LSA Global Insights Newsletter: How to Not Let Power Go to Your Head as a New Leader

June 24, 2023

How to Not Let Power Go to Your Head as a New Leader


New Leadership Power
We know from People Manager Assessment Center data and new manager training participants that gaining power at work without sufficient preparation can undermine the ability to effectively lead, manage, and coach teams. This is especially true for those who may not yet be fully qualified to lead yet inappropriately try to prove that they are in charge. 

At its worst, leadership power can be misused, abused, and create a toxic work culture. The key is not to let power go to your head as a new leader.

But what if the old saying that “power corrupts” isn’t completely correct?  What if, when it comes to transitioning as a new people leader, the saying “power makes you blind” is more accurate? 

That’s what modern neuroscience tells us — and this fact has huge implications for leaders and managers of organizations.

Two Studies on Leadership Power — Reduced Sensitivity
The neuroscience comes to us from two noteworthy sets of experiments carried out over the past couple of decades and highlighted by our microlearning experts.

Loss of Ability to “Read” Others
One of these studies was done by researchers at NYU, Northwestern, and Stanford. They primed a group of volunteers to feel powerful, while leaving another control group of volunteers alone. The researchers found that those in the “primed” group were much less able to understand oral and written expressions of emotion from other people. They also were less effective at correctly interpreting facial expressions.

What does this mean for leaders?

When you gain a degree of power — it doesn’t have to be overwhelming or absolute — something fundamental changes in your brain. You lose social abilities that are key to understanding what other people are thinking and feeling. The “blind spots” that result from this loss of ability to read others can defeat your efforts to effectively lead teams.

Less Empathy
The other study came from two Canadian universities, Wilfred Laurier and Toronto. Researchers there found that “motor resonance” circuits — which guide our brains to respond empathically to others – shut down in the brains of the powerful. The study concluded that “the effect of high power appears to be reduced interpersonal sensitivity.”

The good news is that there are clear warning signs and steps you can take as a new leader to set yourself up for success.







Jordi Botifoll

Vice President EMEA


"I’m really impressed with the speed and accuracy of your leadership simulation assessment. 


It was very precise and has helped us to hone in on what truly matters most to develop our top leaders."




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