Psychopaths and Entrepreneurs

Be wary of people who claim for themselves the title of entrepreneur…there is a good chance you are actually talking to a psychopath.

Charles Manson and Richard Branson may have more in common than rhyming surnames and big hair.

New research from the Australian School of Business at the University of NSW suggests that psychopathic tendencies can also make for good entrepreneurs.

“Psychopaths commit an offence, go to prison, then come out and commit the offence again, because they fail to learn from the prison experience,” said PhD student Benjamin Walker.

“Our study showed the novel result is that participants high in entrepreneurial intentions showed the same pattern.”

Psychopaths the like serial killer Charles Manson are born with temperamental differences that lead them to being risk seekers, impulsive and fearless.

These personality traits also allow a person to persist in risk-taking and succeed in business, the study found.

Assessing the results of 605 participants across three laboratory studies, Mr Walker and Professor of Business Psychology Chris Jackson found that people with either psychopathic or entrepreneurial intentions persisted through adversity in a risk-taking task.  

People often confuse “psychopath” for an insult, or a negative word. It merely describes a pathology or state of being for a person and their actions. I can certainly see how psychopaths and entrepreneurs seem alike, anyone who has worked with entrepreneurial people will know this.

“Even when the experimental conditions changed from rewarding to punishing, participants who were high in either psychopathic tendencies or entrepreneurial intentions continued to behave as if still rewarded,” Mr Walker said.

He said it was no surprise that some entrepreneurs – such as Virgin founder Richard Branson – do adventure sports in their spare time.

“The personality traits of fearlessness and insensitivity to punishment lead entrepreneurs to jump off buildings – and that is why they may also be unafraid to start multiple businesses.”

However, higher risk-taking can also increase losses – and that can be why so many entrepreneurs end up with a series of bankrupt ventures.

This is where psychopaths and entrepreneurs align, both can leave a trail of destruction behind them when their psychopathy gets out of control. It is no surprise when you see business people in court with a string of failed ventures that you are looking at classic psychopathy….right down to the blaming of others for their own actions. Almost always there is the diminished capacity for empathy or remorse, and poor behavioural controls. The evidence is always there to prove it too, in emails, in people victimised by them and in the trail of destruction.


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