Welcome to Grit & Growth’s masterclass on power, featuring Deborah Gruenfeld, Stanford Graduate School of Business professor of organizational behavior. From the body language of power to the authority vs. authenticity debate, Gruenfeld provides insights on how and when to use your power to gain the trust and respect of others.
Professor Gruenfeld is a psychologist by training and she’s been researching and teaching about the psychology of power and powerlessness for decades. She has a deep understanding of why this invisible force can have such a profound social and business impact. There are plenty of myths and misconceptions about power, starting with the fact that most people believe that only other people have power and that power corrupts. Gruenfeld says the research disproves this idea, explaining, “It’s having power while feeling powerless that leads people to behave badly.”
So, how do people in positions of power use it as a force for good? If you want to have a positive impact on others and on your organization, Gruenfeld suggests there’s no advantage career-wise to being a jerk. Instead, she recommends “behaving in a way that leads others to trust you more.”
Top Five Masterclass Takeaways
Your body language can communicate power — or powerlessness. Gruenfeld advises entrepreneurs to imagine putting on a headdress or crown before you walk in a room full of strangers. The stillness and physical expansiveness you convey will provide nonverbal cues that you’re comfortable and in charge.
Sometimes it’s better to lead with deference than dominance. While dominance tends to look more authoritative, deferential behaviors are more approachable, show respect for others, and help build relationships.
Effective leaders need to balance authority and approachability. You need to be equally capable of behaving in a way that commands respect and shows respect to others because people will need different things from you in different situations.
Leaders need to practice types of power that may not come naturally. More than likely, you’ll be more comfortable with either an authoritative or approachable style. Use this as an opportunity for growth so you can be the leader whom others need you to be.
Often the best way to use your power is to empower others. While not intuitive for most leaders, showing vulnerability and asking for help can be highly motivating for teams.
Listen to Gruenfeld’s insights, advice, and strategies for how entrepreneurs can use power more effectively as you manage growing teams, pitch investors, and negotiate deals.