Becoming Powerful Makes You Less Empathetic

By Lou Solomon

Last year, I worked with a senior executive—let’s call him Steve—who had received feedback from his boss that he was wearing the power of his new title in an off-putting way. Steve’s boss told him that he had developed a subtle way of being right in meetings that sucked all the oxygen out of the room. No one wanted to offer ideas once Steve had declared the right answer. Since his promotion, Steve had become less of a team player and more of a superior who knew better than others. In short, he had lost his empathy.

Why does this sort of shift in behavior happen to so many people when they’re promoted to the ranks of management? Research shows that personal power actually interferes ...

Get HBR Emotional Intelligence Boxed Set (6 Books) (HBR Emotional Intelligence Series) now with O’Reilly online learning.

O’Reilly members experience live online training, plus books, videos, and digital content from 200+ publishers.