Psychopathic leaders possess three basic characteristics: interpersonal dominance, impulsiveness, and the negative use of empathy.
Written and verified by the psychologist GetPersonalGrowth.
Last update: 15 November 2021
The psychopathic leader is a genuine manipulator, so it's important to stay mentally strong. It is that leader who does not hesitate to ask for impossible or even unethical tasks. He likes to dominate, he is arrogant, insensitive and dishonest. But this does not prevent him, unfortunately, from making a career.
What is happening? It seems that our society is increasingly tolerant of aggressive behavior on the part of leaders. Everyone will certainly think of the name of a political or business leader who brings together some traits of psychopathy.
Of course, such a profile has always existed. In short, it's an old story. With the difference that today we know very well its pathological identikit, as well as its sure devastating effects.
A psychopathic leader is not a criminal. But he resorts to tricks that are so antisocial, toxic and dishonest that he might be up to them. Nonetheless, we continue to live with these people and nothing indicates that reality can change. This is why it is important to learn how to manage it.
"Power tends to corrupt, absolute power corrupts absolutely."
Stand strong in the face of a psychopathic leader
Dr. Karen Landay and her colleagues from the Department of Psychology at the University of Alabama conducted an interesting study in early 2018. The article entitled Shall we serve the dark lord? was published in the Journal of Applied Psychology.
According to the team of psychologists, not all leaders possess psychopathic traits. Beyond that, not all psychopaths reach positions of power or commit violent acts. This is an important premise. This does not, however, prevent a significant percentage of business leaders from following this "dark moral compass."
To begin, psychopathy is not easy to define. It actually encompasses a range of behaviors that are adopted in a relevant way by some, ignored by others. What various authors agree, however, is that three essential dimensions converge in the psychopathic head:
- Interpersonal domination or psychological audacity.
- Uninhibited or impulsive behavior.
- Negative and instrumental empathy. Warning: an aspect that must never be forgotten is that the psychopath is able to read or intuit our emotions. And not only do they not care, but he will even try to exploit them to his advantage.
These characteristics explain to us why psychopathic leaders are successful, bold in business, sometimes charming, and reach high positions, claiming numerous victims along the way. Aware of this, let's see what mental mechanisms can we use to manage a psychopathic leader.
How to defend yourself from a psychopathic leader
1. Don't be intimidated
The psychopathic leader uses our emotions and weaknesses to take control. And, when she does, she has fun. As far as possible, therefore, we must avoid showing ourselves how he wants us, that is, vulnerable.
It may seem difficult at times, but it is vital to remain energetic and well protected by our personal barriers. We must not, therefore, be intimidated, because it will gain more ground as soon as it perceives it. Assertiveness will instead be our best ally.
2. Control of emotions
Usually the psychopathic personality does not have good control of their emotions. If you can be skilled at this, you will be at an advantage.
This means maintaining a good mental calm, not being overwhelmed by anger or anguish. As soon as you lose your balance, it will begin to further manipulate your emotions.
3. Don't fall into the psychological traps of a psychopathic leader
Psychopathic leaders are adept at telling stories, making others participate in certain aspects of their life and experiences. They seduce and convey closeness. Don't be confused by this; it is a trick, a subtle and effective trap through which they gain our trust and dominate us.
4. Be his mirror, show him his flaws
If possible, try to get two results. The first is to protect their personal limits by preventing them from exceeding them. The second is to force him to see his flaws. As he addresses you, try to steer the conversation towards his person and his toxic dynamics.
Let's take an example. You may say, “You seemed a little stressed at the meeting today, you even raised your voice. Perhaps you should take some time to reflect on the work you have requested of us. I think you know that it is excessive and that it is impossible for us to complete it by today ”.
5. Avoid face-to-face, preferably an e-mail
It is obvious that it is not always possible to keep the head at a distance. Often, indeed, we are forced to live with it, side by side, every day. Exhausting, right? The risk is the dreaded burnout.
Whenever you have the chance, however, it is best to "turn away" and communicate by e-mail and messages. Several studies, in fact, confirm its effectiveness, since it follows a less aggressive communication and better professional performance.
In conclusion, nothing suggests that these situations can disappear. Executives, business leaders and politicians with psychopathic traits will continue to emerge from time to time. Running away from them would be the best answer but, as we all know, it's not always possible.
We must therefore learn to live with it, for example to act instead of simply reacting. Basically, we need to try to make a survival kit to protect our emotional health.