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Tuesday, August 19, 2008

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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