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  1. 05 Sep '16 12:20
    The 2013 inauguration of Barack Obama as the 44th president of the USA was an important political affair. The ceremony, which lasted for several days, made Obama the leader of the most powerful nation in the world, and by extension turned Obama into the most powerful figure on this planet. That may be good news for the world at large as he promised economic recovery and the end of wars.

    But what is in it for him? Unfortunately not much. Unlike in many other animal species, having power does not benefit you in any way if you are a human. Among chickens, lions, deer, and gorillas it pays to be powerful because in these societies powerful males have (almost) exclusive access to females and thus all the offspring in the group are theirs – a considerable genetic advantage. Thus, there is a lot to gain by having power and therefore there is fierce competition among the males for such positions.

    The picture is quite different for humans though, especially modern humans of the male type. In our highly moral societies we do not allow our leaders to benefit in any way from being in charge. It is OK if they work hard for our country, but if they step out of line, for instance, by getting romantically involved with a young intern (Monica Lewinsky), there is moral outrage and public condemnation. Thus, there is a huge power paradox in our society. On the one hand we crave to be in charge, especially men, because in the past power used to come with some reproductive benefits. Yet the benefits are no longer there. Furthermore, there is growing evidence that power is actually bad for people’s health and performance, and it turns them into less effective leaders.

    Here are five key scientific facts about power from the psychological literature that show together why having power sucks and why you should avoid power at all costs if you can.

    #1. Power makes you selfish

    Power increases people’s sense of entitlement so that they feel they are more deserving than others despite not having done anything special. In an interesting study by Stanford University researchers, three students worked together on a paper and one of them was randomly selected to judge the performance of the other two. This created a power difference. When the researchers gave each group a tray filled with cookies they found that the high power individual – who was not assigned as leader because of some special quality -- took more cookies and made a bigger mess when eating. Thus, power makes people selfish and this is the antithesis of good leadership.1

    #2. Power makes you insensitive to other people’s emotions

    There is a good deal of evidence that having power shuts of your empathy system so that you become insensitive to other people’s emotions, even their suffering. This of course makes you a bad leader almost by definition. In an experiment at Northwestern University, the researchers found that people who were asked to imagine that they were powerful were less likely to take the perspective of others in negotiation situations, resulting in an overall worse performance as leader.2 Thus, power decreases empathizing and this is not what we want to see in a good leader.

    #3. Power makes you overconfident in your talents

    Ordinary people start to think more highly of themselves when they are in charge. This overconfidence can result in very poor decision-making, which may affect the lives of many people. How many wars started, because the individuals in charge thought they would easily win this war (think of Iraq, Vietnam, or the Second World War). How many financial organizations have recently collapsed because the people in charge thought they could gamble with people life-savings (think Lehmann Brothers or Enron). Overconfidence is a very poor quality of leadership but it is almost inevitable when you give people power. One study at Stanford asked half of the students to write an essay in which they felt powerful and the other half an essay where they felt powerless. Then the scientists made them an offer. The experimenter could roll a dice for them and if they correctly guessed the number they would get cash.3 Alternatively, they could roll the dice themselves. Nevertheless, powerful individuals chose to roll the dice themselves, presumably thinking they could influence the outcome of this entirely random event. The lesson: Do not put your life savings in the hands of organizations that occupy a mega-luxury building with office staff in expensive suits driving very smart cars.

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    #4. People do not like you when you have power

    Power always creates asymmetry in social relations and this is bad news for leaders. One of the strength of leadership is the power of persuasion. Yet, research on nonverbal behavior shows that when a person takes on a position of power – by moving his body forward, putting his hands on the table, or making himself big – the other person is intimidated and makes himself small. In a study we asked participants to watch a video tape of a professor and then we recorded the extent to which they mimicked the professor in terms of non-verbal behaviors such as touching their ear, smiling etc. The result was quite astonishing. The students who rated the teachers as high in authority and prestige mimicked the professor more than the students who though the professor was powerful and dominant.4 Thus, people do not learn from you when you appear to be powerful. They are simply afraid. This is what makes dominant individuals such bad teachers.

    #5. When in power you die young

    Finally, having power means that there are always people out there who want to take it away from you. The most risky profession in the world used to be the US presidential job, but this is now being overtaken by the function of police-officer in Iraq or Afghanistan. When you have power, people will despise you for it and undermine you in your functioning as leader. This is quite literally true. In a study of 20th century world leaders it was shown that dictators and other authoritarian leaders had significantly shorter life-spans than democratic leaders.5 Almost 85 percent of dictators had assassination attempts against their rule. Having power is bad for your health, both your physical and mental health. This same study found significant higher incidences of paranoia and other psychiatric disorders among despots than among democratic leaders. Of course, the cause and effect is not entirely clear here. Nevertheless, there is enough evidence to suggest that power is bad for you. An indirect indicator of this is testosterone which is associated with a high power need. Medical research finds that men with high levels of testosterone lead more risky lifestyles, being more prone to accidents and injuries, alcohol dependence and smoking.

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    In light of these facts, the question should be why people desire to be in power when all the evidence suggests that having power sucks. As followers we should probably just be glad that there are people out there like your president, CEO, the captain of your sports team or the headteacher of your children who are willing to lead and get very little in return.
  2. 05 Sep '16 12:23
    I don't present this article because I agree with all of it, rather, I merely present it to create dialogue. In fact, I take issue with the author saying that there is no benefit to those in power such as Barak Obama who plays golf all the time and enjoys living like a king.

    On some level, we all crave power, whether it be over our own circumstances or the power to control others around us to do our bidding.

    Is seeking power the road to our salvation or the means to our destruction?
  3. 05 Sep '16 12:30
    I would like to add some other problems with power.

    #6. Power makes you disavow weakness or short comings, otherwise, it might undermine your said power. This means never owning up to failure. In fact, the more powerful you become, the less likely people will critique you, much like Hitler in his bunker making faulty military plans no one dare question.

    Make no mistake, we all have short comings and, as a result, when in power we do things that cause harm. How then do we come to terms with these short comings without feeling threatened in some way?
  4. Standard member vivify
    rain
    05 Sep '16 12:38 / 1 edit
    The article is correct in that there's no real benefit in Obama having power. His "power" has checks and balances in place, in addition to being temporary. Obama doesn't "live like a king", since kings historically can't get impeached, and typically don't have people who openly oppose them.

    One place this article is incorrect, is in implying it's only humans who face dangers when keeping power. Male lions must continually fight off other male lions who want to win the pride of female lions. Gorillas also face similar dangers when trying to maintain power. Even queen bees face dangers if a new queen arises.
  5. Subscriber Suzianne
    Misfit Queen
    05 Sep '16 13:12 / 1 edit
    Originally posted by vivify
    The article is correct in that there's no real benefit in Obama having power. His "power" has checks and balances in place, in addition to being temporary. Obama doesn't "live like a king", since kings historically can't get impeached, and typically don't have people who openly oppose them.

    One place this article is incorrect, is in implying it's only ...[text shortened]... ilar dangers when trying to maintain power. Even queen bees face dangers if a new queen arises.
    Don't stand in the way of his "power = corruption" ranting. He'll just run you over.

    We usually just let him blow until he runs out of hot air.
  6. 05 Sep '16 13:17
    Originally posted by Suzianne
    Don't stand in the way of his "power = corruption" ranting. He'll just run you over.

    We usually just let him blow until he runs out of hot air.
    So it is your contention that power does not bring corruption?
  7. 05 Sep '16 13:18
    Originally posted by vivify
    The article is correct in that there's no real benefit in Obama having power. His "power" has checks and balances in place, in addition to being temporary. Obama doesn't "live like a king", since kings historically can't get impeached, and typically don't have people who openly oppose them.

    One place this article is incorrect, is in implying it's only ...[text shortened]... ilar dangers when trying to maintain power. Even queen bees face dangers if a new queen arises.
    Don't be disingenuous. Obama is far wealthier than the average American and enjoys a higher standard of living than most Americans.

    Or do you contend otherwise?
  8. Standard member vivify
    rain
    05 Sep '16 13:32 / 1 edit
    Originally posted by whodey
    Don't be disingenuous. Obama is far wealthier than the average American and enjoys a higher standard of living than most Americans.

    Or do you contend otherwise?
    How does this contradict anything I said about Obama's presidency? Does he or does he not have checks and balances in place? Can he or can he not be impeached, unlike a king? Does he or does he not have people openly and vehemently opposing him, unlike most kings? Is his power temporary or not?

    Furthermore, Obama's one of the least wealthy presidents in U.S. history, especially when you consider the time period he lives in.
  9. Subscriber FreakyKBH
    Acquired Taste...
    05 Sep '16 13:36
    Originally posted by Suzianne
    Don't stand in the way of his "power = corruption" ranting. He'll just run you over.

    We usually just let him blow until he runs out of hot air.
    "We"
  10. Subscriber Suzianne
    Misfit Queen
    05 Sep '16 13:50
    Originally posted by whodey
    So it is your contention that power does not bring corruption?
    Not always. Sometimes corruption forces itself on us gradually, like Reagan brought us the beginning of the destruction of trade unions and lower corporate income tax, bringing us the rollback of two key provisions of the Glass-Steagall Act, bringing us the Supreme Court deciding for Citizens United in the Citizens United vs. FEC case.

    But then again, FDR was elected to four terms in office and is widely regarded as bringing the US back from the Great Depression and remained a great president championing 'the little guy' from 1932 until he died in 1945, bringing us through the Second World War in the process.

    We have a Constitution which is supposed to protect us from the debilitating effects of corruption, and for the most part, it works well, but corruption still sneaks in around the edges. But people do get tired of it and this is what has the Republican Party on the ropes this year. It's not power, per se, which brings corruption, but the desire for power, and yes, the Republicans want it so badly that they're determined to gerrymander our legislative districts to death and effectively lock out minorities from voting in certain states (under the non-existent threat of 'voter fraud' ).

    Your "corruption" meter is broken and has been for years, pointing the wrong way as it does, towards Hillary and Obama, while giving Trump, Ryan and McConnell a pass.
  11. Subscriber Suzianne
    Misfit Queen
    05 Sep '16 13:53
    Originally posted by whodey
    Don't be disingenuous. Obama is far wealthier than the average American and enjoys a higher standard of living than most Americans.

    Or do you contend otherwise?
    But Trump "understands the little guy", does he?
  12. Subscriber Suzianne
    Misfit Queen
    05 Sep '16 13:54
    Originally posted by FreakyKBH
    "We"
    Well, except the insane ones, by which, I mean you.
  13. Subscriber Suzianne
    Misfit Queen
    05 Sep '16 14:00
    Originally posted by whodey
    I don't present this article because I agree with all of it, rather, I merely present it to create dialogue. In fact, I take issue with the author saying that there is no benefit to those in power such as Barak Obama who plays golf all the time and enjoys living like a king.

    On some level, we all crave power, whether it be over our own circumstances or th ...[text shortened]... do our bidding.

    Is seeking power the road to our salvation or the means to our destruction?
    Well, the least you could do, "Mr. Anti-Corruption", is quote your copy-and-paste sources.
  14. 05 Sep '16 14:05 / 1 edit
    Originally posted by Suzianne
    Not always. Sometimes corruption forces itself on us gradually, like Reagan brought us the beginning of the destruction of trade unions and lower corporate income tax, bringing us the rollback of two key provisions of the Glass-Steagall Act, bringing us the Supreme Court deciding for Citizens United in the Citizens United vs. FEC case.

    But then a ...[text shortened]... wrong way as it does, towards Hillary and Obama, while giving Trump, Ryan and McConnell a pass.
    My corruption meter is broken?

    Would you say that FDR's corruption meter was broken when he jailed innocent Japanese Americans and then tried to pack SCOTUS with stooge justices in order to pass his legislation? Oh, that's right, FDR was a Prog saint. My bad.

    How did the Constitution and checks and balances help the Japanese Americans Suzy?
  15. Subscriber Suzianne
    Misfit Queen
    05 Sep '16 14:06
    Originally posted by whodey
    I would like to add some other problems with power.

    #6. Power makes you disavow weakness or short comings, otherwise, it might undermine your said power. This means never owning up to failure. In fact, the more powerful you become, the less likely people will critique you, much like Hitler in his bunker making faulty military plans no one dare question. ...[text shortened]... . How then do we come to terms with these short comings without feeling threatened in some way?
    "...there is a tradition in many newsgroups and other Internet discussion forums that once such a comparison is made (see "reductio ad Hitlerum" ), the thread is finished and whoever mentioned the Nazis has automatically lost whatever debate was in progress. This principle is itself frequently referred to as Godwin's law."

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Godwin's_law
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reductio_ad_Hitlerum