The Paradox of Power: Part 2


power-corrupts-16Ralph was a bright, young financial analyst who quickly gained the respect of all.  Co-workers described Ralph as insightful, cooperative, helpful and quick to assist others.

When the department manager retired, the CEO promoted Ralph to head the financial analysis team.  Because of his unusual talent and cooperative nature, the financial team was very supportive of Ralph’s promotion.

Over the next several months, team members noticed changes in Ralph’s demeanor.  “I don’t know what has happened to Ralph,” said one, “but he has become very impatient.”  Another said, “Ralph tends to get defensive if you disagree with him.”  A third said, “Ralph is more closed with information, and I saw him act vindictively toward a team member who questioned his decision.”

Psychology professor, Dacher Keltner, in his book The Power Paradox, suggests that power often tempts many leaders to hide unflattering data, manipulate, exaggerate, and punish those who do not support.

Said differently, leaders acquire power by being open, helpful, transparent, and supportive.  But when they achieve power, many leaders become more closed, manipulative and punitive.  

British historian, Lord Action said, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”  Effective leaders guard against corrupting practices by surrounding themselves with capable people who have the courage to say, “But the emperor has no clothes.”

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