Lord John Dalberg-Acton, c.1902. Credit: Wikimedia Commons
Lord John Dalberg-Acton, c.1902. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

"Power tends to corruptabsolute power corrupts absolutely"

- Lord Acton, historian

"The experience of being in power itself brings about changes in mental states which then manifest themselves in hubristic behaviour"

Lord Owen (former UK foreign secretary and neurologist)

Power and Personality

Power and Personality

There is a growing body of opinion that the exercise of power can distort thinking and create personality changes in leaders that affect their decision making.

Lord David Owen founded the Daedelus Trust to raise awareness of such changes and the MPS now continues this interest and seeks to understand power and personality better by fostering multi-disciplinary inquiry.

The group maintains a central repository of knowledge on the subject, including on the “hubris syndrome” – an acquired personality change following exposure to power  [link to David Owen Brain paper and his new book on Hubris].

Conferences and edited collections have brought together leading thinkers to discuss hubris from interdisciplinary perspectives. [link to the conferences: The first, in 2012, was organised jointly with the Royal Society of Medicine, the second in 2013 with the Cambridge Judge Business School. For the third in 2014, the Trust again partnered with the Royal Society of Medicine. In 2016 the Trust collaborated with the Ashridge Management College on executive coaching and in 2017 a conference was held jointly with the RSM and the Women’s Medical Federation.

Also link to key books coming out of the Daedelus Trust – e.g. Peter Garrard’s]. Videos and speeches from these conferences can be found here [links].

The MPG has links with a computational neurolinguistics research group at St George’s University of London that is expert in analysing language change in political leaders as well as the Surrey Business School which conducts research into hubris in business contexts and is developing an ‘Anti-Hubris’ toolkit to help boards, directors, managers, recruiters, business thinkers and identify, mitigate or manage the highly negative effects hubris can have.

Previous Power and Personality events