Life gives all forces good and bad aspects. Breathing gives life. It also causes aging. Gravity prevents us from flying. It allows us to walk and use other modes of traveling. The same holds true for power. With more power less thinking comes.
Research on More Power Less Thinking
As power increases, a study shows we think less (PDF of complete study). Another is blunter. Power makes us stupid. If we know a topic well, the more power we have the less likely we are to think about new information on that topic.
Power though also expands what we believe we know. The confidence power gives convinces us and others that we are more competent than we are. Since we think we know more, we also think we have more control than we do. This opens the door to more and more risky decisions and antisocial behaviors.
Implications of More Power Less Thinking
In simple terms, it means that with more power less thinking we:
- Think we know more than we do
- Question what we think we know less
- Believe we have more control than we do
Moreover, leadership comes with more power. Since power can corrupt thinking, leadership can corrupt leaders. With more power less thinking means their decisions become worse. Thinking they know more, they think less. They question less. Unless advice attacks current beliefs, they do not think much about it.
With more power less empathy comes too. It is easy to look at the loss of thinking and empathy as negatives. It is nature’s way of weeding out weak leaders. They will lose their positions, their influence or both.
This does not mean they will not prosper personally. It does not mean many will not suffer. It does mean though a change in leaders will come.
Remedying More Power Less Thinking
With more power less thinking, the simple, practical remedy is preparing leaders for the dark side of leadership. Too many leadership programs paint a Pollyanna picture. They do not prepare people for these personal challenges.
One study though gave another way. It said the problem went away “when the powerful were made to feel incompetent.” Is there better career-ending advice to give employees?