Psychopathic Tendencies in Men Propel Them to Leadership Roles, But the Same Is Not True for Women

A new study led by scholars at the University of Alabama finds that men who exhibit some degree of psychopathic behavior are often rewarded by being promoted to leadership positions in organizations, while women who exhibit such tendencies are not.

According to the study, a psychopathic personality has three characteristics, including boldness in asserting dominance over others, being impulsive without inhibition, and a lack of empathy. These traits often propel men into leadership roles. Peter Harms, an associate professor of management at the University of Alabama and a co-author of the study stated that the research shows that “aggressive behavior is seen as more prototypical of men, and so people allow more displays of that kind of behavior without social sanctions. If women behave counter to gender norms, it seems like they get punished for it more readily.”

Lead author Karen Landay, a doctoral student in management at the University of Alabama, added that “the existence of this double standard is certainly disheartening. I can imagine that women seeking corporate leadership positions getting told that they should emulate successful male leaders who display psychopathic tendencies.”

Landry is a graduate of the Chicago College of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University, where she majored in music. She earned an MBA at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh.

The full study, “Shall We Serve the Dark Lords? A Meta-Analytic Review of Psychopathy and Leadership,” was published in the Journal of Applied Psychology. It may be accessed here.

Filed Under: Research/Study


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