By Kevin Dutton
Geoffrey W. Sutton
My mother was sixty-five when she retired. Each month she faithfully wrote a check for $20.00 to Rev. Televangelist whom she loved to watch on her aging blond console TV. She had his special version red leather, red letter edition, of the Holy Bible beside her favorite 1970s orangey fabric chair. Each month she received his newsletter, which she read to learn of God’s blessing on his ministries. She and many others were sending those showers of blessing on him and all who dwelt beneath the roof of his fabulous mansion. After moving to Rev. Televangelist’s community of followers, the scandalous news brought the house down. And she was manifestly depressed.
My encounters with psychopaths began during the early years of my clinical practice. I learned the most during supervision by clinical forensic psychologist, Dr. Julianne Lockwood, professor of psychology at the University of New Mexico. Since then I read a lot of books, attended many seminars, and met a lot of folks with psychopathic traits. And I empathized with many victims—of all ages. Psychopathic traits enable leaders to succeed when they harness select characteristics useful in various professions such as law and medicine as well as careers in business, the military, and religion.
Kevin Dutton is a psychological scientist. He provides readers with an insider’s look at the personality traits that enable those we call psychopaths to wreak such havoc in other people’s lives. Sometimes we may be confused when we attempt to size-up a leader who seems a bit too ruthless. Dutton gives us examples of the variation between valued leadership traits and those of the psychopath:
Charismatic Superficial charm
Action oriented thrill-seeking
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As psychologists, we examine behavioral models that often describe patterns of behavior in a range of values. Sometimes a modest range of select behavior patterns can be of high value in certain circumstances. For example, when under threat, we need leaders who are able to manage a great deal of stress without the interference of emotions that would prevent them from making life and death decisions. Those same leaders might look quite calloused and insensitive in another situation.
As a society, we can only tolerate such leaders when we are convinced they accept authority and demonstrate loyalty and a strong inclination to avoid harming those in the group they lead. Leaders can lead us astray. Dutton identifies seven core traits, which he artfully calls the Seven Deadly Wins—here’s the list:
If you have any interest in the psychology of psychopathy, I recommend the book as a good introduction. Dutton is a skilled writer and he makes sense of several interesting studies. You can find my academic review as a free download-- see links below.
Sutton, G. W. (2014). [Review of the book The Wisdom of psychopaths: What saints,spies, and serial killers can teach us about success by Kevin Dutton]. Journal of Christianity and Psychology, 35, 281-282. Also published in Vol 33, 265-266. Accepted June 2013
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