Does Power Change People And Make Them Bad Or Corrupt?


Mar 11, 2017

When you look at the halls of power, what kind of people do you see?

Do you picture philanthropists with hearts as big as their heads?

Do you envision vicious, power-hungry megalomaniacs who only want more of everything?

Odds are you leaned towards the latter. After all, you only need to look to the corporate world to find plenty of corruption and abuse of power.

What goes on behind the scenes? Are powerful people really so bad?

Does having power make you more likely to be corrupt and uncaring?

Although it would be so much easier to believe that is the case, the truth is more nuanced and gray rather than black and white.

To better understand the science of power and its effect on people, we examined a couple of research studies conducted recently. One was by Yale Professor Michael W. Krauss and the other by a researcher named Geoff Durso.

Does Power Change People?

At first glance, it would appear that having a small modicum of power changes a person.

However, it turns out that that change is not so radical as it first seems.

According to Krauss (and other studies), having power doesn’t make you a different person, it simply makes you more of yourself.

So what does this mean, exactly?

It means that people in power feel much more confident in themselves, which means that they feel like they can be more open and honest about who they really are. They express their true selves more freely.

When you think about it, it makes sense.

We might not speak up at work because we don’t want to upset our boss or coworkers, and we might stay quiet in public because we don’t want to embarrass ourselves.

For powerful people, however, they aren’t inhibited by such societal restraints. Thus, they are more prone to be outgoing and vocal, regardless of the setting.

How Power Amplifies Your Personality

So if power makes you feel more confident, does that affect who you are as a person?

Apparently, it doesn’t.

In fact, what power does do is amplify your personality exponentially as you get more of it.

Thus, for example, a kind person will be extra kind when given power, and a mean person will be downright awful when put in a higher position.

Therefore, when you see signs of corporate corruption or terrible actions done by those in power, it’s a safe bet that they were like that all along.

It wasn’t until they got their power that they decided to act on it more. For most of us, we keep our “crazy” inside and bottled up. For powerful people, they let it out.

Some good points to keep in mind as a leader, or when interacting with powerful people.

  About The Author  

Nigel has vast experience in Training & Development, Facilitation, Lecturing, General Management and Operations. In addition to an educational background in philosophy, psychology, theology and communications, he has advanced qualifications in business, adult education and coaching.

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