Here’s something we’ve found: power isn’t inherently good or evil. Yes, it’s true that power fundamentally alters perception. As Adam Galinsky and colleagues put it, “powerful people roam in a very different psychological space than those without power.” Power increases confidence, optimism, risk-taking, sensitivity to internal thoughts and feelings, goal-directed behavior and cognition, and creativity. But these are not necessarily bad outcomes. Put to good use, power can have an incredibly positive effect on people.
There are so many compassionate teachers, bosses, politicians, humanitarians, and others who wield power, who genuinely want to make the world a better place. I think a really important point here is that power amplifies the person. It gives already existing personality dispositions and tendencies a louder voice, and increases the chances that these tendencies will be given fuller expression.
Thus, we must consider interactions between the person and the situation. As Galinsky and colleagues point out, “the situation loses its suffocating hold over the thoughts and behavior of the powerful… and they are left with their own opinions, beliefs, attitudes, and personalities to drive their behavior.”