Myths of Power

April 2009 Dacher Keltner University of California, Berkeley

A Roadmap
• • • • Myths of Power and Leadership The Power Paradox The Language of Social Intelligence 7 Principles of Socially Intelligent Leadership

Machiavellian Legacy of Power
• Law 3: Conceal Your Intentions • Law 6: Court Attention at All Costs • Law 12: Use Selective Honesty and Generosity to Disarm Your Victims • Law 15: Crush Your Enemy Totally; • Law 18: Keep Others in Suspended Terror: Cultivate an Air of Unpredictability.

Myth 1: Power is Votes, Cash, and Muscle
• Eminem or George W. Bush? • The Power of the voteless and penniless

What is power?
 Power is the capacity of A to influence the state of B, so that B acts in accordance with A’s wishes.



“The fundamental concept in social science is Power, in the same sense that Energy is the fundamental concept in physics...The laws of social dynamics are laws which can only be stated in terms of power” - Bertrand Russell

 There are many ways you can influence others’ behavior, some more effective than others. “Power is the ability to get people to do things they did not want to do

The Many Sources of Power
Source Critical Question Example
A manager who Resource control Do you have allocates more vs. discretion over something they want? less prestigious projects to others


A “star” member of Do you have knowledge they need? the team whose knowledge is unmatched


Do they want to maintain a relationship with you?

A coworker with whom you have a personal bond

Personal qualities Do they respect you A team leader with a and your reputation? strong track record
of success

Myth 2: Power is Unidirectional
• Charismatic Leaders • Authoritarian Parents • Sole Superpowers

Power is Bi-Directional: It is Acquired and Given
• Affordance processes
– Politeness tactics – Honorifics

• Constraint Processes
– Reputation – Gossip

Teasing as an status affordance process
1 Hostility of Teasing 0.5 0 -0.5 -1 -1.5 -1.21 Low Power Teaser High Power Teaser 0.21 0.67 0.37 Low Power Target High Power Target

Reputational Discourse
• Reputation: Based on ability to advance group’s interests • Distributed: Conceptions of Peers • Discursive: Communication, gossip

Gossip as a power constraint process
• Relationships Between Sociometric Ratings and Personality Measures and the Likelihood of Being Nominated by Other Group Members as a Target of Gossip

» Gossip Target Identification • Sociometric Ratings
• • • • • • • • • Well-known .34* Liked Status in house -.08 Status deserved -.35* Admirable reputation Teased .24+ Personality Measures Agreeableness *Machiavellianism .28* -.33* -.51* -.39

Myth 3: Power goes to Machiavellians
• Hence a Prince who wants to keep his authority must learn how not to be good, and use that knowledge, or refrain from using it, as necessity requires. The Prince, Niccolo Machiavelli, 14691527

The Social Engagement Hypothesis
• • • • • • • • • • • • • • Table 2 Correlations of the Big Five Dimensions with Social Status (Summary of Three Studies) Dormitory women Measure Sorority Fraternity Dormitory men

men Time 2 Time 3 women Time 2 Time 3 _____________________________________________________________________________________________ Big Five Extraversion Agreeableness Neuroticism Conscientiousness Openness ce .47** .12 -.31* .23 -.05 .48** .08 -.39* .16 -.03 .40** .17 -.46** .19 .00 .45** .24 -.21 .03 .11 .39* .01 .08 -.20 -.12 .36* -.01 .14 -.31 -.24

Note. Correlations replicated across the studies are set in bold. *p < .05; **p < .01.

Beyond college students
• Emotional Intelligence and Leadership in Organizations • Emotional Intelligence and power in the Israeli Army

The Power Paradox: The Experience of Power Makes us Less Emotionally Intelligent Leaders
• Having elevated power leads to: -goal directed behavior -less careful attention to others

The Power Paradox: The Experience of Power Makes us Less Socially Intelligent Intelligent
2 1.8 1.6 Cookies Eaten 1.4 1.2 1 0.8 0.6 0.4 0.2 0 High Power Low Power

Accuracy in Judging Partner's Emotions

• Having elevated power leads to: -impulsive behavior -less careful attention to others

0.25 0.2 0.15 0.1 0.05 0 Women Men

High Power Low Power

Power makes people less attentive to the concerns of others
4.6 4.4

Listener's Compassion

4.2 4 3.8 3.6 3.4 3.2 3

Low Power Listener High Power Listener



Talker's Distress

Low Power Makes People Need More Emotionally Intelligent Leaders
• Being lower in power leads to:
– Increased feelings

of vulnerability
– Stress, anxiety, fear,

– Vigilance to threats

The Socially Intelligent Leader
• Human power requires continual social intelligence
– Negotiations, mediation, resource allocation, maintaining morale

• Social Intelligence =
Liking Trust Respect Strength Empathy Credibility Openness

“Push” versus “Pull” strategies PULL
 Forcing
Commands Directives

 Attracting
Finding common ground Visioning

 Asserting
Stating expectations Evaluating Using incentives (pressures)

 Bridging
Involving Listening Disclosing

Effective managers use “pull” strategies the vast majority of the time

Example of flirtation
• Attention getting phase • Recognition phase • Exploration phase • Keeping time

The nonverbal language
• • • • • Emblems Regulators Illustrators Self Adaptors Emotion

Emotion and Touch
Frequency Choosing Correct Emotion

• What are the origins of liking?
- Smiles - Laughter - Friendly touch - Modesty - Rapport

70 60 50 40 30 20 10 0
Co m pa ss G ion ra tit ud e Lo v An e ge r Fe ar Di sg us t

Correct Label Next choice

Trust in fellow citizens 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 0
No rw ay Ch G ina er m an Ta y iw an In di a US M A ex ico So Gha ut na h Ph Afri ilip c a pi ne s Br az il

Trust and the Health of Nations

Building Trust the Easy Way

Oxytocin and Trust
% Who Give Away Maximum 60 50 40 30 20 10 0 Oxytocin Control

Building Trust
• • • • Emphatic Gestures Direct Gaze Steady posture Steady, variable vocal tone

• Avoid
– Face touches – Fidgeting – Speech hesitations

• • The ability to give honor, status to others People in general care an enormous amount about respect
– 70% of people surveyed would forego a pay raise for a more prestigious job title Increase in productiv ity

Providing acknowledge40% ment increases productivity 30% as much as monetary incentives 20%
10% 0%




Monetary incentives

Monetary incentives + acknowledgement

The Importance of Respect
• Neutrality, respect, transparency
– Procedural justice can be more important than distributive justice

• Show trust in your subordinates
– The act of trust by itself encourages trustworthiness
• Why? Evidence points to oxytocin levels in the brain; people are predisposed to trust those who trust them

– Micro-managing and frequent check-ins can harm this process

Showing Respect
• • • • • Orient posture, prose to other Affirmative Head Nods Responsive Gaze Deferential displays Back channel linguistic responses

• • • • • • Strong gestures Powerful Emotions: Anger Avoid submissive emotions Dominant posture Lean forward Expressive gestures

The Power of Empathy
• Understanding as leadership • Mimicry and trust

Power and Trust
• The Approach/Inhibition Theory of power • Being lower in power leads to:
– Increased feelings of vulnerability – Stress, anxiety, fear, nervousness – Vigilance to threats

What signals strength?

• Upright posture • Formal vocal tone • Speech patterns – lack
of hesitations, qualifiers • Physical approach • Facial expressions

• Laughter, humor
– Facilitates creative thought, integrative negotiations

• Open ended questions • Teasing as playful negotiation • Devil’s Advocate

Examples of potential impact of cultural attributes
Interaction norms Individualism
Importance of relationshipbuilding

Individualistic vs. cooperative goals; definitions of fairness

Power distance

Importance of status, signals of respect

Perceptions of control, recognition


Respect, politeness norms, revenge

Maintaining face


Social harmony, agreement


• • • • Myths of Power Power Paradox Languages of Social Intelligence Seven Principles of Good Power