What If Your CEO Is a Psychopath?

August 27, 2018 / James Hughes

Most of us have had the misfortune of a bad supervisor before. Perhaps they had a short temper, never listened, or just were flat-out incompetent. But some are even worse: they are full-fledged corporate psychopaths! We all know this is a recipe for disaster, but what are some of the actual, real consequences of having a psychopath not just as a manager, but as a CEO?

One case study can provide some insight. Boddy (2015) studied an organization that went from a high-performing CEO to one who checked all the boxes as being a legitimate psychopath. The results…well, they were disastrous, with the organization ultimately being described as “one without leadership”. The CEO ruled with fear, board meetings became “rubber stamp meetings”. He reportedly would not even tolerate “a position where one manager disagrees with him while still agreeing to conform to the CEO’s plan”.

This ultimately lead to a high increase in turnover, lower production, plummeting job satisfaction and employee well-being, and an ever-increasing gap between perceived performance and actual performance.

Advice for Managers:

There is sometimes a debate that corporate psychopaths are actually good for business. This case study has helped to illuminate the negative consequences of such an appointment. So the obvious advice is, well, don’t promote psychopaths!

Thanks for reading,

James Hughes


Boddy, C. (2017). Psychopathic Leadership A Case Study of a Corporate Psychopath CEO. Journal Of Business Ethics, 145(1), 141-156. doi:10.1007/s10551-015-2908-6