Tuesday, September 13, 2011

How to Be a Psychopath

There is news about the 2012 Presidential election everywhere you turn.  And, true to form, the media is tearing apart every single one of the candidates bit by bit so even the slightest gaffe becomes a faux pas of galactic proportions.

Everyday I receive a "Today's Top Stories" e-mail from PwC's central office and on 6September the "Must Read" at the bottom (which is always the best one because it's the story that's the most light-hearted and usually just for fun) was titled One in 25 business leaders 'could be a psychopath'.  Here's a snippet that explains the headline:

As many as one in 25 company bosses could be a psychopath, according to a new study.
Psychopaths are defined by their lack of moral instincts, but many are able to hide this by a natural ability to charm and manipulate both their seniors and subordinates.
While some psychopaths are outwardly aggressive and destructive, factors like a happy upbringing can help others to mimic colleagues and fit in at work.
The capacity of the 'successful psychopath' to identify and outwardly display the qualities corporate leaders admire helps them climb the career ladder quickly despite being poor managers.
This makes it virtually impossible to tell the difference between a psychopath and a genuinely good boss, leading psychologists said in a BBC Horizon programme to be screened on Wednesday.

Essentially, psychopaths are excellent at emulating what they see as model behavior and convincing everyone around them that they are genuinely great leaders with a resume to back it up.  I got to thinking, "Hmm, I wonder if there are any major politcal figures I can think of who look and talk the part but have a really hard time walking the part?" 

And then I stumbled on this gem in the Wall Street Journal (which I love, by the way).  How to Look and Act Like a Leader explains how adopting an "executive persona" can help you advance yourself through the business ranks.   

So, is WSJ trying to breed psychopaths?

No, I decided, they're not.  What they're doing it trying to help people who have genuine abilities to be more aware of what they are non-verbally communicating to the rest of the world.

However, how many politicians are there that have no abilities what so ever but a slew of advisors providing them with all of the answers so they can play the politician?  So they look the part?

I know, I sound like a conspiracy theorist.  But I think it's important to point out that people with a flawless image... they might not be real people.  Apparently studies have proved they could just be psychopaths who are excellent at picking out the best qualities in people and emulating them.  And now I get to the point where I tell you why I've written the worlds longest introduction to get down to my actual point.

I like my politicians with a few mistakes.  I like them to occasionally pronounce something wrong when they're a little nervous, I like for them to forget the microphone is on when they're swearing, I like to think that they, too, cannot eat spaghetti without getting sauce on their last clean white shirt.  I want a real person to be our President.  I want someone who is extraordinary at what they do, but still an actual human being underneath it all.  I don't want someone to be the Great Pretender.

I haven't chosen who I'll be voting for yet.  In fact, I haven't even seen the most recent debate yet (we have to load them on YouTube to watch them).  But when I do make a decision and decide to plaster their name, with all sorts of positive connotations, all over my blog, you can bet it will be because I feel like I can trust them with my rights and freedoms, and at the same time believe that they'd be the kind of person I  could sit and have a laugh with over coffee.

It's so easy to pretend.  With our online communities giving us a buffer and all the tools to be our own personal PR team, is it too much to ask for a President who doesn't prove the statistic?

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