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Personality assessment of three al-Qaida leaders in the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack on the United States – Osama bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri, and Mohamed Atta – provides evidence for a rudimentary model of the leadership roles required for a global-reach terrorist operation: (1) a narcissistic, charismatic leader devoid of core values beyond personal self-interest, adept at exploiting others in pursuit of his grandiose ambitions (e.g., bin Laden); (2) a strategic-thinking “true believer” without constraints of conscience regarding the level of violence he is willing to employ in his single-minded pursuit of mission (e.g., al-Zawahiri); and (3) unobtrusive, disciplined operatives willing to sacrifice themselves for a higher cause (e.g., Atta). The presence of three such radically different, distinctive personality types occupying key roles in a terrorist organization has important practical implications for combating terror.
Copyright © 2006 by Unit for the Study of Personality in Politics / Aubrey Immelman
Immelman, A. (2006, September). Key leadership roles in the 9/11 terrorist attack [Issue brief]. Unit for the Study of Personality in Politics. http://digitalcommons.csbsju.edu/psychology_pubs/134/
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