It comes as no surprise to even the casual observer that people who hold power ~ real or only self-perceived ~ are often misguided in their actions.
In a new study reported today in ScienceDaily, Nathanael Fast and Deborah Gruenfeld at Stanford Graduate School of Business, Niro Sivanathan at the London Business School and Adam Galinsky at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, show that power can literally "go to one's head," causing individuals to think they have more personal control over outcomes than they really do.
- Leaders and commanders of warring nations regularly underestimate the costs in time, money, and human lives required for bringing home a victory.
- CEOs of Fortune 500 companies routinely overestimate their capacity to turn mergers and acquisitions into huge profits, leading to financial losses for themselves, their companies, and their stockholders.
- Even ordinary people seem to take on an air of invincibility after being promoted to a more powerful position.
"We conducted four experiments exploring the relationship between power and illusory control ~ the belief that one has the ability to influence outcomes that are largely determined by chance," said Galinksy.
"In each experiment ~ whether the participant recalled power by an experience of holding power or it was manipulated by randomly assigning participants to manager-subordinate roles ~ it led to perceived control over outcomes that were beyond the reach of the individual. Furthermore, the notion of being able to control a 'chance' result led to unrealistic optimism and inflated self-esteem," he said.
Click here to read the complete ScienceDaily article.