Tag Archives: learning opportiunities


Learning from Psychopaths

Are you serious? We can learn something from psychopaths?

Well according to Kevin Dutton a Oxford University Research Psychologist we can!

When we use the term psychopath we are not talking about the Hannibal Lector  serial killer cliche .  In fact the typical traits of a psychopath as recognised by Clinical Psychologists are rather interestingly  : charm, focus, mental toughness, ruthlessness, mindfulness and action orientation.  Psychopathy is apparently  better described as a continuum rather than a simple you are one or not the difficulties arise if you are high on all the named traits.

In moderation I think you can see how they could  be helpful in a business context.

Take living in the moment and not worrying about tomorrow or mindfulness as we might call it a  common trait in people with psychopathic tendencies. Well this can be an amazingly effective  strategy to reduce mental rumination, anxiety and boost resilience.  It is not unreasonable to assume that an  appropriate mix of charm, focus and a smidgeon of ruthlessness could predispose someone for long-term life success.

So what about the prevalence in Business?

The British Psychopath Survey is the first survey to designed to assess the prevalence of psychopaths in the entire workforce. Participants completed an online Levenson Self report Psychopathy scale  and then received their score.  The sample size was 5400 and it was grouped into 50 individual professions and then these were ranked against each other.

So the top 10 least and most psychopathic professions in the UK were… drum roll please

Most Psychopathic Professions     Least Psychopathic Professions  
CEO Care Worker
Lawyer Nurse
Media TV and Radio Therapist
Salesperson Craftsperson
Surgeon Beautician
Journalist Charity Worker
Police Officer Teacher
Cleric Creative Artist
Chef Doctor
Civil Servant Accountant









We can only speculate about how similar or different New Zealand’s results might be however there is a stronger prevalence in so called “high achievers” .

You can find out more at the authors rather” racy website” here   and even take the test yourself if you are interested.

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Some Thoughts on The Refining NZ Leadership Story

So what do the top companies do differently in the leadership space?

Following up on our recent article asking how our Australasian companies stack up against Global Best People Practice, we are delighted to share with you that in one of the most critical areas that impact on people, we have a world leader!

We recently attended a fantastic session hosted by the Human Resource Institute of New Zealand (HRINZ) that told the story of Refining NZ, who have recently been awarded an Asia Pacific top 20 spot in the 2011 Aon Hewitt ‘Top companies for Leadership’ study.  Having fought it out with 500 of the world’s best companies to even get the opportunity, the proudly Kiwi company sits amongst some of the icons and gurus of the Leadership space, such as IBM & GE.

Get our free 22 page E Book: Leadership Strategy Demystified here

So what do top companies like Refining NZ do differently to become the cream of the crop in an area that the majority keep searching for the key to?  Well, the survey identified 5 key things that made the top stand out:

  • Building a Leadership brand to attract and retain top talent – too often we see organisations who haven’t given enough thought to ‘who do we want our leaders to be and what do we want them to do?’
  • An unrelenting focus on talent assessment – there is much talk about talent management systems, but again in our experience, there is often too much focus on the process rather than what it is trying to achieve – who are our leaders of the future?
  • Customised learning opportunities for leaders – we at Leadership by Design would wholeheartedly agree that leadership development happens one person at a time.  Many of our articles have reflected this belief and much of the current research shows that leaders having a focused development plan is the No 1 tool to support their growth
  • Taking top talent out of their comfort zone – I heard a great quote the other day – “The best things happen at the exit ramp of your comfort zone.”    Any leadership development initiative worth its salt should encourage this
  • Focus on a variety of thought and thinking – challenging people to think and then think differently is at the heart of change.  The latest neuroscience findings are increasingly playing a part in understanding what makes great leaders ‘tick’

BUT the one main differentiator that underpinned the success of all of the top companies was ’an almost maniacal approach to execution’ of strategy.

Getting the strategy right is a great start but too many companies we meet start with a hiss and a roar but for a whole raft of reasons, seem to lose the momentum over a 2-3 year period.  Leadership development cannot be a one – off; as was clearly demonstrated by the survey, getting clear about who and how you want your leaders to be and then finding the ‘right’ opportunities and development for them needs to become how your organisation ‘is’ rather than implementing one-off development opportunities

Excellence is worth reflecting upon and we intend to do another article on our perception of the senior leadership capabilities being demonstrated at Refining NZ.
If your Leadership team needs help in working more effectively together to deliver on stakeholder expectations, we are happy to offer you a free no obligation white board and coffee session to help you get clearer on your thinking.You set the agenda (and supply the coffee) and we’ll bring some good collegial discussion and an idea or two contact us here