Power corrupts sometimes, but not always.

Researchers have found that under certain circumstances power is more likely to corrupt someone. How can you create those circumstances in your organization or team in which power or added authority does not lead to using the resources for their own interest?

Some tips:

1 – Choose wisely.

Power can be perceived in different ways. Some people perceive power as freedom while others perceive it as a responsibility. Which person would you put in a position of authority?

I hope that you chose the person who perceives it as a responsibility. In contrast employees in a position of authority who appreciate it especially for the freedom are more likely to act in their own interest.

2 – Accountability without micromanagement!

Employees act less selfishly when their power is bound by some kind of accountability. This doesn’t mean micromanagement or endless rules. It means that an employee knows that they might have to explain certain choices. That’s it. For example, leaders who need to determine employees behave more compassionately and clear if they know that they have to explain their layoff approach to others (NYT, May 2017, 2017).

3 – Belonging to a group

Don’t give a position of power to someone who doesn’t identify him or herself with the team that they will be leading. A person who doesn’t identify with the team is more likely to think in terms of “I” rather than “we”. Result: selfish behavior instead of feelings of responsibility for the team.

Conclusion: Power can corrupt but there is a lot you can do to prevent that. You don’t have to start micromanaging or having 13 signatures on every invoice. Look at who you choose. Take care they feel that they belong to a team, and be clear that although you never micro-manage, you will held them accountable for their choices.