I tell my employees “I’ve been an employee longer than I’ve been a CEO,” and it still rings true as we celebrate our 10 year anniversary this year.
As an employee in the dot.com craze, I still remember conversing with other employees on how our bosses were sociopaths or psychopaths and then debating about it. And yes, I’m totally guilty of referring to them as ‘psychos’ in short.
What I’m here to say now is that it’s probably not that your CEO is ‘psycho’ but that it’s more like they have to be delusional to do their job, and that the best ones are aware of and good at it.
Facts & Figures Out of the Way
Clinically only 1 in 100 people are psychopathic (or 1 in 4 when looking at federal correctional facility populations) (Source). Even when looking at how few people get to CEO roles, chances still are that the 1 in 5 statistic is grossly inflated. Most CEOs and business owners aren’t psychopaths or sociopaths.
Add to that the fact that 137,000 businesses give birth every day or 5 million per year. Doing the math, that means 90% of them fail, 123,300 fail every day and, in the time you were reading this, 85 businesses probably went out of business.
Charisma does not equal psychopathy.
But in order to succeed you do have to adopt psychopathic behaviors when needed: calculating, cold and manipulative. A CEO that retains employees and inspires loyalty cannot be psychopathic all the time. But if you want job security, you’ll also want the CEO’s that can turn it on and off. Second of all, it’s pretty statistically improbable that we’d have that many psychopaths say, in Silicon Valley even. Thirdly, let’s NOT define people by popular misconceptions. “American Psycho” anyone? That was good, but Hollywood good.
Charisma also does not equal sociopathy.
High-functioning sociopaths do have above average intelligence, tend to have narcissistic qualities, so what you see is someone who is a chameleon: They innately know what people want to hear and scheme based on that. Their social skills are at a level where you might only ‘know’ someone that is this engaging, this trustable, and inspire so many people maybe once in your lifetime. Only one out of 100 people are true sociopaths.
Successful CEOs are passionate, full of heart, full of hustle, full of loyalty, and most importantly, full of delusion. CEOs are the Peter Pans of the business world — they inflict and manifest self-imposed delusion. Why?
Because in order to have your company succeed, you need the ability to scale and it shows in your business’ longevity. If I had to choose to look before leaping, or just making a decision and sticking to it, I go for the latter. Indecisiveness is not a trait of a successful business owner, and what others see as impulsivity you know isn’t. They can’t account for what you’ve learned in hindsight, they can’t truly understand how much your experiences allow you to make decisions quickly. You can’t go with research over gut. If you did, you’d never get anywhere.
And you’d be failing in the first 5 years like most other businesses.
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