Power does corrupts an individual’s mind. But why is it that power corrupts? A lot of powerful politicians have made headlines for behaving inappropriately; using vulgar language, physically and sexually assaulting women, and misappropriating public resources for personal gain. It is a probable yet depressing behavior-individuals entrusted with power abusing their privileges. The question is, what is the motivation behind this bad behavior?
This awful behavior is referred to as paradox of power. The character traits that enabled leaders to ascend to power diminish once they accumulate control. These leaders become rude, impulsive and arrogant instead of behaving in a polite and honest manner. The main drawback of power is that it makes the person in authority less sympathetic to their subject’s emotions and concerns. For example, surveys conducted show that there is higher likelihood for individuals in power to judge others by generalizing and stereotyping.
Consider an experiment conducted by Adam Galinsky that investigates the consequences of power. This research found out that authority greatly reduces a leader’s ability to comprehend how other people feel, see and think.According to Galinsky, individuals in high power rely heavily on their own viewpoints and demonstrate reduced ability to accurately interpret other people’s perspectives. The researcher also found out that power inhibits empathy (Galinsky, 2006).
Leadership is all about influence and power; leaders exercise their power in order to get things done. There are too forms of power: socialized power and personalized power. Socialized power is where other people benefit whereas personalized power is using authority for personal gain. The problem starts when personalized power takes preference over socialized power and the leaders gain at the expense of their subjects. The question of whether it is ethical for leaders to increase their power depends on whether it’s for personal gain or social gain.
Galinsky, A. D., & Joe C. Magee, M. E. (2006). Power and Perspectives not taken. Psychological Science, 17(12), 1068-1074.
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