The 12 Ways Power Corrupts Men

In this week’s Success Newsletter, I would like to reveal the 12 ways that power corrupts.

First a quick update:

The Breakup Test
Are you heartbroken, angry, lost, lonely, confused, depressed, hung up, or pining over your ex? Do you know how your ex is truly affecting you and do you want to benefit from personalize advice, action steps and revelations? Take my free breakup test and get your own personalized report.

Power and Gaslighting
Gaslighting is a form of control and abuse where someone tries to convince you that you are insane and that you can’t trust your own memory or perception. Watch the video to learn the 20 signs that someone is gaslighting you.

Now, let’s talk about the 12 ways that power corrupts.

“All power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely”
– Lord Acton 1887, writing a letter against papal infallibility

It has become a potential turning point in American culture: 52 men have been accused of sexual harassment, assault or rape since 70 women have accused movie mogul Harvey Weinstein of assault and rape.

The accusations have been leveled against people in Hollywood, WWE, comedy, politics, journalism, literary field, restaurants, hotels, photography, Amazon, NPR, and even PBS.

All of these men have one thing in common – they were all in positions of power.

Power is the ability to influence or control others.

Power corrupts the way we think about and perceive other people – viewing them as weaker, smaller and often as objects.

“What power does is that it liberates the true self to emerge. More of us walk around with kinds of social norms; we work in groups that exert all pressures on us to conform. Once you get into a position of power, then you can be whoever you are.”
– Joe Magee, a power researcher and professor of management at New York University

Is the corruption of power limited to men?

Are men more corrupt than women in power or, are there simply less women in power than men?

Hillary Clinton, Sara Palin, Maxine Waters, Martha Stewart are examples of women who have been accused of corrupting their power. Consider also the numerous female teachers found guilty of molesting children.

Dr. Dacher Keltner, Professor of Psychology at the University of California at Berkeley, author of “The Power Paradox – How We Gain and Lose Influence” states regarding the abuse of power that “there tend not to be gender differences. That women and men are pretty vulnerable to the abuses of power in similar ways. Because we have similar brains and the psychological effects of power will be similar. But what we’re starting to find is differences in how we rise in power.”

However, other researchers state that testosterone is the greatest predictor of the corruption of power, and men have much higher testosterone levels than women.

“Any man can withstand adversity; if you want to test his character, give him power.”
– Abraham Lincoln

How does power corrupt?

Ian Robertson, Professor of Psychology at Trinity College, Dublin and founding Director of Trinity College Institute of Neuroscience claims power is as addictive as cocaine because power has the same effect on the brain as cocaine.

Here are 12 ways that power corrupts.

1. Leadership
Power increases confidence, optimism, decisiveness, initiative, creativity, and goal-setting. Some researchers argue that pro-social people become more pro-social when in power and selfish people become more selfish when in power. However, research also reveals that even people who score high on a test of honesty are likely to be corrupted by power.

2. Impulsivity & gratification
Power makes people more impulsive and they respond in socially inappropriate ways; they are more likely to behave in sexually inappropriate ways and to engage in infidelity, lying, cheating and dishonesty

3. Inability to mirror
We all possess mirror neurons which helps us to read people by feeling or experiencing what they are feeling – ‘You look sad Johnny; what’s wrong?’ You watch a sports game and you feel the pain in your knee as you watch an athlete fall on his knee. Thus we mimic others – laughing, crying or getting angry alongside them. Power turns off or anesthetizes that neurological ability.

4. Lack of empathy
Power leads to a dramatic lack of empathy (listening, caring, understanding, asking sincere questions, gratitude, appreciation); less sympathetic to the concerns and emotions of others

5. Physiological changes
Power creates physiological changes of: increased levels of testosterone and 3-androstanediol (dominance, aggression, assertiveness, sex drive, competition, risk-taking); lower levels of cortisol (stress hormone); increased levels of dopamine (brain’s reward system which can lead to addictive behaviors, arrogance and impatience.) Incidentally, power and submission each increase dopamine levels which also helps to explain the desire to practice in behaviors such as BDSM.

6. Aggression, hate and rape
Increased aggression; hate crimes against minority groups and rape in cultures where women are subordinated

7. Objectification
Objectification and dehumanization of others; ‘they are not important’

8. More sensitive to one’s self but not to others
Power makes a person more sensitive to his own thoughts and feelings and less sensitive to the thoughts and feelings of others

9. Twisted thinking & judgment
People in power and positions of authority use stereotypes and generalizations when judging other people

10. Dismissive towards ‘lesser’ people
People in power make less eye contact, particularly with people who lack power

11. Entitlement and Superiority
People in power believe they are entitled – to whatever they want and believe that they are vastly more important than others – above the law; ‘Don’t you know who I am?’

12. Desire for more power
People in power become greedier and lust for more power; they use their power to become more powerful and more autocratic

It is also critical to understand that institutions can also shape behavior via preexisting expectations i.e. a person becomes a prison warden and expects that he will have to be tough and cruel to control the prisoners.

It has been argued that power attracts sociopaths and narcissists as well as people who desire power to abuse others.

Powerless people gravitate and worship people in power which, in turn, exacerbates the above listed behaviors.

The antidote to the corruption of power

1. Awareness of your power (feelings of mania, omnipotence, risk-taking – belief that everything will succeed); awareness of your treatment and effect on others
2. Practice empathy: stop and consciously think about what other people are feeling and experiencing
3. Express gratitude and appreciation to others
4. Put checks in place: have people close to you who keep you grounded (call you out)

If you need personal help to overcome the past, a betrayal or other experience – book a one-on-one session with me.

You can add to the conversation below.

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I wish you the best and remind you “Believe in yourself -You deserve the best!”

Patrick Wanis Ph.D.
Celebrity Life Coach, Human Behavior & Relationship Expert & SRTT Therapist

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  1. […] And is it possible that one sets out with an honorable motivation which, later is corrupted by power? […]

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