It’s quite possible that some of you who are reading this have psychopathic tendencies.
It’s not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, channelled in the right way, it can be a very good thing in business leadership. You see, being a psychopath is a psychological make-up, not the acts which might be committed by some of those better known psychopaths, such as Ted Bundy.
When I talk about channelling the mentality for leadership, I’m not saying you should take to the extreme the advice of Jack Welch, CEO and Chairman of GE, that every year you should cull the poorest performing 10% of your staff. Also, I am not suggesting you should stand at the entrance of the staff canteen, doing your best Hannibal Lecter impersonation, holding a nice bottle of chianti and pointing out that liver is on the menu.
However, to a greater or lesser degree, each of us has elements of the traits and characteristics, which make up a psychopathic mind.
Dr Kevin Dutton, an expert on the science of social influence, and British Army and SAS veteran Andy McNab wrote a book, The Good Psychopath’s Guide To Success, which outlines some of the key characteristics of a psychopath and how they can be used for good.
These include: self-confidence, focus, coolness under pressure, mental toughness, charm and charisma.
On the face of it, some of these seem like a good thing to have among your mental arsenal, others less so, and Dutton and McNab (a self-confessed, and scientifically proven psychopath) talk of regulating each of these using a metaphorical mixing desk, on which you dial the characteristics up and down, depending upon the situation and desired outcome.
It’s a good analogy and one which is worth exploring.
Let’s take some of those and look at how they might relate to a leader in a small business. Self-confidence, focus, coolness under pressure, mental toughness, charm and charisma are all characteristics it is easy to see playing a part in the make-up of that leader.
The first of those, self-confidence, is an ideal example of a trait which can be dialled up or down to great effect; turn it up when selling yourself or a product, but remember that you don’t always know everything and it is often worth dialling it down to allow the best practice and knowledge of others to be absorbed.
Other characteristics highlighted, such as impulsivity, reduced empathy and lack of conscience are characteristics which are more likely to prove harmful, and one must be careful when to dial them up, if ever, especially when dealing with matters of management or personnel.
Before you start fiddling with the dials, however, the most important thing is to be able to recognise your own characteristics. Without taking that first step to self-awareness, it is impossible to even label the mixing desk, let alone control it like a Grammy Award winning record producer.
Whether you are just the tiniest part psychopath, or a full-blown Andy McNab, if you are going to tap into the “good psychopath” within, you have to be able to understand it, and its part in your personality.