Australian psychotherapist Glyn Brokensha has come up with the term "power-pathic" to describe manipulating managers who are bent on attaining power for its own sake.
According to Brokensha, power-pathic managers are devoid of empathy, reckless and leave in their wake a trail of wrecked careers, corporate destruction, distress and a legacy of fear.
Articulate, charming and confident, power-paths thrive in businesses with autocratic management cultures where they can curry favour with their peers and superiors, while causing misery for the staff who report to them.
Speaking to The Age newspaper, Dr Brokensha said that one in 10 Australian managers exhibited such behaviour – a figure that is borne out by similar studies in Britain and the USA.
Last year, Professor Robert Hare of the University of British Columbia in Canada published findings suggesting that sub-criminal psychopaths tend to show up more in management ranks than elsewhere in companies.
Said Dr Brokensha : "You'll get senior management say, 'So-and-so is really good, he has cleared out all the dead wood, all the non-performers', and then find three years later that the dead wood has not been cleared out, he has cleared out anybody who knew what he was, anyone who opposed him."
"They have no real goals, and what goals they do have are for themselves, not the institution they work for."
Dr Brokensha also told The Age that power-paths "typically introduced meaningless reforms and endless reviews to cover up for the fact that they achieve very little". Doesn't that sound like a description of many politicians, too?