The essential tension between leadership and power: when leaders sacrifice group goals for the sake of self-interest.

Jon K. Maner*, Nicole L. Mead

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

198 Scopus citations

Abstract

Throughout human history, leaders have been responsible for helping groups attain important goals. Ideally, leaders use their power to steer groups toward desired outcomes. However, leaders can also use their power in the service of self-interest rather than effective leadership. Five experiments identified factors within both the person and the social context that determine whether leaders wield their power to promote group goals versus self-interest. In most cases, leaders behaved in a manner consistent with group goals. However, when their power was tenuous due to instability within the hierarchy, leaders high (but not low) in dominance motivation prioritized their own power over group goals: They withheld valuable information from the group, excluded a highly skilled group member, and prevented a proficient group member from having any influence over a group task. These self-interested actions were eliminated when the group was competing against a rival outgroup. Findings provide important insight into factors that influence the way leaders navigate the essential tension between leadership and power. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2010 APA, all rights reserved).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)482-497
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of personality and social psychology
Volume99
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 2010

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science

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