The Light and Dark Side of Power

The Light and Dark Side of Power

By Oliver Jutzi, Jr. Project Manager

Does power corrupt? Is corruption contagious? What are the remedies? These are the questions Samuel Bendahan, Senior Lecturer at HEC Lausanne, and 3 New York City-based experts tried to answer on Tuesday, July 5 in Lower Manhattan. Put together by the Club HEC Lausanne in NYC (the network of HEC alumni living in New York), the event welcomed 55 people in the audience and was held at the WeWork co-working space at Charging Bull. Organized twice a year, this series is the fruit of a joint initiative by the New York Outpost of swissnex Boston and HEC Lausanne, the Faculty of Business and Economics of the University of Lausanne in Switzerland.

Samuel Bendahan, who teaches Leadership Development at HEC Lausanne and recently published an article in The Leadership Quarterly on leader corruption in relation to power and testosterone, started off by giving a presentation on this latest research and experiments. Research shows that power corrupts even the brightest, so how do we encourage effective and ethical management practices to offset this dark side of power? Samuel Bendahan suggests that by addressing issues like motivation, meaning and narcissism, we can better understand what drives individuals within organizations and therefore work towards developing transformational leadership practices. This includes stressing higher-order ideals, communicating a passion and a sense of mission, as well as empowering and energizing followers by viewing the future with optimism.

Ulysses and the Sirens, “A great example of how to manager power” says Samuel Bendahan

Ulysses and the Sirens, “A great example of how to manager power” says Samuel Bendahan

The presentation was followed by a panel discussion with three distinguished NYC-based experts: Amy Kates, Managing Partner at Kates Kesler Organization Consulting; Brett Morgan, Senior Associate at gothamCulture; and Yair Berson, Visiting Associate Professor of Management at NYU Stern. Moderated by Oliver Haugen, Head of the New York Outpost of swissnex Boston, the discussion was first geared towards the solutions-oriented approach that both Amy Kates and Brett Morgan seek to work on with leaders in the business world. Yair Berson then contributed to the discussion by sharing some of his neuroscience research on the biology of power in relation to testosterone levels.

From left to right: Yair Berson, Brett Morgan, Amy Kates and Samuel Bendahan

From left to right: Yair Berson, Brett Morgan, Amy Kates and Samuel Bendahan

An insightful Q&A session with the audience addressed questions such as the role of love versus idealization in leadership development as well as the importance of understanding followership when studying leadership. A networking reception concluded the evening, giving the opportunity to continue the conversation over a glass of wine and allowing HEC alumni to reconnect with each other and with Samuel Bendahan.

We would like to extend a warm thank you to each of the speakers for sharing their valued experience and insights with the audience and for creating such a lively and interesting discussion.