Power Does Not Corrupt. It Frees.
What’s the Latest Development?
We all know that power seems seems to result in corruption, but new research suggests that the principle effect of power is not to corrupt but to free. Joe Magee, a professor of management at New York University who researches power, said: “What power does is that it liberates the true self to emerge. More of us walk around with kinds of social norms; we work in groups that exert all pressures on us to conform. Once you get into a position of power, then you can be whoever you are.” Among the behavioral changes that result from gaining power are a reduction in the awareness of constraints and a quickening in the decision making process.
What’s the Big Idea?
More important than the effect power has on its beholder is the person’s intentions, outlook and values. That power corrupts tells us more about the person who holds it than about an indelible nature of power. Pamela Smith, a power researcher at the University of California San Diego, said: “There is a tendency for people to assume power holders are uncaring, they’re cold, they don’t care about the little people. You put someone in an experiment, temporarily, in a high-powered role, and what you find is that people who say they have pro-social values, the more power they have, the more pro-social they are. The people who say they have more self-centered values tend to be more selfish the more power they have.”
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