Similarities Among Leadership and Psychopathic Traits

The traits of an effective leader are always admired and there are countless books and articles on how to acquire these traits of a leader. While people are always keen to learn about these leadership traits, they want nothing to do with Psychopaths or any of their traits. What most people do not understand is the undeniable similarities between the traits of a leader and a psychopath. The only difference in the two is how they carry themselves and use their invaluable traits. Kevin Dutton, in his book The Wisdom of Psychopaths, has mentioned that, “A little bit of Psychopathy is good for all of us”. And, he has put in a fair share of examples and characteristics to show how psychopathic traits does not necessarily account for one to be a violent criminal, in fact quite the contrary, optimum level of psychopathic traits can prove substantially beneficial for anyone.

Person having both psychopathic and leadership traits.

Here are the some of the traits shared by both leaders and psychopaths.

Charismatic/Superficial Charm

Whether you call it charisma or superficial charm, if that impresses you then there is not much of a difference. Both the leaders and psychopaths are good at being a center of attention. They can sweet talk almost anyone and out of anything. They are popular for their charm. The leader chooses to use it for their success while the psychopath uses them for their personal gain, which is what differentiates them from the society.


There is a thin line between confidence and feeling superior to everyone else, or perhaps none at all. Confidence is soon regarded as over-confidence, should the person fail to perform a certain task. When we reverse the characteristics, we can say that psychopaths are confident, and not all but leaders do tend to think highly of themselves.

Persuasive/Con Artistry

Persuasion is a must-have quality for every successful person, regardless of their field. A leader should always be able to persuade his followers, partners and other parties, for the greater good of his business or the society. Persuasion is a trait not missed among psychopaths. They are extremely good with words and can analyze every situation and everyone around them with unbelievable precision. Only when someone who is not considered a leader is successful at persuading someone, they are considered con artists.

Ability to Influence/Manipulation

Again, this is a similar trait described using separate words. While the ability to influence others is considered a valuable asset, manipulation is considered selfish and immoral. When you dig deep into it, there is not much of a difference. Think about it, if you are coaxed by a friend (you like) to do something for them, you might consider him/her to have an ability to influence. On the contrary, if you are coaxed by someone you do not like into doing a favor for them, you might consider them manipulative.

Visionary Thinking/Fabrication of Intricate Stories

You must have heard business leaders talk about their vision about the company 5 or 10 years from now. In theory, they manage to make it sound so perfect, like nothing in the world could ruin them. Their ability to go into intricate details of each visionary announcement makes them believable and considered a leader. Now, consider these business leaders to be nothing, and they are in the courtroom having committed a violent murder. They are now denying the murder and describing their alibi. It is the same thing in a different scenario. They will not miss tiniest of details and depict a convicting story for everyone to believe. The only difference despite the similar traits here is, the former is a leader, while the other one a violent psychopath.

Ability to Take Risks/Impulsivity

Part of what sets leaders apart from the rest of their fellow associates, is their ability to risk it all. Their ability to go one step further than everyone else helps them rise to their success. Whether it’s gambling or leading a company, a winner/leader always knows when to take appropriate risks. But, the question arises, were they really a well thought out risk, as risk-taking can be easily associated with impulsivity. Either way, both leaders and psychopaths are well known for their risk-taking abilities.

Action Oriented/Thrill Seeking

Successful leaders are not often seen behind desks. They do not confide themselves behind a computer, they are well in touch with their adventurous side and are constantly seeking thrill. Whether it’s hitting gym to take care of their body or sky-diving, they will most likely be up for it. They like to push themselves harder, just like the psychopaths, who are also constantly seeking thrill.

Ability to Make Hard Decisions/Emotional Poverty

Leaders are often admired, but it’s a long road full of tough decisions to becoming one. Those unable to make these decisions are forced to rest behind. Right decisions often take ruthlessness. Leaders and Psychopaths are both ferocious beings that can easily make tough decisions, and react well under pressure. While psychopaths are considered to be genetic and their lack of emotions gives them an edge, leaders are considered to have learned along the way through experience.

This article is by no means in suggestion that leaders are psychopaths, or could be. The term psychopaths are so widely used that they are automatically considered violent and the term alone casts off a “blood-thirsty” vibe. Psychopathy is a state, and the traits of psychopaths to an optimum level could prove useful in almost every field, especially leadership.