Psychopaths and Agile

Jack Nicholson played the part of Jack Torrance, a psychopath, in the film, The Shining (1980).

Psychopaths make up an estimated one percent of the general population. With 320 million people in the United States there are 3.2 million psychopaths among us, mostly male—25% of the prison population are psychopaths.

Psychopaths (also known as Sociopaths) lack emotions, although they can fake them. They don’t feel emotion themselves and hence have no empathy for others. Intelligent psychopaths who are not dragged down into prison are, ironically, naturally skilled to rise in larger political systems, both countries and corporations.

It is no accident that our history is filled with heads of state who display psychopathic behaviors such as Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pot, and more recently, the leaders of ISIS.

It is no accident that we have psychopathic heads of giant corporations who think nothing of killing people to advance their financial gain.

Enron caused blackouts in order to make money… blackouts literally kill people. One group of victims were the elderly hooked up to ventilators.

Very few business books take seriously the impact of psychopathy in government or the workplace. But if you are working in an office building with 20,000 employees as I did recently, you are probably working with at least 200 psychopaths, and they most likely have risen high in the organization.

Agile promotes an anti-psychopath form of working.

Large bureaucracy give the psychopaths cover, while agile transparency works against their manipulation techniques. Openness resists the psychopaths’ ability to tell different people different stories. It makes it hard to lie, cheat, and steal.

Small teams and tribes naturally reject psychopaths.

If you are doing an agile transformation, the psychopaths will absolutely be against you. Be warned. They are very good at what they do and they do not look like the cartoon characters of movies or TV. They are probably well liked and will have created many people who are fiercely loyal to them.

Psychopathy is a significant factor inhibiting agility. If you are an agile or executive coach you need to prepare yourself for this reality, read The Sociopath Next Door by Martha Stout.

Psychopaths are natural leaders. Intelligent psychopaths rise to lead large political systems. It is time we were honest about it, and it is time we create real strategies to fight them.

By Tom (Thomas) Meloche –

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