Does Power Change Your Brain?
In an experiment he called "the cookie monster" study, Dacher Keltner, professor of psychology at University of California, Berkeley, and author of The Power Paradox: How We Gain and Lose Influence, brought groups of three people into a lab and randomly assigned one person a position of leadership. He then gave the group a writing task. After a half-hour of work, Keltner placed a plate of four freshly baked cookies in front of the team—one for each team member with one left over. In all groups, each person took one. Who would take the last remaining cookie? In nearly all cases, it was the person who'd been named the leader of the group who took the last cookie for themselves.
"In addition," Keltner writes in the Harvard Business Review, "the leaders were more likely to eat with their mouths open, lips smacking, and crumbs falling onto their clothes."
Such an experiment illustrates what Keltner calls "the power paradox." While people often gain power through behavior that advances the interests of others, such as empathy and collaboration, once they begin to feel powerful, those are the very qualities that diminish. Leaders then become more likely to engage in rude, selfish, and unethical behavior. In short, the old saying is true: Power does corrupt.
There's a neurological explanation at work. Sukhvinder Obhi, a neuroscientist at McMaster University in Ontario, put the brains of the powerful and the not-so-powerful under a transcranial-magnetic-stimulation machine, a device with an electromagnetic coil that that uses magnetic fields to stimulate nerve cells in the brain. What he found was that power impairs a specific neural process called "mirroring." In neural mirroring, a neuron fires both when we perform an action, like laughing or raising our hand in a meeting, and when we observe the same action performed by another. Researchers say this kind of vicarious experience may be a cornerstone of empathy.
But not only does neural mirroring, an unconscious response, decrease in the powerful, so too does psychological mimicking, the empathic response to laugh when others laugh, for example, that allows us to momentarily have an understanding of another person's experience. Powerful people "stop simulating the experience of others," Keltner told the Atlantic, which leads to what he calls an "empathy deficit."
It's not just power in the workplace, however. Other forms of privilege and entitlement, such as wealth can have a similar effect. In another experiment, for example, Keltner and a colleague found that drivers of the least expensive cars always ceded the right-of-way to pedestrians in a crosswalk. People driving luxury cars such as BMWs and Mercedes yielded only 54% of the time; nearly half the time they ignored the pedestrian and the law.
Power also heightens feelings of egocentricity. In another study, participants were asked to draw a capital E on their forehead with a washable marker. Those with power tended to draw the E on their forehead oriented to their own point of view, but which would appear reversed from the point of someone standing opposite them. Lack of empathy, coupled with egocentrism, aids and abets those in power to see people as means to an end, objects along their personal path to success.
"[Power] creates psychological distance between the powerful person and everything else," Batia Wiesenfeld, a management professor at New York University's Stern School of Business, told Fast Company.
"Here's the thing," wrote David Rock and Mary Slaughter of the NeuroLeadership Institute in Fast Company. "A lot of leaders fall into the trap of being stuck in the big picture, as well as the outcome. This can lead them to make ethically dubious decisions without thinking about the consequences. Similarly, this type of thinking can also present problematic business risks." To say nothing of your team turning on you.
So what's a powerful leader to do? Keltner says it comes down to awareness and actions of empathy, gratitude, and generosity.
The practice: Awareness
Awareness at work, and examination of one's demeanor at the office, is no different than a mindfulness practice at home: sit quietly, breathe deeply, quiet your mind. Practice what Buddhist teacher, Tara Brach, calls RAIN: Recognize, Allow, Interrogate, Non-Attachment.
The proof: Studies show that spending just a few minutes a day on such exercises gives people greater focus and calm; it's why these techniques are taught in training programs at companies like Google, Facebook, Aetna, General Mills, Ford, and Goldman Sachs, Keltner notes.
The practice: Empathy
Practice empathy in the workplace by thinking before a meeting about the individuals who will be present and what's going on in their lives. Is someone in the midst of a move or did they just drop their kid off for the first day of kindergarten that morning? Listen actively with attentive body language and vocal engagement (no looking at your phone during meetings). Ask questions and paraphrase the important points you hear. When employees come to you with difficult situations, take a moment to sympathize with them before launching into problem-solving mode. "That's really tough," and "I'm sorry" mean a lot.
The proof: Keltner advises we look at the U.S. Senate. Research has shown senators who used empathetic facial expressions and tones of voice when speaking to the floor got more bills passed than those who used domineering, threatening gestures and tones in their speeches.
The practice: Gratitude
Practice gratitude by making thank you's a regular part of how you communicate with your team. It can be handwritten notes, emails, and public praise and acknowledgement. Don't be afraid to give a fist bump or high-five to celebrate success.
The proof: NBA players who physically display their appreciation—through head raps, bear hugs, and hip and chest bumps—inspire their teammates to play better and win nearly two more games per season, Keltner's research has shown.
The practice: Generosity
Practice generosity by spending one-on-one time with your subordinates. Buy them lunch. Delegate and share high-profile responsibilities to those who have earned it, offer generous praise, and share the spotlight by giving credit for success not to yourself, but to all members of the team who made a win possible.
The proof: Those who share with others in a group, by contributing new ideas or lending a helping hand on projects not their own, are viewed as more worthy of respect and influence and thus well-suited for leadership, studies show.
Think not just about practicing empathic and generous leadership, but exercising enlightened power.
"Enlightened leadership is... the domain of awareness where we experience values like truth, goodness, beauty, love and compassion, and also intuition, creativity, insight and focused attention," said Deepak Chopra.
Sounds like a great boss.
Looking for a job? In addition to encountering those annoying never-ending job interviews you may find yourself face-to-face with an artificial intelligence bot.
Companies worldwide increasingly use artificial intelligence tools and analytics in employment decision-making – from parsing through resumes and screening candidates to automated assessments and digital interviews. But recent studies claim that AI does more harm than good.
While AI screening tools were developed to save companies time and money, they’ve been criticized for placing women and people of color at a disadvantage. The problem is that many companies lack appreciable diversity in their data set, making it impossible for an algorithm to know how people from underrepresented groups have performed in the past. As a result, the algorithm will be biased toward the data available and compare future candidates to that archetype.
The City’s Automated Employment Decision Tools (AEDT) law is designed to offset the potential misuse of AI and protect job candidates against discrimination. It was enforced on July 5th, 2023 in New York City - with other cities and states expected to gradually follow suit. Employers must now inform applicants when and how they encounter AI. Furthermore, companies have to commission a third-party audit of the AI software used, and publish a summary of the results to prove that their systems aren’t racist or sexist. Job applicants are able to request information regarding what data is collected and analyzed by the AI. Violations of the law can result in fines of up to $1,500.
Replacing Human Hiring Decisions
However, should a job applicant want to opt-out of such impersonal judgement by a bot, the new law's scope is quite limited.
While the law specifies that instructions for requesting an alternative selection process must be included in the AI screening disclosure, companies aren't actually required to use other screening methods. Not to mention that the law only applies to AI in hiring and not any other employment decisions. It also wouldn't apply if the AI, for example, flags candidates with relevant experience, but a human then reviews all applications, making the ultimate hiring decision.
Some civil rights advocates and public interest groups argue that the law isn’t extensive enough and that it’s even unenforceable. On the other hand, businesses say that it’s impractical, costly, and burdensome, and that independent audits aren’t feasible.
Responsible use of AI in hiring
Although this law may be a good first attempt to assign more regulatory guardrails around AI, it remains to be seen if it ensures the responsible use of AI in hiring processes. At the end of the day, perhaps recruiting talent should remain a human-made decision.
The good news is that AI can help companies without harming potential job candidates in many ways – such as connecting new employees with internal organizational information and company benefits during onboarding. Or helping employees to do their jobs more effectively rather than replacing them.
There’s all this talk about solo travel. And for good reason — no wasting precious time waiting for others to get their act together, take the plans out of the group chat and actually buy the tickets. Going solo, you can be spontaneous. You can plan your trips according to your precise tastes. You can hop on any flight and fly awayyyyyy.
But what if each time you flew you’d get a free ticket? That’s what you get with the Southwest Companion Pass.
Award status, upgrades, lounge access — there are many perks in the frequent flier game. But one of the coveted holy grails is the Southwest Companion Pass.
What is the Southwest Companion Pass?
The Companion Pass is part of Southwest’s Rapid Rewards program. You get to choose one person to be your “companion,” and they fly with you for free (plus some taxes and fees) on every flight. That’s right. Two for the price of one. That’s half off each ticket if you split it! Whether you’re flying with a partner, family member, friend, or anyone else, they can tag along for free.
And it gets better: once you earn the pass, you can reap the rewards for that full calendar year … AND the next. That’s why people go mad trying to earn a companion pass during the early months of the year. The sooner you qualify, the longer you can use it.
There are also no blackout dates. There are no limits. And if you didn’t purchase the ticket (think: work travel, your companion, or a generous benefactor), there are no restrictions! As long as you’re the one on the plane, your companion can also … be on the plane.
You can also switch out your designated companion 3x a year. So, no need to stay in a relationship simply to get the most out of your companion pass! Ghost and fly away — with a whole new companion!
If this sounds too good to be true — it’s not. But there is one small catch. It’s kinda tough to earn this mega reward.
How to qualify for the Southwest Companion Pass?
You can qualify for the pass in one of two ways:
- Fly 100 qualifying one-way flights
- Earn 135,000 qualifying points in a calendar year.
Clearly, this is no small feat — especially if you’re trying to qualify ASAP.
So how do you actually earn the Southwest Companion Pass?
Don’t worry, there’s a path to earning this amazing reward without climbing on 100 flights or spending an exorbitant amount of money.
Earning 135K reward points may seem completely impossible, but it’s easier than it sounds. Simply sign up for a Southwest Credit Card and turn those spending habits into a rapid rewards account. Through the Rewards Priority Credit Card, earn points when using local transit and commuting, plus score major points and miles whenever you spend.
Stay with me here. This is not some scheme to get you into credit card debt. Many airline cards come with potential savings, giantic rewards, awarding you points, and cashback with every purchase you make that can be redeemed for travel. And often they can come with passive sign-up bonuses. If you spend a specific amount of money within a certain timeframe of opening the card, you can be in for a windfall of points.
Now that’s where the companion pass comes in:
- Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier
- Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card
- Southwest Priority Credit Card
- Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Business Credit Card
- Southwest Performance Business Credit Card
Southwest has three personal cards and a business card. Each of these cards offers rewards between 30K-80K points. In the past, people could open two cards and get a bonus that granted enough points to almost meet the minimum. However, with new restrictions on personal cards, you can only get one bonus every 24 months. Boo!
However, this doesn’t apply to business cards. If you’re eligible, have good credit, and not likely to spiral into insane credit card debt, you can open a business card and a personal card, and accrue 100K+ points. The Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card will get you points after you spend money in no time.
Now to earn the rest of them.
The secret to gaining these credit card points is to plan your card sign-ups around big purchases. Just before a recent move, I opened a card . . . and the rewards came rolling in — a small balm to ease the pain of how exorbitant moving can be.
Put everyday spend — especially big purchases or bulk items — on your Southwest credit card and watch your award points quickly add up. Typically, you earn 1 point per $1 spent on your Southwest card and 2 points per $1 on actual Southwest purchases.
But there are other ways to earn points, including:
- Flying Southwest: Booking travel on Southwest earns more points. The cost of this travel will be worth it with your companion pass
- Shopping from Rapid Rewards Partners: Purchases with Southwest’s “Home & Lifestyle” and “Shop and Dine” Partners also earn Companion Pass qualifying points. While you shouldn’t make gratuitous purchases, browse Southwest’s partners to see if you could earn extra points for items you'd be purchasing anyway. All this, simply from enrolling in their Dining Program and shopping with their partners.
So there you have it! And since it’s almost Spring, get to earning and soon you’ll be flying two for the price of one!