Program Highlights

  • What experimental psychology tells us about the effects of power.
  • Why leaders and subordinates can misjudge each other's motivations.
  • How people change if suddenly thrust into a position of power.

Individuals in positions of power can be seen to exhibit behavior that is idiosyncratic, and at times even contrary to reason. Dr. Gruenfeld explains how the lack of consequences for their actions can allow powerful people to make serious errors in judgment that have far-reaching impacts on themselves and on their organizations. Her research explains the psychological effects of power: single-mindedness in decision making, an orientation to action, disinhibition, and depersonalization of others.

Although many positive results come from having power, leaders (and their direct reports) can benefit from an awareness of the risks. Wise organizations establish checks and balances that provide protection from abuses of power and thereby circumvent potentially disastrous consequences.
Deborah Gruenfeld has a BA from Cornell University, an MS from New York University and a PhD from University of Illinois. In addition to her work at Stanford, she has taught at Northwest University's J.L. Kellogg Graduate School of Management.

The Psychology of Power

Deborah Gruenfeld

Professor, Stanford Graduate School of Business


58 Minutes