Leadership and the Psychology of Power

Magee, J.C., Gruenfeld, D.H., Keltner, D. & Galinsky, A.
In D. M. Messick & R. Kramer (Eds.),The Psychology of Leadership: New Perspectives and Research. Lawrence Erlbaum,

This chapter begins to fill in a gap in the leadership literature by looking at the psychological experience of leaders. We assume most leaders possess power over those whom they lead, and we explicate a theory of how power affects cognition and behavior. First, power-holders' attention is focused on non-conscious and conscious goal-relevant information. Thus, power-holders interpret social information in relation to their goals. They are less likely to process social norms and standards of behavior that could impede progress toward goals, and they are more likely to see others in relation to their goals. Second, as judgments of the self by others are less consequential, power-holders experience a decrease in public self-awareness, or self-consciousness. Third, power-holders' self-regulatory mechanisms, which require effortful control, break down for reasons of motivation and cognitive busyness. Power-holders are less motivated to control their behavior because they care less about others' judgments, but they also are less able to control their behavior because their cognitive resources tend to be more occupied. These three factors -- increased goal focus, decreased self-consciousness, and decreased self-regulation - converge to increase the likelihood of automatic behavior that represents power holders' "dominant" situational responses.

Wagner Faculty