Going up may take you down

In this post I’ve condensed The Power Paradox. Full credit for it’s content goes to the author Dacher Keltner. I’m trying my hand at condensing a long article to 300 words or less. The goal is providing Leadership Freak readers the benefit of a long article in a 90 second read.


The skills most important to obtaining power and leading effectively are the very skills that deteriorate once we have power.

A Definition of power:

In psychological science, power is defined as one’s capacity to alter another person’s condition or state of mind. This definition stresses the individual’s capacity to affect others.

By this definition, one can be powerful without needing to try to control, coerce, or dominate. Indeed, when people resort to trying to control others, it’s often a sign that their power is slipping.

Gaining Power:

Social science reveals that one’s ability to get or maintain power, even in small group situations, depends on one’s ability to understand and advance the goals of other group members.

The more dynamic, playful, engaging members of the group quickly garner and maintain the respect of their peers. We give power to those who can best serve the interests of the group.

Power is given not grabbed:

Machiavellian’s mistakenly believe that power is acquired strategically in deceptive gamesmanship and by pitting others against one another. However, power increasingly has come to rest on the actions and judgments of other group members. Socially, a person’s power is only as strong as the status given to that person by others.

Skills deteriorate:

Once individuals gain power, they are more likely to interrupt others, to speak out of turn, and to fail to look at others who are speaking. Surveys of organizations find that most rude behaviors emanate from the offices and cubicles of individuals in positions of power.


Power is given to individuals, groups, or nations who advance the interests of the greater good in socially-intelligent fashion.  Yet unfortunately, having power renders many individuals impulsive and poorly attuned to others, making them prone to act abusively and lose the esteem of their peers.


What can leaders do to protect themselves and their organizations from the corrupting influence of power?

Most of this article is quoted from Dacher Keltner’s article. Is it legal to do this? Is it a service to Leadership Freak readers to condense an interesting article? Thanks for your feedback.