They’re successful, intelligent, charming and rule Silicon Valley. But experts at the South-by-Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, say they’re all psychopaths.
A panel of experts spoke Tuesday during an SXSW session called “Psychopaths in Silicon Valley: A Guide,” and said poorly run human resources departments and company investors enable the, say, more eccentric chief executive officers in the country’s technology hub, the Guardian reported.
“A true psychopath is someone that has a blend of emotional, interpersonal, lifestyle and behavioral deficits but an uncanny ability to mask them. They come across as very charming, very gregarious. But underneath there’s a profound lack of remorse, callousness and a lack of empathy,” Michael Woodworth, a forensic and clinical psychologist at Kelowna Professional Group, said during the panel.
Woodworth added: “They have certain characteristics like fearless dominance, boldness and a lack of emotion. Many successful presidents have scored highly [on the psychopathy scale].”
The Guardian also pointed to studies that showed the corporate world has a much higher rate of psychopathy than the rest of the country, a rate of 4 percent to 8 percent compared to just 1 percent among the general public.
Bryan Stolle, co-founder of business development company Wildcat Venture Partners, said, however, in some ways “psychopathic” behavior can have its benefits, and by nature, a successful entrepreneur may have to exude those traits.
“You have to have a tremendous amount of ego [and] self-deception to embark on that journey,” Stolle said. “You have to make sacrifices and give up things, including sometimes a marriage, family and friends. And you have to convince other people. So they are mostly very charismatic, charming and make you suspend the disbelief that something can’t be done.”
But another panelist, Stanford social scientist Jeff Hancock, added that because of their skills of persuasion these psychotic CEOs could then be highly manipulative and disrupt offices by finding "lackeys" to do their bidding.
Some of the other traits that have been applied to psychopaths include: a need for stimulation or quick to boredom, pathological lying, promiscuous sexual behavior, callousness and a lack of empathy, according to the Sociopathic Style website.