On November 18th, 1978, 909 cult members under the direction of leader Jim Jones committed mass suicide in the jungle in British Guyana. This was the single largest loss of human life (non-natural disaster) before September 11th.
There are many reasons why followers join cults (brainwashing techniques, indoctrination, and obedience), but what are the motives of the leaders? Are they always psychopaths? According to some researchers, most cult leaders, if not all, exhibit extremely narcissistic traits or tendencies, also known as Narcissistic Personality Disorder. But does this classify them as psychopaths? Other characteristics of a cult leader, some which fall under Narcissistic Personality Disorder, include: grandiose sense of self, pathological lying, lack of remorse, shallow emotions, need for stimulation, impulsivity, promiscuity, and a parasitic lifestyle. My question is, when do these "traits" or "behaviors" become a mental disorder? Where does one draw the line? Our book says that many cult leaders suffered from serious mental illness, but when does having one or a few of these traits develop into something much more severe - severe enough to be labeled as a psychopath?
My conclusion is that cult leaders, like Jim Jones, have the right combination of traits to make a perfect cult leader. They usually have troubled childhoods, charismatic personalities, Narcissistic personality disorder, opportunity, and high persuasion skills. They are also fairly educated, gaining the respect and admiration of many people.