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Jo Geraghty

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Leadership power

Date added: 03rd Oct 2014
Category: Leadership

Looking at the results of a study into the way in which leaders respond to 'power'

Organisations should limit how much leaders can drink from the seductive chalice of power

So says Professor John Antonakis following a study carried out at the University of Lausanne and published in The Leadership Quarterly.  The study set out to discover whether, despite potential leaders possessing character traits such as honesty and trustworthiness, once in a position of leadership those traits became tainted by the corruption of power.

Playing a simple ‘dictator game’, participants were asked to decide how a pot of money should be shared between themselves and their followers.  The premise was that the more even the split, the more the leader exhibited pro-social attitudes.  The study showed that although in the first instance those whose psychometric tests had shown them to be more naturally ‘honest’ were more even-handed in sharing out the pot, as time went on and more followers were added, individuals were more likely to take a greater share for themselves.  Interestingly, samples taken throughout the test showed that those who were more “corrupt” had higher levels of testosterone.

Commenting on the study, Professor Antonakis said that “strong governance mechanisms and strong institutions are the key to keeping leaders in check.”

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