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Unethical 20th century business leaders: Were some of them corporate psychopaths? The case of Robert Maxwell

Citation

Boddy, CR, Unethical 20th century business leaders: Were some of them corporate psychopaths? The case of Robert Maxwell, International Journal of Public Leadership, 12, (2) pp. 76-93. ISSN 2056-4929 (2016) [Refereed Article]

DOI: doi:10.1108/IJPL-12-2015-0032

Abstract

Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to present evidence to examine the possible psychopathy of Robert Maxwell, a notorious figure in UK business history.

Design/methodology/approach: This paper presents research which retrospectively applied a tool to measure whether leading figures in twentieth century business history could be classified as being corporate psychopaths. As background to this idea, psychopaths and corporate psychopaths are defined. A measure of corporate psychopathy is explored as an aid to identifying corporate psychopaths in business history. This measure is then used in relation to senior corporate executives who have been nominated as potential corporate psychopaths and to Robert Maxwell in particular.

Findings: The paper concludes that at least some ethical scandals and failures such as those at The Daily Mirror have been characterized by the presence of CEOs who scored highly on a measure of corporate psychopathy. Maxwell’s fraudulent raiding of corporate pension funds crossed ethical and legal borders. Furthermore, Maxwell’s fraudulent looting of those pension funds crossed generational boundaries; stealing from older people’s pension funds and thereby leaving younger people/investors with less to inherit. Maxwell also had an international business empire and so his fraud had effects which crossed geographic borders. The paper concludes that using an historical approach to the study of potential corporate psychopaths illuminates what types of organizational outcomes corporate psychopaths may eventuate.

Originality/value: The paper is the first to use an historical approach to the study of potential corporate psychopaths.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:business history, fraud, corporate psychopaths, leadership, toxic leadership, ethics
Research Division:Commerce, Management, Tourism and Services
Research Group:Business and Management
Research Field:Organisational Behaviour
Objective Division:Expanding Knowledge
Objective Group:Expanding Knowledge
Objective Field:Expanding Knowledge in Commerce, Management, Tourism and Services
UTAS Author:Boddy, CR (Professor Clive Boddy)
ID Code:128009
Year Published:2016
Web of Science® Times Cited:4
Deposited By:TSBE
Deposited On:2018-08-28
Last Modified:2018-08-28
Downloads:0

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