Attention Leaders! Just Recalling Power Creates Powerful Impact

Susan S Freeman Blog

PowerThis week’s Step Up Leader Tip is about how to use power as a psychological force to curtail anxiety and achieve influence.  It comes from Columbia Ideas at Work, Winter/Spring 2014 edition.

Adam Galinsky, Professor of Management at Columbia Business School, discovered that power priming can be effective in life’s challenging and stressful experiences.  Results are published in a new article in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology entitled “Power Gets the Job:  Priming Power Improves Interview Outcomes.”

This research has applications to many situations beyond the job interview.

Hundreds of studies have shown that simply recalling a time in which one had power produces the same effects as having power.

Power buffers people from stress.  It reduces the stress hormone cortisol so people often feel and express more confidence.

What the researchers learned was that when people wrote about an experience of personal power prior to participating in a mock job interview, their odds of acceptance shot up; they were accepted 68% of the time compared with a normal acceptance rate of 47%.  People who wrote about a time in which they lacked power, plummeted in effectiveness, with only 26% getting selected by the judges.  The judges—the interviewers in this case—rated power-primed applicants as much more persuasive than the powerless primed candidates.

This was true in two experiments; one in which students wrote and the other in which they presented in a face to face setting.  Professor Galinsky says: “There is something about how power-primed people presented themselves that others picked up on.  They expressed themselves with more confidence and more persuasiveness that led them to better outcomes.”

The article goes on to state that “a large body of management research suggests that soft skills-those related to managing interpersonal interactions-are often more critical in leadership roles than more readily defined hard skills, such as financial analysis or other technical talents.”

PowerTo shore up your soft skills in managing interpersonal interactions, here are some tips:

  1. Recall an interpersonal situation in which you had a good deal of power

  2. Write it down.  This is key.  Simply thinking about it may not be enough.  Five minutes is all it takes.

  3. Power prime that this is you.  Allow your anxieties to melt away so you are left with the confident, persuasive part of yourself

  4. For best results, use in moderation.  Anything overused becomes less effective over time.  Use in situations where anxiety is most likely to curtail you

We invite you to exercise this power primer in the next few weeks.  Let us know how it worked for you.


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