How leaders lose mental capacities — most notably reading other people — which were essential to their rise.

“Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
An old photo of Lord Acton

– Commentary from elsewhere covered by Quincy Quarry News.

Power Causes Brain Damage.

If power were a prescription drug, it would come with a long list of known side effects.  It can intoxicate.  It can corrupt.  It can even make Henry Kissinger believe that he is sexually magnetic.

It also appears to be capable of inflicting brain damage.

The historian Henry Adams was being metaphorical, not medical, when he described power as “a sort of tumor that ends by killing the victim’s sympathies.”

But Adams’ sentiments were not far from what Dacher Keltner, a psychology professor at the University of California, Berkeley, discerned after years of lab and field experiments.

Keltner found that subjects under the influence of power acted as if they had suffered a traumatic brain injury, becoming more impulsive, less risk-aware, and – crucially – less adept at seeing things from other people’s point of view.

Rudy, this is the way I see how it happened …
An Andrew Savulich/NY Daily News/Getty Images

And as the powerful become less able to make out people’s individuating traits, they rely more heavily on stereotype.  And the less they are able to see, other research suggests the more they rely on a personal “vision” for navigation.

Is there nothing to be done?

No and yes.

It is difficult to stop power’s tendency to affect your brain.  What is easier is to at least occasionally endeavor to stop feeling powerful.

Koch voguing with City Workers

Voguing with French cuffed sleeves rolled up
An old Facebook photo]

After all, power is not so much a post or a position, but rather a mental state.

As such, one researcher’s findings suggested that the powerful need to recount a time when she or he did not feel powerful and that individual’s brain might so be able to better commune with reality.

Alternatively, one can be brought back to Earth by another tugging on Superman’s cape.

Explosive results!
A meme

PepsiCo CEO and Chairman Indra Nooyi sometimes tells the story of the day she received the news of her appointment to the company’s board.  She arrived home percolating in her own sense of importance and vitality, when her mother asked whether, before Ms. Nooyi delivered her “great news,” if she would go out and get some milk.  Fuming, Ms. Nooyi went out and got it.

In turn, “(l)eave that damn crown in the garage” was her mother’s advice when her daughter returned from picking up the milk.

“The Enforcer” (right)
A Getty Images image

The point of this story is a useful reminder about ordinary obligations and the need to stay grounded.  Also, how Nooyi’s mother’s role serves as a “toe holder.”

And on a related note is “Hubris syndrome,” which is defined by Lord David Owen and Jonathan Davidson as “… a disorder of the possession of power, particularly power which has been associated with overwhelming success, held for a period of years and with minimal constraint on the leader.”

This syndrome has 14 clinical features including: manifest contempt for others, loss of contact with reality, restless and/or reckless actions, and displays of incompetence.

“Charisma, charm, the ability to inspire, persuasiveness, breadth of vision, willingness to take risks, grandiose aspirations and bold self-confidence – these qualities are often associated with successful leadership.  Yet there is another side to this profile, for these very same qualities can be marked by impetuosity, a refusal to listen to or take advice and a particular form of incompetence when impulsivity, recklessness and frequent inattention to detail predominate.  This can result in disastrous leadership and cause damage on a large scale”.

The emperor has no clothes?
A portrait by Illma Gore

Owen further noted later that businesses have shown next to no appetite for research on hubris as well as that business schools were not much better.

Even worse, apparently neither do many among the general public.

The preceding is summarization as well an only logical modest extension of a larger article written by Jerry Useem, a contributing editor at The Atlantic, and which was originally published in The Atlantic.

Source: Power Causes Brain Damage

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