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Power-hungry and pariah: Desire for power is not conducive to healthy relationships

Posted by Deb Muoio

Feb 25, 2015 1:25:00 PM

Some people can wield a sword like an olive branch. Winston Churchill, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Nelson Mandela; people who used their power to bring about justice, social change, or freedom. Then there are those who, when given even small amounts of power, do more harm than good.

power_hungry_and_pariah

Power-hungry people tend to be overly-competitive, self-serving, and perhaps even narcissistic. But what is it like to be a family member, friend, or colleague of a power-hungry person?

According to a study we conducted with our Dominance Test, “power-hunger” and “wholesome, happy relationships” do not go together.

After collecting data from 786 people we divided them into three groups:

1)     Those with a low need for power/authority

2)     Those with a moderate need

3)     Those who are power hungry

When we compared each group based on how they rated the quality of their relationships, the results were surprising:

Percentage of people who rated their professional relationships as good or excellent, depending on their need for power

Low need for power

57%

Moderate need for power

54%

Power-hungry

33%

 

Percentage of people who rated their friendships as good or excellent, depending on their need for power

Low need for power

63%

Moderate need for power

60%

Power-hungry

42%

 

Percentage of people who rated their family relationships as good or excellent, depending on their need for power

Low need for power

61%

Moderate need for power

57%

Power-hungry

38%

 

Percentage of people who rated their romantic relationships as good or excellent, depending on their need for power

Low need for power

40%

Moderate need for power

38%

Power-hungry

19%

 

Percentage of people who have relationship problems because of their controlling behavior

Low need for power

14%

Moderate need for power

24%

Power-hungry

35%


And if that’s not enough incentive to convince people that power isn’t for everyone, we also discovered some rather ominous facts about power-hungry people:

  • 88% of the power-hungry are willing to use intimidation to get what they want (22% for those with a moderate need for power, 3% for low).
  • 94% of the power-hungry see authority as a way to improve their social status (44% for moderate, 5% for low).
  • 94% of the power-hungry would rather be the best than do their best (45% for moderate, 8% for low).
  • 71% of the power-hungry believe that having power is the only way to get people to respect them (12% for moderate, 1% for low).
  • 94% of the power-hungry believe that being in a position of power makes them better than others (13% for moderate, 0% for low).
  • 90% of the power-hungry believe that with power, they can say and do whatever they want (15% for moderate, 1% for low).
  • If given a position of power, 37% of the power-hungry would put other people’s needs first (52% for moderate, 82% for low)

There is one very important point to keep in mind: power itself is innocuous – it’s the motivation behind the desire for power that determines whether a person will use it wisely or abuse it. Therefore, it’s not surprising to see that people who use power for self-serving reasons are more likely to alienate others, even those they care about.

It isn’t that power brings out the worst in others; it just magnifies what already lies within, whether it’s a sense of inferiority, narcissism, selfishness, or a need to control. These are all traits that can make it extremely difficult, if not impossible, to have healthy personal and professional relationships.

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Topics: Leadership Development, Social Skills, stress, Personality Assessment, Management Skills, Emotional Intelligence, Employee Relations

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