I know we have all probably described our boss as being a "bit of a psycho" at some stage but some recent research has discovered that it's actually true for 1 in 5 CEO's. To put that into perspective, that's roughly the same ratio seen amongst prison inmates.

The study was conducted by two Universities in the U.S and Australia involving 261 'corporate professional' test subjects who were assessed for various signs of psychopathy. It revealed that an astonishing 21 percent of the study group exhibited "clinically significant levels of psychopathic traits." By comparison to the general public it transpires that high performers in business are up to 25 times more likely to elicit psychopathic behaviour.

Which careers are high upon the list for this perceived psychopathy? Surgeons, politicians, lawyers and people who work in media (well, that's me nailed then).

The notion of the 'successful psychopath' is not exactly new. American psychiatrist Herve Cleckley coined the phrase in his 1941 book "The Mask of Sanity". He paints a picture of a person who is outwardly quite charming but underneath is self obsessed, dishonest and lacks empathy for others. That said he also conceded that it was these very same traits that make them excel in several industries.

So how can you spot the telltale signs in your boss, or maybe even in yourself? Here are the 5 signs you need to look out for:

  1. Insincere Emotional Responses - because psychopaths often have an inability to show real emotion they attempt to mimic what they believe to be appropriate reactions (look out for unusual body language or inappropriate tone of voice)
  2. Air of Superiority - successful psychopaths have a genuine belief that they are intellectually superior to their colleagues. They also believe that they can easily spot other psychopaths which again makes them condescending. Always narcissistic and with a total lack of self awareness
  3. Mass Manipulation - they will often assume the role of a self proclaimed puppet master and take an intense pleasure in trading people off against each other
  4. Impulsive Compulsive - because they have such a strong self belief in their abilities they will take unilateral decisions without any consultation from their peers. This is also coupled with an innate foible for risk taking because they like the thrill of a high stakes gamble
  5. Machiavellian Machinations - selfish and slavish in their pursuit of money, success and power

Does any of this sound familiar? Do you recognize any of these characteristics in your current boss or possibly one that you may have worked with previously? If you are a business leader, do you relate to any of these attributes? And if you are psychopathic boss does it really matter as long as you deliver results? As ever, I'm keen to hear your thoughts...