Research Proves Power Corrupts

I love BusinessWeek.  I hope that as educators, we continue to keep our eye on where our students are going (because most of them certainly aren't!)

The recent issue is worth picking up if you are a leader in education because it talks about Trouble at the Office and was written with reader input on the BusinessWeek blogs.

In one article in particular, Are You Being a Jerk? Again?  If you are, it may be because you're following a bad leader, it quotes research by professors Dacher Keltner at University of California, Berkeley, Deborah Gruenfeld at Stanford and their students.  They documented that three things happen when people are put in positions of power:

“1 – They focus more on satisfying their own needs;
2 – They focus less on the needs of their underlings;
3 – The act like “the rules” others are expected to follow don't apply to them.”

There are several hypotheses from scientists about how to avoid this from happening to you in leadership:  having teenage children (which in theory, keeps you humble,) seek advisors and mentors who will tell you when you're insensitive, and learn to listen.  (I think having a spouse on the staff at the school would help too but that is something most schools don't allow.)

So, power corrupts.  We've known that.  What do we do to prevent it? How can we empower effective leaders?  More importantly, how can they retain the skills of leadership that got them there in the first place.

The best leaders are humble leaders who listen to those they work with.

Other great topics attacked in this issue:  Breaking Out of the Box of Rigid Bureaucracy and How to Deal with a Toxic Boss, and how to Communicate with Gen X and Gen Y.

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Vicki Davis

Vicki Davis

Vicki Davis is a full-time classroom teacher and IT Director in Georgia, USA. She is Mom of three, wife of one, and loves talking about the wise, transformational use of technology for teaching and doing good in the world. She hosts the 10 Minute Teacher Podcast which interviews teachers around the world about remarkable classroom practices to inspire and help teachers. Vicki focuses on what unites us -- a quest for truly remarkable life-changing teaching and learning. The goal of her work is to provide actionable, encouraging, relevant ideas for teachers that are grounded in the truth and shared with love. Vicki has been teaching since 2002 and blogging since 2005. Vicki has spoken around the world to inspire and help teachers reach their students. She is passionate about helping every child find purpose, passion, and meaning in life with a lifelong commitment to the joy and responsibility of learning. If you talk to Vicki for very long, she will encourage you to "Relate to Educate" or "innovate like a turtle" or to be "a remarkable teacher." She loves to talk to teachers who love their students and are trying to do their best. Twitter is her favorite place to share and she loves to make homemade sourdough bread and cinnamon rolls and enjoys running half marathons with her sisters. You can usually find her laughing with her students or digging into a book.

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1 comment

Claudia Flannery August 19, 2008 - 4:14 pm

Business Week has a well-deserved reputation in the business community. However, it is deteriorating into a “rag” in order to satisfy the masses (i.e., paying subscribers). I would take any article written in this magazine in recent years with a grain of salt. Not all article authors have the expertise that was required in earlier editions.

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