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Lead Your Team Leadership

Power and Perspective: Two Key Elements of Leadership

Power and Perspective: Two Key Elements of Leadership
Credit: Lasse Designen/Shutterstock

The best leaders are those who think not just about themselves but others as well, new research suggests.

Business leaders who consider their audience's perspective and who are conditioned to see the world from someone else's point of view produce the best outcomes, according to a study published recently in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science.

Researchers discovered that although power propels leaders toward their goals, it also leads them to focus on their own ideas rather than see the world through others' eyes. When individuals have power and are taught to consider the perspectives of others, however, they tend to handle difficult situations more successfully, and with greater respect and fairness, the study's authors said. Additionally, considering other people's points of view helps leaders with information sharing, a practice that helps groups find the best possible solutions to complex problems.

That's why a combination of power and perspective is key to effective leadership, said Adam Galinsky, one of the study's authors and a business professor at Columbia Business School. [The Leadership Mindset: How to Get There ]

Effective leadership is like a successful car ride in that in order to go places, you need gas and acceleration, Galinsky said. In terms of leadership, power is a psychological accelerator.

"You also need a good steering wheel so you don't crash as you speed down the highway — perspective-taking is that psychological steering wheel," Galinsky said in a statement. "When you anchor too heavily onto your own perspective, and don't take into account the viewpoints of others, you are bound to crash."

As part of the study, researchers conducted two experiments that tested the benefits of combining power and taking others' perspectives into account when handling a layoff. Participants in the experiments were asked to think about an experience they had with high or low power. They were then subtly encouraged to consider the perspective of others, by being told to explain how they delivered the bad news or by considering words related to perspective-taking.

The researchers discovered that only when a person had power and took the perspective of others into account did they treat employees more candidly and with greater respect.

To explore how the combination of power and perspective-taking affects people in less-emotional scenarios, researchers paired up participants and assigned one participant in each pair the role of boss and the other the role of employee. Half of the participants were then led to consider the perspective of their partner. The pair then had to make a decision that required both parties to share information and work together to solve a problem.

The study's authors found that when power was combined with consideration of the perspective of their partner when making a tough decision, participants were able to discover the best solution to a nuanced problem.

The research was co-authored by Joe Magee, an associate professor at New York University's Stern School of Business; Diana Rus, an assistant professor at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands; Naomi Rothman, an assistant professor at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania; and Andrew Todd, an assistant professor at the University of Iowa.

Originally published on Business News Daily.

Chad Brooks

Chad Brooks is a Chicago-based writer who has nearly 15 years' experience in the media business. A graduate of Indiana University, he spent nearly a decade as a staff reporter for the Daily Herald in suburban Chicago, covering a wide array of topics including, local and state government, crime, the legal system and education. Following his years at the newspaper Chad worked in public relations, helping promote small businesses throughout the U.S. Follow him on Twitter.