves and by way of their enthusiastic positivity, praise and encouragement, far better motivate those they manage and lead to perform far nearer to their potential and contribute to the group at large, whatever it may be, doing the same. That is why national and international business and indeed global Society Needs to ditch and no longer appoint “Destructive Leaders”, no matter how otherwise talented, intelligent, charming, eloquent, dominant, fearful or intimidatory, as when the decision makers assess their contribution, they are likely to realise that they have been self-serving in their own decision-making (“what’s in it for me?”), prioritising their own interests and needs over those of the entity itself and its people, and have probably done more harm (covert and overt) than good. At the end of the day there are often equally if not more talented people available, more committed to the cause and mission of the entity, with a genuine concern for and interest in all the various people involved or “stakeholders” (especially employees, customers (or citizens) and suppliers) but who may not have been selected because they were less aggressive or “pushy” and perhaps more modest and self-effacing, preferring cooperation to conflict, relationship-building to destroying and indeed harmonious collaboration and consensus-seeking to troublemaking, yet who may have lost out to those who displayed the more problematic traits, only for those who made the decision to subsequently realise what a mistake they had made. One of the many lessons arising from working with or for those who practice “Destructive Leadership” is that being agreeable beats being aggressive any day and practicing humility and respect rather than humiliation and disrespect is what endears leaders to followers, not the opposite, no matter how effective the worst leaders in society who innately have to promote themselves and disparage others believe such an approach to be. It isn’t and never will be. Organisational progress, customer/public service and many measures including profitability, along with many “intangibles” like trust, respect, reputation, goodwill and even “world peace”, can all be enhanced when organisations (and nations) as well as Boards of Directors and Voters learn to appoint “Constructive Leaders” with the
  1. vision to realise how great the group they are responsible for could be, with the
  2. strategic insight to know what direction(s) to take,
  3. perception to not only know how to get there, but when a change of direction may be needed,
  4. integrity to set the right tone at the top,
  5. moral compass to guide everyone in the right direction and avoid short-term gain which may result in longer-term pain,
  6. honesty to speak truthfully, not deceptively, and only make promises likely to be able to be met,
  7. remorse to be able to know when wrong has or could be done,
  8. courage to avoid wrongdoing and own up and say “sorry” when things do go wrong (as they will) or promises can’t be met, rather than make the mistake of covering up and “denying the undeniable”, hoping no-one will ever find out (although they do), and
  9. creativity to explore new opportunities,
  10. (emotional) empathy to understand people in all their humanity,
  11. interest in others to encourage and willingly provide support,
  12. perception to offer astute guidance and appreciate the importance of trust and reputation,
  13. wisdom to know what new opportunities to explore and what to change and when,
  14. patience not to impulsively over-react to situations as soon as they arise, to wait for results rather than curtail prematurely, or know when the timing may be right to initiate change or introduce new policies,
  15. humility to seek no personal acclaim and (being the opposite of pride) ability to admit to error rather than persist with doing the wrong thing,
  16. strength to tackle the issues others might ignore and own up to rather than cover up mistakes or wrongdoing,
  17. persistence to surmount obstacles and “never give up” on worthwhile matters which may be in the longer term best interest of all involved,,
  18. resilience to tough out difficulties, remain positive and constructive in seeking to find optimal solutions,
  19. tact to deal with matters diplomatically rather than rudely and crudely, and knowing when saying nothing may be preferable, especially words now could cause damage later or when there may be nothing positive or constructive to say,
  20. attitude of gratitude to be able to genuinely praise and know when to do so, especially when people have tried their best even when the outcome isn’t as good as it might have been,
  21. modesty to deflect praise to others. yet accept responsibility for their mistakes,
  22. emotional intelligence to know how best to deal with the wide variety of people and situations which arise, supporting and pointing them in the right direction, with the
  23. charisma which endears people to their leader and makes people feel important, warmly welcomed and appreciated,
  24. enthusiastic personality which creates the positive culture and sets the
  25. admirable example which encourages and maybe even inspires everyone to want to follow their leader in top gear, as they build bridges and roads to places that people with less vision and insufficient understanding of the mission never even considered.
Fortunately there are many such positive and “can do” people in many roles at all levels throughout local, national and international society. Yet, although they set an admirable example for not only those they work with, manage and lead, but many others too, we somehow just don’t seem to hear too much about these role-models, especially not from themselves, not feeling the need to speak about themselves, just the group they inspire to produce their best, whose success built on respect and cooperation gives them their greatest personal satisfaction. So why don’t we choose more such trustworthy, modest and responsible people of integrity for important roles, especially when trust and reputation may need to be restored, improving not only “business ethics” and long-term profitability, growth and stability, but indeed peaceful cooperation, employee and stakeholder satisfaction and harmonious progress across global society? Do we insufficiently appreciate Honesty-Humility? Do we take honesty as a “given” when considering people for seniority of position? Or accept devious, deceitful and manipulative behaviour as “part and parcel” of senior management? Do we somehow associate humility with weakness and proud, arrogant and intimidatory traits with “strength” of both personality and character, when the reality may be quite the opposite? We can tend to ignore the merits of the more calm, rational, astute, wise and talented, but modest, who appreciate there is no humiliation in humility nor humility associated with humiliation, who seek no significant acclaim for themselves, more proud of their people and their achievements than themselves or their own, deflecting praise to others yet accepting responsibility for their failings, as they prefer to praise, encourage and motivate those they lead and prioritise the interests and needs of the group at large over their own. As already mentioned, perhaps Plato was right to suggest that those who do not desire power may be more fit to hold it, capable of being trusted to use it constructively for the purposes intended.

Personality Disorders and “Disordered Leaders”

Personality Disorders (PD) involve pervasive patterns of perceiving, relating to, and thinking about the environment and the self that interfere with long-term functioning of the individual and are not limited to isolated episodes. The APA’s DSM  recognises ten specific (primary) personality disorders organised within three clusters: Cluster A includes paranoid, schizoid and schizotypal; Cluster B includes antisocial, borderline, histrionic and narcissistic; while Cluster C includes avoidant, dependent and obsessive-compulsive. These constructs do not exhaust the list of possible clinically significant maladaptive personality traits, with the DSM disorders often difficult to diagnose reliably. Indeed, research has shown that many people diagnosed with a PD qualify for more than one. Those we describe as “Disordered Leaders” could feature any combination of “pervasive patterns of perceiving, relating to, and thinking” capable of resulting in self-centredly destructive behaviour in organisations, but nevertheless these are most likely to involve some combination of the predominantly narcissistic Cluster B disorders as well as elements of Paranoid from Cluster A, especially when those in positions of authority may believe that others are covertly plotting against them. Ironically it may be the presence of the traits associated with the variety of personality disorders which may force those who have no option but to work with or for them to consider doing so, at the very least just to minimise the degree of damage they are capable of inflicting (perhaps unwittingly) not only on other people and their emotional welfare (who may be forced to consider their own sanity) but also on what in most organisations is  a combination of (a) fairly smooth, ordered progress, (b) interpersonal co-operation and interdepartmental collaboration and (c) sensible, astute decision-making, all of which generally arise when led by (d) capable, unimaginative and enthusiastic  people with (e) a genuine concern for the interests and needs of the people they lead and (f) a strong interest and perhaps even a passion to oversee, guide and even inspire the progress of the entity itself, in such a manner that it (g) will be capable of not only competing well in its specific sector, but also (h) be only be equipped to survive difficult times but thrive for a future generation especially by way of  (i) having the “vision” to broaden its horizon and seek, find or invent new opportunities. It is such matters that many well-led organisations take for granted and which my research refers to as “Constructive Leadership”, being predominately positive and encouraging and hence motivational by nature as well as sensible and rational, which should all be a “given” when it comes to both management and leadership (better discussed in most of the other articles on this website under “topics“). This of course assumes the leader or leadership group is or are what I refer to as “GIVER(S)” more interested in others than themselves, rather than those who charm their way to the top but are fundamentally self-centred, being “TAKERS” who are innately “more interested in others than themselves”, a situation which they can hide from others for only a limited time, making it important that their peers especially decision-makers become more familiar with the traits associated with Personality Disorders and what this research refers to as “Destructive Leadership” as (mal) practiced by “Disordered Leaders”. Indeed given their exceptional self-centredness and inability to consistently prioritise the interests and needs of others over their own, simply described as their necessity to “get their own way” and “win at all costs”, and given that research suggests that “narcissism is more likely to relate to reactive aggression in circumstances where the narcissistic egos or goals are under threat “, the initial definition of a “Disordered Leader” I proposed  for discussion and refinement at the US IVBEC business ethics conference, held in Dublin in October 2019 was:
“Someone trusted with supervisory, managerial or leadership responsibilities who, due to what may be indicative of a mental and/or personality disorder(s), could be considered to be incapable of consistently responsible, trustworthy, harmonious, prosocial and accountable management or leadership with integrity, including prioritising the interests of stakeholders other than themselves, especially when this may impede satisfying their self-interest.”
The fact that the most “ruth-less” (meaning sympathy-free) have been shown to so readily and perhaps unwittingly and naturally engage in high levels of pathological lying and deceit, cunning manipulation and egocentric, callous and impulsive behaviour, characterised by a consistent lack of responsibility, empathy, kindness, remorse and conscience, are also well versed in using their charm, confidence, eloquence and arrogance to hide their true traits even from experienced psychologists, poses many challenges for global society, and has done for millennia, especially when they believe themselves to be “normal” and see nothing wrong with words and deeds which many other people wouldn’t or couldn’t even countenance. Narcissistic Personality Disorder or NPD is one of the personality disorders included within DSM-5 (APA, 2013). NPD involves a pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behaviour), need for admiration or adulation, and lack of empathy (APA, 2013). Its primary diagnostic criteria include a grandiose sense of self-importance; preoccupation with success, power, brilliance, or beauty; a belief that one is special and can only be understood by high-status individuals; a demand for excessive admiration; a strong sense of entitlement; an exploitation of others; lack of empathy; and arrogance. There is a substantial body of research on narcissism (Miller, Widiger, & Campbell, 2010; Pincus & Lukowitsky, 2010), although, surprisingly, NPD was actually slated for deletion from DSM-5 (Skodol, 2012). Narcissism has a theoretical and clinical literature that is quite independent of psychopathy. Nevertheless, there have also long been cross-references within both literatures (Widiger & Crego, in press). For example, psychodynamic views of narcissism suggest that many features of psychopathy are apparent within narcissistic persons (Kernberg, 1998). Antisocial and psychopathic tendencies are in fact conceptualised as being on a continuum with narcissism, with both involving a motivation to dominate, humiliate and manipulate others. Kernberg (1970), a theorist of narcissism, had suggested that “the antisocial personality may be considered a subgroup of the narcissistic personality”. Hart and Hare (1998), theorists of psychopathy, suggested conversely that “psychopathy can be viewed as a higher-order construct with two distinct, albeit related facets, one of which is very similar to the clinical concept of narcissism”. Some of the features of NPD are explicitly suggestive of psychopathy, notably a grandiose sense of self-importance and arrogant, haughty behaviours (akin to psychopathic arrogant self-appraisal); lack of empathy; and interpersonal exploitation. Indeed  researchers including Robert Hare (author of the revealing “Without Conscience”) have even intimated that NPD is closer to Prof Hervey Cleckley’s (1941) conception of psychopathy , explained in his seminal work “The Mask of Sanity”, than is ASPD (Hare, Hart, & Harpur, 1991; Harpur, Hart, & Hare, 2002). Consideration was given in the development of DSM-IV ASPD (APA, 1994) to include additional features of Hare’s Psychopath Checklist-Revised or PCL-R psychopathy, in particular glib charm, arrogance and lack of empathy (Widiger & Corbitt, 1995). However, a significant concern with this proposal was that these features were also central to the diagnosis of NPD. Their inclusion would have markedly increased the diagnostic co-occurrence of ASPD with NPD. The authors of the NPD criterion set (Gunderson, Ronningstam, & Smith, 1991) considered the antisocial and narcissistic personality disorders to be qualitatively distinct conditions and argued that revisions should help differentiate between the disorders rather than further increase their overlap. The final decision for DSM-IV was to at least acknowledge that glib charm, arrogance and lack of empathy are included within other conceptualisations of ASPD and that their inclusion within the criterion set would likely increase the validity of the assessment of ASPD within prison and other forensic settings (APA, 1994). While too few “Disordered Leaders” will ever be required to receive psychological assistance despite the damage they can do to other people and organisations, indeed to the very fabric of society, specific diagnoses with NPD, BPD, HPD, ASPD, Paranoid, Sadistic, Neurotic or Psychopathy are particularly relevant to mental health professionals, especially psychiatrists (medical doctors who specialise in mental welfare) and psychologists. Diagnosis with one or perhaps more of the recognised Personality Disorders guides the consideration of the matter, including appropriate treatment, by mental health professionals. Yet as too few in society associate “selfish, difficult and proud” behaviour with the potential presence of a Personality Disorder, the primary requirement for everyone else without specialised training and experience is to recognise that the person (or people) who appear to be behaving unusually, making perverse decisions and treating people with deep disrespect, may not actually be “normal”, but be “different” and hence need to be treated quite differently if they are not to be permitted to continue causing harm and havoc. Because “Destructive Leaders” do inhabit a different world, the rest of the world would benefit from appreciating the importance of being able to identify them, to deny them the opportunity of damaging the world in which many others, including “Constructive Leaders”, do their best to live in collaboratively and harmoniously, in the company of many other decent, kind and encouraging people, with a genuine interest in both other people and whatever they may be interested in.

Those who see nothing wrong in words, deeds and actions which many others couldn’t even countenance, who seem to operate within their own parameters of what many be right and wrong, especially when others may see these as being confused and bizarre but they believe to be entirely normal and the way they have always lived life and dealt with other people, may indeed have something wrong with them.

Fortunately though many of the (often quite challenging)  traits which may assist Psychiatrists and Psychologists come to a diagnosis, whatever it may be, are clearly identifiable by other people, whether they currently attribute them to the possibility of a Personality Disorder or not. Indeed given the deeply deceitful and manipulative nature of “Cluster B’s” in particular, well capable of arguing they are normal and it is other people with the problems, including those they badmouth and slander, it is actually third party descriptions of their actual behaviour that can greatly assist mental health professionals form their own opinions and diagnosis. Nevertheless, whether their behaviour ever contributes to an actual professional diagnosis of a Personality Disorder or not, none of the more negative traits we outline in this and the half dozen other related articles published on http://www.eben.ie under “topics”, especially those which may be damaging to other people, are those I associate with people I describe as “Constructive Leaders”, who I strongly argue make for far more effective, and safer, leaders throughout global society, for many, many reasons. Given that “self-centred” is defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary as “concerned solely with one’s own desires, needs, or interests” and “independent of outside force or influence”, one of my key arguments is that, at its most basic, global society needs those I describe as “GIVERS” in leadership roles throughout global society, being “more interested in others than themselves” and most certainly not “TAKERS” who being “more interested in themselves than others” are unlikely in either normal or more challenging times to prioritise the interests and needs of the organisation and the people they lead over their own.

Viability Liability or Guilt Prone?

Business Ethics as a discipline would not only benefit from far greater psychological research in general but also in particular from measures of personality which  contain strong, appropriate and effective measure of Honesty-Humility which do measure the propensities and behaviour of managers and leaders in terms of factors including Humility-Pride, Honesty-Dishonesty, Responsibility-Irresponsibility and Selflessness-Selfcentredness. Indeed what my research (for instance “Fun or Fear“) describes as Constructive-Destructive Leadership currently needs to be inferred from elements of factors not designed to measure Honesty-Humility nor this set of factors critically important for long term business survival and success, which requires leaders with the most appropriate rather than inappropriate personalities. One promising area of research from the business ethics perspective is into the “Guilt Proneness” of executives. While the most Disordered Leaders are unlikely to experience guilt/remorse at all, the most ethical Constructive Leaders are likely to be prevented from doing wrong by their more active conscience, which Hare describes as their “inner-policeman”.

Guilt proneness is a personality trait indicative of a predisposition to experience negative feelings about personal wrongdoing, even when the wrongdoing is private.

It is characterised by the anticipation of feeling bad about committing transgressions rather than by guilty feelings in a particular moment or generalised guilty feelings that occur without an eliciting event.

Guilt proneness is an important character trait, indeed it could be described as a moral character trait, because knowing a person’s level of guilt proneness helps us to predict the likelihood that person will behave unethically.

People who score high on measures of guilt proneness (compared to low scorers) make fewer unethical business decisions, commit fewer delinquent behaviours and behave more honestly when making economic decisions.

In the workplace, guilt-prone employees are less likely to engage in counterproductive behaviours that harm their organisation (Cohen et al, 2012).i

Cohen and colleagues (2011) noted that scholars agree that moral emotions are critical for deterring unethical and antisocial behaviour, but that there was disagreement about how two prototypical moral emotions—guilt and shame—should be defined, differentiated, and measured.

For instance the psychological definition of guilt is “a self-conscious emotion characterised by a painful appraisal of having done (or thought) something that is wrong and often by a readiness to take action designed to undo or mitigate this wrong. It is distinct from shame, in which there is the additional strong fear of one’s deeds being publicly exposed to judgment or ridicule (APA).”

Shame is defined as “a highly unpleasant self-conscious emotion arising from the sense of there being something dishonourable, immodest or indecorous in one’s own conduct or circumstances. Psychological research consistently reports a relationship between proneness to shame and a host of psychological symptoms, including depression, anxiety, eating disorders, subclinical sociopathy and low self-esteem. (APA).”

To address what the issues of definition, differentiation and measurement Cohen and colleagues developed a new assessment tool —the Guilt and Shame Proneness scale (GASP) — that measures individual differences in the propensity to experience guilt and shame across a range of personal transgressions which they believe is capable from an evaluation of these measures is capable of detecting individuals susceptible to corruption and unethical behaviour (Cohen et al, 2011).

Although sometimes used interchangeably, Sanchez et al define shame as a global, negative feeling about oneself, while guilt is seen as a negative feeling about a specific behaviour (Lewis, 1971). The negative-self-evaluation that underlies shame causes one to attribute transgressions to personal character flaws that are fixed or difficult to alter. In contrast, guilt stems from the belief that transgressions are the result of behavioural errors, which may be corrected. As a result, shame-proneness is often accompanied by maladaptive avoidance or withdrawal behaviours (e.g. leaving a situation), while guilt-proneness is accompanied by adaptive approach behaviours (e.g. initiating reparative action; Tangney, 1994; Wolf et al., 2010). Tangney argued that shame and guilt are distinct affective experiences with very different implications for psychological symptoms and interpersonal behaviour, with individual differences in proneness to shame and proneness to guilt as representing two contrasting modes of superego functioning, with guilt-proneness being the more adaptive (Tangney, 1994)). Wolfe, Cohen et al found that shame and guilt proneness can be measured both by responses to transgressions (such as negative self-evaluation and avoidance responses versus. negative behaviour evaluation and approach responses) and the situational context in which the transgression occurs (for instance public vs. private).Wolf et al., 2010). iii This conceptualisation of shame and guilt differs from others, such as the internal and external components of shame proposed by Gilbert (1997)iv and the different trait and state components of shame assessed in Turner’s Experiential Shame Scale (Turner, 1998). One study (Sanchez et al, 2019)vi assessed the relationship between Impulsivity and Proneness to Guilt and Shame, very relevant given that Impulsivity is very much associated with the Personalty Disorders we are discussing and typifies the behaviour of those more interested in satisfying themselves than doing the right thing by the organisation they (mis)lead. Impulsivity is defined as a predisposition towards unplanned or rapid reactions to stimuli without the consideration of possible negative consequences (De Wit, 2009). Impulsivity is a multidimensional construct, encompassing traits such as impulsive decision-making, inattention, and disinhibition (Fields et al., 2009). Impulsivity was found to be negatively related to guilt proneness, confirming prior research which showed a lack of remorse or guilt among impulsive subjects following an impulsive decision task (Lin et al., 2009). Impulsive individuals may be less likely than those who are non-impulsive to negatively evaluate their behaviour following a moral transgression, resulting in less guilt. On the other hand, individuals who are guilt-prone may inhibit risky impulses as a way to avoid resultant negative emotions. While the processes underlying the link between impulsivity and self- conscious emotions are still somewhat unclear, the effect of negative emotion on impulsivity has been consistently noted. Whiteside and Lynam (2001)x note that individuals high in urgency, a component of impulsivity, are more likely to act impulsively as a means to relieve negative emotions. (Sanchez, 2019).

Guilt Proneness has been studied in terms of moral character and the consequent likelihood of ethical or unethical behaviour, identifying distinguishing features of adults with low versus high levels of moral character.

Adults with high levels of moral character tend to consider the needs and interests of others and how their actions affect other people. They have high levels of Honesty-Humility, empathic concern and guilt proneness.

They regulate their behaviour effectively, specifically with reference to behaviours that have positive short-term consequences but negative long-term consequences.

They have high levels of Conscientiousness, self-control, consideration of future consequences. They value being moral with high levels of “moral identity-internalisation”.

In contrast, employees with low moral character committed harmful work behaviours more frequently and helpful work behaviours less frequently than did employees with high moral character, according to their own admissions and coworkers’ observations.

Adults with low moral character also committed more delinquent behaviour and had more lenient attitudes toward unethical negotiation tactics than did adults with high moral character (Cohen et al, 2014).

Indeed this “moral character in the workplace” research argues that “by showing that individual differences have consistent, meaningful effects on employees’ behaviours, after controlling for demographic variables (e.g., gender, age, income) and basic attributes of the work setting (e.g., enforcement of an ethics code), our results contest situationist perspectives that de-emphasise the importance of personality”. (Cohen et al, 2014).vi

Having been fortunate to have worked with over 300 organisations I am in total agreement. It is indeed possible to predict those who will or won’t engage in unethical behaviour based on even a fairly rudimentary understanding of their personality.

In 2007 I posed the following question:
Would you do business with someone you don’t trust? Most wouldn’t. Yet although trust is fundamental to building long term relationships, it may not be the primary driver in evaluating and making business and other decisions. Many of these decisions appear to be taken without fully assessing the likely impact on relationships with employees, customers, suppliers, investors, local communities and other ‘stakeholders’ – the very people who contribute to an organisation’s reputation. Few engage in business not caring whether people trust them or not. Yet when an opportunity to take unfair advantage of another arises, it is often grasped. Integrity is a characteristic that is much admired and valued, not just in business and politics, but also in other areas of life including education, religion, sport and amongst family and friends. Classical scholars will be aware the word is derived from the same Latin root as “Integer” – a sense of “wholeness”. A person of integrity, like a whole number, is a whole person, a person somehow undivided. With all power comes responsibility…and again most power is used responsibly. Many scandals – reported and unreported – arise from the abuse of corporate power. The abuse of power often arises when those entrusted with it make its preservation their primary concern. They don’t appreciate it is bestowed on them for the purpose of service. Those who want to keep it most are most likely to compromise their integrity” (Clarke, 2007).
Indeed this could have been in response to some questions i asked a decade earlier in 1998:
“The foundation for poor “business ethics” is likely to be doubtful “personal ethics”. A common denominator in reading about disgraced high profile “entrepreneurs” seems to be that they appear to have had little or no scruples. It is difficult to trust someone’s commitment to ethics in business if one has reservations about their personal integrity. Many corporate criminals may not believe they have done anything wrong. As the dealer imprisoned for insider dealing asked “what other kind is there?” One could ask is it possible to be highly profitable and always honest? Those who not only behave ethically and legally but also strive to appear to be doing so may be at a commercial disadvantage. Are extra profits earned by being ‘slightly’ unethical? It seems many opportunities present themselves to those who are prepared to be at least a ‘little unethical’. Perhaps people don’t become dishonest overnight – it may be a gradual process which involves being deceitful for corporate or self advancement. Maybe the more often one crosses the ethical line, the more often wrong decisions are either ordered or carried out, the more the conscience becomes dimmed to ethical concerns?'” (Clarke, 1998).
While aware that some people appeared to have a more active conscience than others, what I insufficiently  considered in 1998 was that some people may not actually possess a conscience at all and were able to behave within and outside the fascinating world of business with what psychologists refer to as “emotional impunity”. A decade later following a great deal of psychological research I posed a further question about the personality of trustworthy and untrustworthy leaders (these paragraphs unpublished by Springer, January 2017):
“Given the quite extraordinary occurrence of sub-optimal business practices in far too many organisations, it may be worthwhile repeating what should be the obvious observation that the degree of personal integrity of an organisation’s dominant individuals contributes significantly to the prevailing level of corporate integrity, with some cultures facilitating and promoting and others prohibiting and hindering the personal integrity of employees coming to the fore. It is very apparent in many organisations that intolerance of low integrity by leaders of high personal integrity ensures unethical instances are not condoned or repeated. Yet despite extensive media coverage of the often extreme cost of the damage, including reputational, resulting from reported ethical failures, somehow lesser leaders fail to recognise that it is their acceptance of low integrity which ensures such instances are not only permitted but also more likely to recur by the corporate culture prevalent within their organisation. What is it about such leaders that they fail to appreciate the link between ethics and success and lack of ethics and business failure? While many leaders appreciate the benefits of fairplay and internal harmony, could the personality of others result in their actually thriving on disharmony and even deceit between colleagues?” (Clarke, 2017).
What happens the corporate culture when organisations are led by those who do not experience fear or anxiety yet spread these amongst their employees? Shame and guilt are considered to be important features of various psychological problems, including anxiety disorders. One study which compared the magnitude of the associations of shame and guilt with anxiety symptoms, including anxiety disorders, found that shame was more strongly associated with anxiety symptoms than guilt. Two types of guilt seemed to be as maladaptive as shame – “generalised guilt” (involving a free-floating guilt separated from specific contexts) and “contextual-maladaptive guilt” (involving an inappropriate or exaggerated feeling of responsibility). “External shame” (perceived negative evaluations of others) appeared to be more strongly associated with social anxiety symptoms than “internal shame” (negative self-evaluations) (Cândea &Tătar 2018). The traits of some Dark Triad individuals includes the inability to experience fear or anxiety in the manner that many can. Furthermore a lack of guilt and remorse is associated with NPD and especially Psychopathy, alongside conscience, permitting leaders to do what they choose without any apparent moral impediment or restrain Rather than be led by the overconfident and guilt deficient Cluster B personality disorders / Dark Triad leaders, perhaps societal organisations would be safer if they were actually managed and led by those with an anxiety disorder, given that they do possess the ability to experience guilt and shame arising from both particular situations and general dissatisfaction, especially arising from unethical behaviour. Indeed compared with the inability of the Cluster B/Dark Triad group to either consider the consequences of their actions before they impulsively engage in them or accept any responsibility for them after the event, perhaps the more anxious “exaggerated feeling of responsibility” would be far preferable.

Moral Emotions and Guilt Proneness

It is believed that moral behaviour emerges from the existence of moral emotions which is linked with moral standards and moral cognition. When an individual knows what is right from wrong, it forms their intentions to do the right thing (moral intentions) (Tracy et al., 2007).

In general, these emotions emerge when the self evaluates itself (e.g. our character, our worth, etc.), and the self-conscious emotions serve either as an immediate reinforcement or a punishment of the performed behaviour.

Moral emotions can bring about feedback before an individual performs a behaviour (anticipatory shame, guilt or pride) and even after the behaviour is elicited (i.e. consequential shame, guilt or pride).

Anticipated moral emotions are inferred from past experience or situation that can bring about the similar responses, whereas consequential moral emotions emerge when an individual has undergone the experience.

Thus, an individual has the dispositional tendencies to undergo those emotional states, which is termed as proneness to moral emotions (shame-proneness, guilt-proneness, pride-proneness) (Tracy et al., 2007).

Theoretically, individuals who are prone to moral emotions are able to experience those emotions when anticipating potential behaviours as well as the consequences of these behaviours (failure in doing something good, moral offences, etc.). It is also believed that individuals who are prone to moral emotions are more likely to experience anticipatory and consequential moral emotions than their less prone counterparts (Tracy et al., 2007).

Many researchers have differentiated between the existences of self-conscious emotions. Within this research, moral emotions that become the focus of the study are guilt and shame proneness.

Guilt and shame can be defined by two schools of thought: self-behaviour distinction and public-private distinction (Cohen et al., 2011).

Based on the self-behaviour distinction, guilt arises when an individual evaluates or forms attribution of his/her own ethical behaviour. Evaluations of the behaviours elicited can bring about negative feelings.

Guilt, in turn, brings about regret such that the individual is motivated to make a right out of the wrongs that he/she has done. It emerges due to the fact that one has violated their self- conscience.

As a result, repair action becomes a function of guilt as people would have the tendency to make up for their wrongdoings. Based on the public-private distinction, the experience of guilt occurs privately where an individual feels a sense of regret or condemnation when a personal transgression occurs (Cohen et al., 2011).

Therefore, Guilt Proneness can be measured based on these two aspects: Negative Evaluation of Behaviour (Guilt-NBE) and Repair (Guilt-REP) tendencies.

Based on self-behaviour distinction perspective, shame arises when an individual evaluates or forms attribution about one’s self. These evaluations can bring about negative feelings about one’s representation of the self.

Instead of regret, self-condemnation can arise such that there is a tendency to withdraw from situations or people that brings about humiliation and degradation (avoid the consequences of one’s transgressions or failures).

Based on the public-private distinction, there is an indication that negative feelings about one’s self emerge when the faults of the self are exposed to the public’s eyes (Cohen et al., 2011) Therefore, Shame Proneness can be measured based on these two aspects: Negative Evaluation of the self (Shame-NSE) and Withdrawal (Shame-WIT) tendencies.

So for research purposes the four dimensions of moral emotion are Guilt-NBE (Negative Evaluation of Behaviour), Guilt-REP (Guilt Repair), Shame-NSE (Negative Evaluation of SELF) and Shame-WIT. (Shame Withdrawal). [Abraham et al, 2017].

Work Meaning (Abraham et al, 2017)

Work meaning is defined as “the value of a work goal or purpose, judged to the individual’s own ideals or standards” (May et al., as cited in Lips- Wiersma & Wright, 2012, p. 657).

Work meaning is known to have effects on a number of dimensions of job behaviours, such as job engagement, empowerment, personal performance, organisational commitment, reduced risk of turnover, and well-being (Clausen & Borg, 2011; Rosso, Dekas, & Wrzesniewski, 2010).

Meaningful work produces a positive outcome, namely the improvement of caring or nurturing aspect of others through existential reasoning which is intrinsic in nature (Lee, 2015).

Work meaning is also known to play a role that mediates the relationship between living calling and life meaning; this means that work meaning has an impact on life in general, not just in the work or organisational context (Duffy, Allan, Autin, & Bott, 2013).

A series of questions that are useful to identify the work meaning inside ourselves are as follows:

“What is your calling? What is the force that compels and calls you? What makes you stay strong and keep on walking despite the pain, which makes you willing and able to stand tall after a fall? What makes you rejoice even though you were not rewarded by gold and flowers? What makes you stay loyal despite many attractive offers out there, makes you choose what is right, not what feels good?” (Sugianto, 2015, p. 181).

Meaningful work is a work that is not primarily to meet the biological needs or in order to survive, and this meaning is more likely to be contained in the jobs undertaken by high volition (Duffy, Autin, & Bott, 2015).

Therefore, it is not surprising that people with higher social class (those with less structural and financial constraints) are found to have a higher work meaning (Allan, Autin, & Duffy, 2014).

Nonetheless, the effect size is small, and it means that the work meaning is also found in people with a lower social class. They have a source of work meaning in the form of relatedness to others (contribution to the common good), not self-determination as in those with a higher social class.

A person who lacks meaning of the work will spend their working time (generally 8 hours per day or one-third of the 24 hours from the time a person has in a day) as a formality (for example, organisational charlatan behaviour, or pretended to be working; Abraham & Berline, 2015), routine or just functionally earning a daily living.

Therefore, in doing the job, they will feel more tired or even burnout because of the absence of a bond between themselves and the work, or lack of artistic views towards the work.

Work meaning can be found in four levels (Rosso et al., 2010):

(1) personal (beliefs, motivation, values),

(2) social (family, leaders, co-workers, groups and communities),

(3) work characteristics and contexts (job design, financial situations, organisational mission, national culture and non-work fields) and

(4) spiritual (calling, spirituality).

Authenticity is directly related to morality (Gino, Kouchaki, & Galinsky, 2015). An inauthentic person would feel a challenge to his/her moral self-concept.

Authenticity means:

(1) not alienated from the self,

(2) has a deep connection with the self-values, and

(3) act in accordance with one‟s true self (Abraham, Takwin, & Suleeman, 2017; Rosso et al., 2010; Wood, Linley, Maltby, Baliousis, & Joseph, 2008).

Gino et al. (2015) explained that there is compatibility between inauthenticity and dishonesty (as an unethical or immoral behaviour), namely, “They are both a violation of being true” (Gino et al., 2015, p. 2).

The decline of moral self-image has implications towards one’s moral emotions (Cohen et al., 2011).

A study by Abraham et al (2017) found that work meaning is able to predict 75% of moral emotions or three out of the four moral emotions, namely Guilt-NBE, Guilt-REP, and Shame-NSE; entirely in positive directions. However, work meaning is not able to predict Shame-WIT.

Meaningful work does not only affect happiness (self-realisation, self-fulfillment, etc) (Michaelson, Pratt, Grant, & Dunn, 2014) but also impacts on moral or virtuous life.

A virtuous life is indeed known to be inseparable from happiness. Some even argued that happiness – especially the eudemonic one – is the effect (or side effect) of moral life (eg Bloomfield, 2014; Prayoga, Rufaedah, & Abraham, 2016).

Michaelson et al. (2014) proposed the following methods to intensify meaningful work:

(1) establishing subjective identity (value, orientation, belief about work done) that is compatible with the sense of life purpose of the workers,

(2) building work situations (job natures, job engagement, group and structural activities) that support that kind of identity,

(3) cultivating the need for transcendence, i.e. to relate individual and organisational goals to the larger objectives called for by the cosmos (e.g. by upholding the religious values related to work, and making social impact),

(4) promoting democracy and social justice within the organisation, (5) resisting alienation of the workers from their work by developing integrity on all fronts, from organisational leadership to employees.

Those ways will constitute an authentic work environment that enriches the meaning of work in an organisation. By those, it is expected that shame and guilt proneness would be higher and immoral behaviour could be prevented. The organisational leaders are expected to give attention to the meaning of work of their people since the recruitment process.

Building, maintaining, and enhancing the meaning of work are proved to be a sociopsychological way – strengthening existing effort such as technological improvement (e,g, Abraham & Sharron, 2015) – to prevent corruption and other unethical behaviours.

Meaningful work is able to predict Guilt- NBE, Guilt-REP, and Shame-NSE in positive directions. In other words, the dimensions of meaningless work, including undeveloped inner self, disunity with others, unservice to others, unexpressed full potential, imbalanced tensions (self vs. other, being vs. doing), negation to reality and inspiration, associated negatively with Guilt-NBE, Guilt-REP, and Shame-NSE

Interventions to enhance the meaning of work should be built at the personal, interpersonal, organisational, social, and, ultimately, cultural levels.

Honesty-Humility

Why is Guilt Proneness related to ethical behaviour, whether on the job or elsewhere? A likely reason is that guilt-prone people anticipate the guilt that they would feel after behaving unethically, and therefore avoid the unethical action. This is a further argument in favour of not selecting people who meet the Disordered Leadership criteria because not only at the most extreme do they not experience guilt at all but they may neither weigh up the consequences of their actions  before they act nor learn from their experiences when these transpire to be detrimental. Indeed as “Honesty-Humility has been shown to be positively associated with many desirable traits and negatively associated with many undesirable traits… generally associated with pro-social behaviour, treating people fairly and being unconcerned with self-promotion” it would appear to be a very effective measure of some of the elements which I describe as “Constructive Leadership”. My Paper “Dispositional Attribution of Corporate Executives” (written during 2015 and published by Springer early 2017)  strongly argues in favour of both HUMILITY and HONESTY as key requirements of both managers and leaders. This paper also discusses psychopathy and outlines (as an introduction for business ethicists) Hare’s original two factor model of psychopathy. The difference between the “interpersonal/emotional” (Factor 1) and “socially deviant” (Factor 2) aspects, has contributed to some psychopathy researchers, including Cooke and Michie, to propose that the Factor 1 items indicative of “Arrogant and Deceitful Experience” and “Deficient Affective Experience” or lack of emotional depth, as well as some of the Factor 2 items typified by an “Impulsive and Irresponsible Lifestyle”, but without the overtly anti-social and criminal tendencies, may well explain the behaviour of those apparently “successfully” employed in organisations throughout global society but who, as Hare argues, should not be so described as their apparent “success” will always be at the expense of other people. Although still deeply cunning, manipulative, deceitful, impulsive, untruthful and quite expert liars, with their “shallow emotions” including little or no empathy well capable of cold cruelty and remorseless rumours, including verbal disparagement of others, sometimes known as “psychopathic character assassination” (similar to a “borderline distortion campaign”), which may involve partial or total distortion of reality or “the truth”, possibly arising from a “delusional” mindset, while also displaying many of the behaviours discussed in this research, they may for instance be less physically violent. This though may be as much due to warmer and kinder (or less harmful) family upbringing and a more favourable social background as any superior degree of “behaviour controls”. Those familiar with their tendencies may well have reason to always be slightly careful with if not scared of such people, knowing their impulsivity may result in the necessity to “walk on eggshells” in their presence given their propensity for sudden anger outbursts. Ironically their inability to control their own emotions may also be accompanied by a necessity to “control” other people and situations. Given my own varied and mixed, but ultimately always unsatisfactory, experiences during my own career with over 300 organisations on all continents (bar Antarctica) with over 50 people possessing what I refer to as the “ICE Characteristics” of being Intelligent, Charming and Eloquent, but also quite irresponsible and deceitful, people I now describe as “Disordered Leaders”, I would propose that as such dangerous people may even threaten the long-term viability of the organisation itself, when erroneously employed in senior roles within the organisations and entities of global society they need to be considered and referred to as being a “viability liability”. That is why at the US IVBEC business ethics conference, held in Dublin in October 2019, I proposed that the steps the rest of society needs to take to protect itself from such leaders include:
  1. Identify these abnormal people, by way of their own “Destructive Leadership” behaviour, as being different from the norm,
  2. Stop them achieving positions of influence & responsibility throughout global society, or if already in situ
  3. Learn how to behave differently towards them (“denying narcissistic supply”),
  4. Adapt to (not) respond to their sometimes extraordinary actions & reactions (evident due to their “maladaptive” inflexibility), to
  5. Minimise the damage & havoc they will inevitably create and preferably replace them with far more responsible people who do meet the “Constructive Leadership” criteria, knowing they will “do whatever it takes” and go to any lengths to maintain the power they should never have been trusted with in the first place.
Those who see nothing wrong in words, deeds and actions which many others couldn’t even countenance, who seem to operate within their own parameters of what many be right and wrong, especially when others may see these as being confused and bizarre but they believe to be entirely normal and the way they have always lived life and dealt with other people, thriving on discouragement, disagreement, dissent, disruption, disharmony and even outright conflict rather than harmonious cooperation, may indeed have something wrong with them. As the cited common denominator of Antagonism across the elements of the Dark Triad, amongst my very basic proposals  is that global Society Needs leaders who find it “easy to love and impossible to hate” and most certainly not those who find it “easy to hate and impossible to love or even show an interest in anyone but themselves”, one of the many indications of what my research refers to as “Destructive Leadership” as (mal) practiced by “Disordered Leaders”, whose primary concern is satisfying their self-interest, irrespective of the consequences for anyone or anything else, including the organisation, entity or even nation which makes the regularly repeated mistake of selecting or electing amongst society’s most untrustworthy and irresponsible people to positions of responsibility requiring people of integrity with a strong conscience who prioritise both the interests and needs of the entity over their own and the critical qualities of trust and reputation in all their deliberations. Because “Disordered Leaders” do inhabit a quite different world, the rest of the world would benefit from appreciating the importance of being able to identify them, to deny them the opportunity of damaging the world in which many others, including “Constructive Leaders”, do their best to live in collaboratively and harmoniously, in the company of many other decent, kind and encouraging people, with a genuine interest in both other people and whatever they may be interested in. For those employed at the coalface of business in particular, the role of empathy (emotional, well beyond merely cognitive) becomes all the more critical. When deficient or entirely lacking, the resulting ruth-less-ness (meaning devoid of compassion) ultimately primarily benefit sonly the (perhaps fragile) self-esteem of those who prefer to criticise and humiliate rather than praise and encourage those they are supposed to be motivating and leading. With “com-passion” meaning sharing in the suffering of others, those most-ruthless leaders incapable of empathy and warm emotions who thrive on making others feel bad, do more to make others suffer as they make their (working) lives unbearable by way of many forms of disrespect and humiliation, quite the opposite of what is required of leaders. Society Needs to appreciate that when we permit those who are innately more cruel than considerate to achieve their goal of reaching senior positions, we may be succumbing to the misconception that somehow seems to assume or accept that ruthlessness is a valid managerial or even leadership trait. Society Needs those who find it easy to be kind and impossible to be cruel rather than those who find it easy to be cruel and impossible too be kind to be leading its people and organisations. At its most basic, Society Needs leaders who are happy making others happy and not those who may be at their happiest when making others unhappy. Yet this is precisely what motivates too many managers and leaders within far too many of global society’s organisations, a matter which many of their their co-workers are likely to fail to understand. Indeed even more fundamental, Society Needs as its managers and leaders those who are well capable of love & incapable of hatred, rather than those well capable of hatred & incapable of loving (anyone other than themselves). Society Needs leaders who appreciate that their responsibility is to unite rather than divide the people they are responsible for, including those who have never cooperated before. Society Needs leaders capable of diminishing not encouraging hatred and making friends out of former enemies, not enemies out of friends. Society Needs leaders who are peacemakers not troublemakers, encouraging by their words and deeds kindness in lieu of hatred, forgiveness instead of holding grudges, belief in goodness where there is badness, bringing hope where there is doubt and despair, lighting up people’s lives with their positivity and joy not spreading doom, gloom, sadness, despair and darkness, appreciating that it is by showing an interest in others and trying to understand them that people respond positively, rather than being exclusively interested in themselves. Society Needs leaders capable of considering the consequences of their words and actions, with the self-restraint to know when saying nothing may be more tactful and responsible, especially when they have nothing positive to say. Society Needs leaders with the self-control which prevents them from acting impulsively and irresponsibly, inconsiderate of any adverse consequences for others, including themselves. Perhaps throughout human history, society would appear to have mistaken charm, intelligence, smooth talking, arrogance and even callous ruthlessness for “managerial ability” due to a misconception associated with appointing highly self-centred people to leadership positions, consistently mistaking outwardly dynamic displays of confidence and eloquent talk of integrity for strength of character and intimidatory traits for strength of leadership, when in reality such fundamentally weak and perhaps childlike people may possess neither good character nor genuine managerial or leadership ability. Children describe such traits as bullying, so why does adult society find intimidation acceptable in its managers and leaders, including in those who psychologists liken to primary school children? It should go without saying that people like feeling appreciated and valued, yet too many managers and leaders do not make other people feel important. When the only people they value and appreciate are themselves, the organisation or indeed any grouping or entity they are in charge of is likely to face problems it would not if it were instead managed and led by people with a different personality or “dispositional attribution”. In stark contrast with situations involving inclusion, persuasion and respect, a group intimidated into only doing what the dominant leader wants is unlikely to evolve, especially when “getting their own way” is very important to their leader. If people are afraid to “speak up” and uninspired to suggest a variety of alternative ideas or courses of action, how likely is more visionary progress? Intimidation and aggression produce fear, anxiety and discouragement, yet somehow people who regularly rather than exceptionally put-down, humiliate and disrespect others can extraordinarily be associated with “strength” of management or leadership rather than weakness of character and indeed perhaps even a “Personality Disorder”. While many people in society feel good from making others feel good, what needs to be better and indeed more globally appreciated is that there may be something wrong with those who themselves feel good when they make others feel bad. Personality Disorders can vary from being shy, timid, anxious and afraid to face life to supremely self-confident and arrogant with little regard for other people, perhaps even taking pleasure from being cruel, lacking warm emotions and maybe believing that others are “ganging up” and “out to get” them. The key issue for everyone else, including most in society unfamiliar with the “extra-ordinary” world of “Personality Disorders”, is that they actually do inhabit a quite different world, although they may not realise this themselves. The world they inhabit is the only one they know, incapable of experiencing life in the manner that everyone else can. Surface level appeal can transpire to be shallow, like the emotions of the most charming who ultimately can disappoint, especially when they favour short-term expediency, narrow-minded popularism, their own ambitions, giving the impression of doing right rather than doing it and taking credit for the achievements of others, given that their peculiar sense of right and wrong is limited to believing that they are always right and everyone else wrong and can see no wrong in their own words and deeds when these fall far short of what society would expect of them. Yet we appoint such people to lead our businesses and nations. At the end of the day, it isn’t all about them, although they persist in believing that it is, often appearing to be unaware of their inadequacies and immune to the real damage they do, given the opportunity. The gaelic expression “mé féin” or “me myself” is not that which should be associated with leaders. Indeed so many of the world’s problems, little and large, local and international, could so readily be prevented, or constructively solved, if collectively we better appreciated how to choose the right people with the right intentions and the most appropriate personality for the responsible roles we trust them with, not the most irresponsible, untrustworthy and destructive people possible, with entirely predictable and inevitable consequences, not their concern or responsibility, as they always find someone or something else, or both, to blame, criticise, disparage and diminish, without remorse, as they deny the undeniable and defend the indefensible. So why can we not predict the predictable? Professional accountants may advise that “turnover is vanity, but profit is sanity” but in choosing its managers and leaders the safety, security and harmony of global society needs to be better equipped to differentiate between vanity and sanity, being less attracted by the claims of the vain in favour of the greater merits of the sane, even if less apparently thrilling or exciting and more modest than proud. Humility beats humiliation, any day. Those who innately practice “Positive Psychology” in their behaviour within and beyond organisational life, may be confirming the beliefs of those such as Martin Seligman and Barbara Fredrickson in the primary “positive factors” associated with a successful life, most notably including “interest in others”, which my research strongly associates with “Constructive Leadership”. Society needs fundamentally responsible people for its most responsible roles, not the most irresponsible people possible, immune to their inadequacies and unaware of their deficiencies, inconsiderate of the adverse consequences when they inevitably prioritise “winning” over compromise, their self-interest over the firm’s or national interest and themselves over not only others but indeed everyone and anything else. Indeed given their exceptional self-centredness and inability to consistently prioritise the interests and needs of others over their own, simply described as their necessity to “get their own way” and “win at all costs”, and given that research suggests that “narcissism is more likely to relate to reactive aggression in circumstances where the narcissistic egos or goals are under threat “, let me repeat the initial definition of a “Disordered Leader” I proposed for discussion and refinement at the US IVBEC business ethics conference, held in Dublin in October 2019:
“Someone trusted with supervisory, managerial or leadership responsibilities who, due to what may be indicative of a mental and/or personality disorder(s), could be considered to be incapable of consistently responsible, trustworthy, harmonious, prosocial and accountable management or leadership with integrity, including prioritising the interests of stakeholders other than themselves, especially when this may impede satisfying their self-interest.”
The fact that the most “ruth-less” (meaning sympathy-free) have been shown to so readily and perhaps unwittingly and naturally engage in high levels of pathological lying and deceit, cunning manipulation and egocentric, callous and impulsive behaviour, characterised by a consistent lack of responsibility, empathy, kindness, love, fear, remorse and conscience, are also well versed in using their charm, confidence, eloquence and arrogance to hide their true traits even from experienced psychologists, poses many challenges for both researchers and decision-makers and indeed global society, and has done for millennia, especially when they believe themselves to be “normal” and see nothing wrong with words and deeds which many other people wouldn’t or couldn’t even countenance. Despite the problems such people create throughout society from impaired relationships and damaged reputations to business failures, chaos and even wars, which throughout history they may not only have started but then perpetuated, being troublemakers not peacemakers, the concept of “Personality Disorders” needs to become more widely appreciated to better understand “difficult” people and their initially bizarre, but in due course entirely predictable behaviour, to sufficiently realise that their motivations differ from those of most “normal” people. Extraordinarily we trust the coldest and most self-centred people possible – expert actors but ultimately lacking any genuine interest in other people at all, indeed in anyone but themselves, whose often considerable charm is skin deep and lacking any sincerity,  whose eloquence can hide a fundamental disconnect between words, deeds, promises and subsequent actions, whose often ample intelligence is misused, being cunningly calculating, self-centred and anything but emotional, indeed those lacking the core essence of humanity, perhaps amongst the most irresponsible people on earth – with responsibility for the lives of employees, volunteers and citizens throughout global society when they hold positions of power, which they inevitably can only abuse as they discourage and demotivate rather than encourage and motivate and prioritise competition and conflict over co-operation, disharmony over harmony and themselves over everyone and anything else. As people with identifiable Personality Disorders can be “found in every race, culture, society and walk of life”, one of the most critical matters to appreciate is that as “Disordered Leaders” see things differently, experience people differently, perceive many matters differently, think differently, behave differently and inhabit a quite different world from most others in society, it is imperative that they be recognised by decision-makers as being substantially different from the norm, being consummate actors hiding their true selves much of the time, hence need to be dealt with significantly differently, including denying them positions of power which they can only abuse, if they are no longer to be permitted to continue to damage the world that everyone else inhabits. Appreciating that their conscience-free mind may be disordered, thinking “distorted” and emotional depth “shallow”, could be a critical first step on the road to progress, otherwise a frustratingly fruitless exercise. Any attempts at trying to deal with them “normally” may well be doomed to failure. As “self-centred” has been defined by Merriam-Webster as “concerned solely with one’s own desires, needs, or interests” and “independent of outside force or influence”, one of my key arguments is that, at its most basic, global society needs those I describe as “GIVERS” in leadership roles throughout global society, being “more interested in others than themselves” and most certainly not “TAKERS” who, being “more interested in themselves than others”, are unlikely in either normal or more challenging times to prioritise the interests and needs of the organisation or entity and the people they lead over their own. For Leadership and Management to further evolve, it requires those whose expertise includes encouragement and motivation not discouragement and humiliation, respect not disrespect, inclusion not exclusion, collaboration not conflict and long-term vision, not short-sighted myopia, preferably with a demonstrably greater interest in the entity and people being led than themselves. Given that the “common denominator” in every business and indeed organisation is “people”, “as far as leadership concerned, all the intelligence in the world is of little or no value… if none of it is emotional.” © Julian M Clarke 2021 (Research 2010-2021)