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Psychological Profiles of Addicts and Good Leaders May Be Similar

Posted Jul 27, 2011 6:00 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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A compelling leader who can found a company and build it into a multimillion-dollar enterprise will likely be a risk taker and a novelty seeker.

In short, he or she will have the same personality profile as an addict, according to a New York Times opinion column by Johns Hopkins neuroscience professor David Linden.

Addicts are sometimes portrayed as “weak-willed losers,” Linden says, but in truth their problems may be due to differences in dopamine receptors that play a crucial role in pleasure. Evidence suggests that addicts must achieve high levels of stimulation to reach the same levels of pleasure that other achieve with more moderate indulgences.

“The risk-taking, novelty-seeking and obsessive personality traits often found in addicts can be harnessed to make them very effective in the workplace,” Linden says. “For many leaders, it’s not the case that they succeed in spite of their addiction; rather, the same brain wiring and chemistry that make them addicts also confer on them behavioral traits that serve them well.”

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