Is this a cause of psychopathy? Some leading neuroscientists believe it has a huge effect.

Compelo met with leading Neuroscientist Tara Swart at her talk regarding the Dark Side of Leadership.

There are certain personality traits that are extremely prominent for somebody at the higher end of the Psychopathy spectrum. If you are particularly impulsive, fearless, charismatic, self-centred, focused, driven and are cool under pressure, then you might just be a psychopath.

I know what you’re thinking… those are all positive traits – or those are traits that aid success? This is true, why do you think CEOs are the profession with the highest number of psychopaths? A staggering 21% of all CEOs are psychopaths. That is 1 in 5! Therefore, there is a serious correlation with CEOs and Psychopathy and it all stems down to one thing.


What happens in a person’s childhood can have a staggering impact on how they behave later in life. Psychopathy is no different. Neuroscientist, Tara Swart explains that psychopathy is “usually related to some form of abuse – physical, emotional or sexual. It could even be witnessing domestic violence or having an alcoholic parent.”

People who show signs of psychopathic behavioural traits often follow one of two distinct life paths, one path leads to traditional ‘success’ with them climbing high in their careers, often becoming CEOs, Police Officers, Lawyers, Surgeons or even working in the Media. The other path leads to addiction and criminality. But what makes a person follow one path over the other?

Why would somebody become a Police Officer rather than a criminal? Or a surgeon rather than a killer?

The difference is IQ.

IQ, family nurture, education and social bonding are all huge factors in deciding which path you will follow. Tara Swart explained that children with a positive upbringing, with them being pushed in a positive direction usually leads to some of the more successful careers. In contrast, without money education and nurture from at least one or two significant adults, this can lead very much in a different direction.

One major theory behind why some children, who despite having the positive childhood environs still develop psychopathic traits, is dependent on them attending boarding school. Tara Swart said “they get sent off to boarding school at the age of six. This creates separation, which in turn hinders the development of the limbic system. Often at boarding schools there is institutionalised humiliation or violence. This will also have damaged the limbic system.”

Psychopaths in the workplace: 1 in 5 are CEOs