Claire Harvey: Is Sir Clive a psychopath?

Psychologists say that psychopaths are not only in jails and mental health facilities, but are all around us - the charming, ruthless, domineering people who often rise to the top in business, sport and social interaction.

"Corporate psychopaths" share the traits of criminal sociopaths: superficial smoothness, a grandiose sense of self-worth, a lack of remorse, and failure to accept responsibility for their own actions.

British researchers even reported in March that some disordered traits such as grandiosity, stubbornness and selfishness were more common in successful business managers than in criminals.

Canadian professor Robert Hare, whose 1991 Psychopathy Checklist is the reference for criminal psychologists, estimates one person in every hundred is a psychopath.

There are eight classic "corporate psychopath" traits as identified by Hare and others, including insincere charm, arrogance, manipulation, pathological lying, a lack of remorse, a limited range of real emotions, callousness and the refusal to accept blame.

Clinical psychologists who have observed Woodward's behaviour on this Lions tour say that while he has not shown all eight qualities, he does display some - and they say these might explain the Lions' problems.

Narcissism, ruthlessness, a lack of compassion, excuse-making and a failure to understand or predict others' emotions are all present in Woodward, according to senior clinical psychologist Dr Nick Wilson.

"He is a narcissist. I know that's not as exciting as calling him a psychopath," says Wilson, who helps identify psychopathic prisoners for the Department of Corrections.

"He is ruthless, he is goal-focused, he is Machiavellian, which is defined as power and success being everything. People become pawns in the pursuit of that."

Since leading England to the 2003 Rugby World Cup, Woodward has claimed he could succeed in any sport. His 2004 book Winning! included detailed flow-charts explaining his formula for sporting victory.

But having boasted the 2005 Lions side was the "best-prepared ever", he was forced to cope with defeat.

It took three days after the first test loss for Woodward to admit that as coach he must "front up" and take responsibility - despite continuing to accuse the All Blacks of foul play, obliquely criticising his own team's lineouts and complaining about match officials.

After the second test defeat, he blamed the "Lions philosophy" of keeping the entire squad united in New Zealand, saying "if it was just about winning" he would have isolated the top 22 players for elite training in Melbourne.

"Saying he takes responsibility as coach is different from expressing remorse," Wilson says.

"If he then says the players or others are to blame, he's actually blaming the victim. With [criminal] offenders it is no different - they say, 'Yes I did commit a crime, but I was pissed at the time,' or 'I was on P,' or they blame their confederates," Wilson says.

Professor Gary Hermansson, the Academy of Sport's national adviser on sports psychology, believes Woodward "must be a very difficult person to have a relationship with".

"He is a meticulous, thorough, business-minded management planner and when all the ingredients go well together, that's exactly what you want [in a coach]. But those same characteristics can fall by the wayside when things go wrong.

"The style in which he has dealt with adversity has not been something people would warm to," Hermansson says.

"I'd resist any judgment as to whether he is a psychopath or not."

Hermansson says Woodward's decision to include 50 players and 27 support staff in his Lions touring party "might undermine what is needed for the whole team. You throw out the sense of soul and energy and commitment that comes from having a unified unit."

Author and sports psychologist Dr Rod Corban, a senior lecturer at Waikato Institute of Technology, describes Woodward as "very, very shrewd - but I wouldn't call his behaviour fantastic [on this tour]".

"The coach should be seen by his players to be going into bat for them. If he says, 'I'm going to take responsibility, but it was the lineouts, it was the throwing', that has potentially quite serious consequences for team cohesion," Corban says.

Like many top coaches, Woodward was himself an elite athlete - playing 21 tests for England and two Lions tours.

"Being a top athlete is almost like having a personality disorder. You've got to be obsessive, you've got to be selfish, and then these people go on to be coaches," Corban says.

"I wouldn't call them psychopathic, but they're not necessarily the best people to manage people.

"I think Clive Woodward is a good manager, but I think perhaps things have gone to his head a bit."

Wilson says Woodward seems to have been "stupidly loyal" to certain players. "It might be loyalty or it might be the rigidity that coaches get into when they want to surround themselves with players who won't criticise them."

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