Is Personal Power a Good Thing?

That's a big factor in evaluating personal power. Some people want power for their own advancement. Some people want power to help society as a whole. Some, if not all, want some of both. Some people are secure in their power and others are less secure. Obama, Galinsky said, seems very secure.

"That type of serene self-confidence can become a ballast and guide you through rocky waters, but it can also become something that ties you down and anchors you so that the waves crash over you," Galinsky said. Like Magee, Galinsky believes Obama is probably going to fare well, listening to advice but not yielding too easily.

At least that's what their latest study suggests.

The study, involving several hundred students at various universities, was based on the well-established idea that someone can be made to feel powerful, at least temporarily, by either word association or recalling a time in their lives when they felt powerful. Even power, it seems, can be fleeting.

"A powerful CEO could have lots of power in one domain and then go home to a low power position," Galinsky said. A spouse may not be all that impressed by someone who left dirty socks on the floor, even if he or she is a big shot at work.

In the studies, some participants were "manipulated" to feel powerful, and others were not. The experiments revealed that "powerful" participants were more creative, and less influenced by the views of others, than those who were not made to feel powerful.

"We have demonstrated how the experience of power liberates individuals from the straightjacket of the social world, allowing them to define for themselves what is and is not achievable," the study concludes. "Although power is often thought of as a pernicious force that corrupts those who possess it, it is the protection from situational influence demonstrated here that helps powerful individuals surmount social obstacles and reach greater heights of creativity to express the unpopular ideals of today that can lead others to the horizons of tomorrow."

It is a personal sense of power, and the self-confidence that it brings, that allows a leader to follow the good advice and ignore the bad, and reach out of the box for bold and creative ideas.

"And creativity," Galinsky said, "is one of the most important things in the world. Innovation is really the driver of human progress." A leader who feels powerless is not likely to venture into the unknown, allowing creativity to flourish.

Is Obama up to the task?

We're about to find out.

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