At the bookstore, I flipped through the new book by Kevin Dutton, “The Wisdom of Psychopaths” (ISBN 9780385677202). Fascinating.
I was particularly struck by the table on page 162. It enumerates the top ten career choices for psychopaths, as inferred from Great British Psychopath Survey. A few choices stood out among the usual suspects.
Most surprising to me were these two: Police Officer, and Clergyperson. The glaring disconnect is between their cultivated public personas, and the interpretation of their scores on the Levenson Self-report Psychopathy Scale. These professions go to great lengths to present their people as selfless community servants who want nothing more than to “save lives” and “help people”. But this analysis suggests that nothing could be further from the truth. The other side of the coin suggests that these professions actually select in favour of psychopaths.
The scary part is that our education systems routinely demand that our children trust strangers in these suspect vocations: church, government, police.
Keep this in mind the next time you hear someone say, “Trust me, I’m a cop.”
And the study’s number one career choice for psychopaths? CEO. Unfortunately, that function is not qualified by any terms that might be cause for optimism. It includes billionaire board members as well as well as the leader of your local charity or condominium. Power positions attract psychopaths. At least, in England they do.
So the sad paradox is that we have created a system where the most effective leaders are exactly the people you would least want to be led by. We’re screwed.