Traditionally, those with power and influence in the workplace are portrayed as overly dominant and coercive with a disregard for those around them—just thinking about film characters synonymous with power, like Gordon Gekko in Wall Street or even Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada. If you're inclined to emulate those characters in the hope of gaining power and confidence, though, social scientist Dacher Keltner, professor of psychology at the University of California, Berkeley, says you're mistaken.
"Our cultural understanding of power has been deeply shaped by Niccolò Machiavelli and his 16th Century book, The Prince," he says in an article on Inc. "Hundreds of thousands of students read this every year, and it's a book that teaches that power—in its essence—is about force, deception, and disregard for people."
Instead, he points out that science suggests the opposite is correct. "We have a deep cultural intuition that nice guys finish last and that one must step on others to rise in the ranks. But nothing could be further from the truth," he says. Keltner says that over 70 studies suggest that people with these five character traits are more likely to rise to power.
1. Enthusiasm: They're interested in others and take joy in their achievements.
2. Kindness: They cooperate and share.
3. Focus: They're clear minded and have a purpose.
4. Calmness: They are grounded and instill calm.
5. Openness: They have empathy and are transparent.
In your experience, do you think Keltner's comments are true?