How To Stop Psychopaths and Narcissists From Winning Positions of Power

How To Stop Psychopaths and Narcissists From Winning Positions of Power
People with narcissistic and psychopathic traits have a strong desire for dominance and are disproportionately common in leadership positions. GoodStudio/Shutterstock

One of the human race’s biggest problems has been that people who occupy positions of power are often incapable of using power in a responsible way. In the past, this was mostly due to hereditary systems which assigned power to kings and lords and others, who often didn’t have the intellectual or moral capacity to use their power well. But in more recent times, it seems as though power attracts ruthless and narcissistic people with a severe lack of empathy and conscience.

In psychology, there is a concept of a “dark triad” of malevolent personality traits: psychopathy, narcissism and Machiavellianism. These traits are studied together because they almost always overlap and combine. If a person has psychopathic traits, then they tend to have narcissistic and Machiavellian traits too.

People with these personalities can’t sense other people’s feelings or see the world from any perspective apart from their own. They don’t have a sense of conscience or guilt to stop them behaving immorally. They feel superior and enjoy manipulating and controlling other people. At the same time, they need to feel respected and admired and like to be the centre of attention.

There’s a great deal of evidence that people with dark triad personalities are attracted to the corporate and political worlds. Research, for example, shows that people with narcissistic and psychopathic traits have a strong desire for dominance and are disproportionately common in leadership positions.

As the psychologists Niklas Steffens and Alexander Haslam put it, “like moths to a flame, narcissists may be drawn naturally to positions of power and influence”. Or as the psychologist Robert Hare writes of psychopaths, they “are social predators and like all predators they are looking for feeding grounds. Wherever you get power, prestige and money, you will find them”.

The most evil leaders of the 20th-century, such as Stalin, Hitler, Mao Zedong, Pol Pot, Saddam Hussein and Colonel Gaddafi, clearly had severe dark triad traits. They didn’t become leaders because of their ability or intelligence, but simply because they had a tremendous desire for power and were incredibly ruthless and cruel in their pursuit of it.

Many present day politicians appear to have psychopathic and narcissistic traits too. It’s easy to spot such leaders, because they are always authoritarian, following hardline policies. They try to subvert democracy, to reduce the freedom of the press and clamp down on dissent. They are obsessed with national prestige, and often persecute minority groups. And they are always corrupt and lacking in moral principles.

Narcissists and sociopaths

In democratic countries such as the UK and the US, one could argue that there is less likelihood of psychopathic people becoming leaders. But there’s still a serious problem with highly narcissistic, ruthless and non-empathic people attaining power. This is clear from Donald Trump’s presidency.

Like many mental health professionals, the president’s niece, Mary Trump – a clinical psychologist – voiced her opinion that Trump suffers from a range of personality disorders. She suggested that his main issue was his severe narcissism, but also that he “meets the criteria for antisocial personality disorder, which in its severe form is generally considered sociopathy”.

Over time, as sensible and responsible people left his administration, Trump attracted others with similar personality traits to himself. In this way, his regime became what the Polish psychologist Andrew Lobacewski called a “pathocracy” – a government consisting of people with personality disorders. In the UK there has also been a trend for leading politicians to display signs of narcissism, ruthlessness and a lack of empathy. This also suggests a movement towards pathocracy.

The essence of the problem is that callous, low-empathy people are drawn to power, whereas empathic and responsible people (who would make ideal leaders) don’t have a desire for dominance. They usually prefer to remain on the ground, interacting with other people. This leaves positions of powers free for the wrong people.

What can be done?

Like others who have studied the problem of “corporate psychopathy”, the Australian psychologist Clive Boddy has suggested that companies should screen leadership candidates for psychopathy. In my view, we should do something similar in politics. Every government (indeed every organisation) should employ psychologists to assess potential leaders and determine their suitability for power.

Personality tests might not be much use, because dark triad personalities are manipulative and dishonest. But other assessments could be used. It’s widely accepted there are childhood signs of dark triad traits, such as callousness and cruelty and a lack of empathy, guilt and emotion. So psychologists could examine the candidate’s life history, interviewing previous supervisors and coworkers. They could also speak to past acquaintances, former schoolteachers or university tutors.

Some might argue this would give too much power to psychologists, who would effectively become kingmakers – and perhaps become vulnerable to corruption themselves. While this is true, it’s surely preferable to the present situation, where there’s nothing to stop people with narcissistic and psychopathic traits gaining power and then using their power malevolently.The Conversation

About The Author

Steve Taylor, Senior Lecturer in Psychology, Leeds Beckett University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

books_democracy
 

enafarzh-CNzh-TWdanltlfifrdeiwhihuiditjakomsnofaplptruesswsvthtrukurvi

follow InnerSelf on

facebook icontwitter iconyoutube iconinstagram iconpintrest iconrss icon

 Get The Latest By Email

Weekly Magazine Daily Inspiration

POLITICS

UK Court Urged To Respect 1.5°c Climate Limit
UK Court Urged To Respect 1.5°c Climate Limit
by Alex Kirby
The UK faces growing pressure not to expand Heathrow airport but to respect the 1.5°C limit agreed on global heating.
Why Sustainability Rankings Don't Always Identify Sustainable Companies
Why Sustainability Rankings Don't Always Identify Sustainable Companies
by Rumina Dhalla and Felix Arndt, University of Guelph
As consumers and investors, we often look at environmental, social and governance (ESG) rankings to guide our purchase,…
How To Stop Psychopaths and Narcissists From Winning Positions of Power
How To Stop Psychopaths and Narcissists From Winning Positions of Power
by Steve Taylor, Leeds Beckett University
In the past, this was mostly due to hereditary systems which assigned power to kings and lords and others, who often…
How Children Are Taking European States To Court Over The Climate Crisis – And Changing The Law
How Children Are Taking European States To Court Over The Climate Crisis – And Changing The Law
by Aoife Daly, University College Cork et al
Even before Greta Thunberg launched her school strike for climate at age 15, youth activists have been key players in…
If 80% Of Australians Care About Climate Action, Why Don't They Vote Like It?
If 80% Of Australians Care About Climate Action, Why Don't They Vote Like It?
by Rebecca Colvin and Frank Jotzo, Australian National University
Poll after poll suggests a large majority of Australians cares about climate change. Yet in recent federal elections,…
Keeping Hope Of 1.5°c Limit Alive Is Vital To Spurring Global Climate Action
Keeping Hope Of 1.5°c Limit Alive Is Vital To Spurring Global Climate Action
by Richard Black, Imperial College London and Catherine Happer, University of Glasgow
Ever since governments at the 2015 Paris climate summit set 1.5°C as the desired limit for global warming, scientists…
Lawmakers and Groups Demand Urgent Action by Fed to Protect Economy From Climate Risks
Lawmakers and Groups Demand Urgent Action by Fed to Protect Economy From Climate Risks
by Jessica Corbett
The Federal Reserve must do its job, steering the economy away from disaster by ending fossil fuel finance.
Fossil Fuel Companies Got $8.2 Billion in Tax Bailouts—Then Fired Over 58,000 Workers
Fossil Fuel Companies Got $8.2 Billion in Tax Bailouts—Then Fired Over 58,000 Workers
by Jessica Corbett
It's time to stop subsidizing them and start facing the climate crisis, says a BailoutWatch analyst.

LATEST VIDEOS

The Last Ice Age Tells Us Why We Need To Care About A 2℃ Change In Temperature
The Last Ice Age Tells Us Why We Need To Care About A 2℃ Change In Temperature
by Alan N Williams, et al
The latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) states that without a substantial decrease…
Earth Has Stayed Habitable For Billions Of Years – Exactly How Lucky Did We Get?
Earth Has Stayed Habitable For Billions Of Years – Exactly How Lucky Did We Get?
by Toby Tyrrell
It took evolution 3 or 4 billion years to produce Homo sapiens. If the climate had completely failed just once in that…
How Mapping The Weather 12,000 Years Ago Can Help Predict Future Climate Change
How Mapping The Weather 12,000 Years Ago Can Help Predict Future Climate Change
by Brice Rea
The end of the last ice age, around 12,000 years ago, was characterised by a final cold phase called the Younger Dryas.…
The Caspian Sea Is Set To Fall By 9 Metres Or More This Century
The Caspian Sea Is Set To Fall By 9 Metres Or More This Century
by Frank Wesselingh and Matteo Lattuada
Imagine you are on the coast, looking out to sea. In front of you lies 100 metres of barren sand that looks like a…
Venus Was Once More Earth-like, But Climate Change Made It Uninhabitable
Venus Was Once More Earth-like, But Climate Change Made It Uninhabitable
by Richard Ernst
We can learn a lot about climate change from Venus, our sister planet. Venus currently has a surface temperature of…
Five Climate Disbeliefs: A Crash Course In Climate Misinformation
The Five Climate Disbeliefs: A Crash Course In Climate Misinformation
by John Cook
This video is a crash course in climate misinformation, summarizing the key arguments used to cast doubt on the reality…
The Arctic Hasn't Been This Warm For 3 Million Years and That Means Big Changes For The Planet
The Arctic Hasn't Been This Warm For 3 Million Years and That Means Big Changes For The Planet
by Julie Brigham-Grette and Steve Petsch
Every year, sea ice cover in the Arctic Ocean shrinks to a low point in mid-September. This year it measures just 1.44…
What Is A Hurricane Storm Surge and Why Is It So Dangerous?
What Is A Hurricane Storm Surge and Why Is It So Dangerous?
by Anthony C. Didlake Jr
As Hurricane Sally headed for the northern Gulf Coast on Tuesday, September 15, 2020, forecasters warned of a…

LATEST ARTICLES

How Bad Could Our Climate Future Be If We Do Nothing?
How Bad Could Our Climate Future Be If We Do Nothing?
by Mark Maslin, UCL
The climate crisis is no longer a looming threat – people are now living with the consequences of centuries of…
Wildfires Can Poison Drinking Water – Here's How Communities Can Be Better Prepared
Wildfires Can Poison Drinking Water – Here's How Communities Can Be Better Prepared
by Andrew J. Whelton and Caitlin R. Proctor, Purdue University
After the fires passed, testing ultimately revealed widespread hazardous drinking water contamination. Evidence…
Almost All The World’s Glaciers Are Shrinking—and Fast
Almost All The World’s Glaciers Are Shrinking—and Fast
by Peter Rüegg, ETH Zurich
A new study shows just how fast glaciers have lost thickness and mass over the past two decades.
Installing Solar Panels Over California's Canals Could Yield Water, Land, Air And Climate Payoffs
Installing Solar Panels Over California's Canals Could Yield Water, Land, Air And Climate Payoffs
by Roger Bales and Brandi McKuin, University of California
Climate change and water scarcity are front and center in the western U.S. The region’s climate is warming, a severe…
Changes In The Weather: El Niño and La Niña Explained
Changes In The Weather: El Niño and La Niña Explained
by Jaci Brown, CSIRO
We wait in anticipation of droughts and floods when El Niño and La Niña are forecast but what are these climatic events?
Mammals Face An Uncertain Future As Global Temperatures Rise
Mammals Face An Uncertain Future As Global Temperatures Rise
by Maria Paniw, and Rob Salguero-Gómez
Even with fires, droughts and floods regularly in the news, it’s difficult to comprehend the human toll of the climate…
Longer And More Frequent Droughts Are Hitting The Western US
Longer And More Frequent Droughts Are Hitting The Western US
by Rose Brandt, University of Arizona
Against the backdrop of steadily warming temperatures and decreasing annual rainfall totals, extreme-duration drought…
Farming Without Disturbing Soil Could Cut Agriculture's Climate Impact By 30%
Farming Without Disturbing Soil Could Cut Agriculture's Climate Impact By 30%
by Sacha Mooney, University of Nottingham et al
Perhaps because there are no chimney stacks belching smoke, the contribution of the world’s farms to climate change…

 Get The Latest By Email

Weekly Magazine Daily Inspiration

New Attitudes - New Possibilities

InnerSelf.comClimateImpactNews.com | InnerPower.net
MightyNatural.com | WholisticPolitics.com
Copyright ©1985 - 2021 InnerSelf Publications. All Rights Reserved.