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.
The tech industry's having a tough time. Only months ago, those who were bragging about their hot tech jobs and (seemingly) hyper-performing Crypto portfolios are probably screaming, crying, gnashing their teeth, and throwing up. And they may or may not be unemployed.
First, the recession is obliterating the stock market as we speak. Then, the summer Crypto proved the “decentralized marketplace” isn’t as impervious as Crypto nerds claimed. And now, the entire tech industry is facing a serious reckoning. It’s meltdown season — and Mercury isn’t even in retrograde.
First, Elon Musk bought Twitter. He subsequently fired a staggering number of employees. He then instituted Twitter Blue, a verification subscription which was a spectacular FAILURE. Most notably, causing the stock price of every significant insulin company to plummet by BILLIONS. It’s a long story, but the takeaway: the best $8 some random Twitter user ever spent.
Meanwhile, major tech companies like Meta, Salesforce, Redfin — and more — have been laying off thousands of employees. Wave after wave of layoffs are tearing through the entire tech sector, leaving thousands bamboozled and bereft. And this — alllll this — is happening while Jeff Bezos is giving away his money to Dolly Parton. I love her, but she has a theme park. These people don’t have jobs!
But this is nothing compared to the drama going on at former-Crypto giant FTX. And somehow, Tom Brady and Gisele are implicated!?! First, the divorce, now this.
Here’s a simplified version of events — and you don’t even need to understand crypto to follow along.
The Super Bowl: The true origins can be traced back to the Super Bowl, where much ad time was devoted to emergent crypto companies vying for the attention of potential investors. Among them: FTX.
January 2022: FTX was valued at an estimated $32 billion. They even had an NBA stadium named after them in Miami. But most prominently, their now infamous Super Bowl ad starring Larry David, who had never appeared in a commercial before. Just imagine that shoot. You should’ve stuck to your guns, Larry.
Don't Miss Out on Crypto: Larry David FTX Commercialwww.youtube.com
Nov 2: The real drama started — as it always does — with some shady trades. CoinDesk published a report that exposed that Alameda Research – owned by the same people as FTX – had bought a ton of FTT … FTX’s cryptocurrency.
Nov 6: In a Tweet, the founder of Binance — one of FTX’s biggest competitors — said their company was going to dump their FTX tokens "due to recent revelations that have came to light." Investors panicked and followed suit. And so began the FTT price plummet.
But with all their investors cashing in their coins, FTX was on the hook for all that money — which it could not afford to pay out. This is when things started to look really hairy.
Nov 8: With their tails between their legs, FTX went to Binance for an out. Binance agreed to acquire FTX.
Nov 9: Just kidding! Whatever was in those docs must have scared off Binance because they pulled out of the deal just a day later. Does this feel like an episode of Succession to you, too?
Nov. 11: FTX had no way to repay all this money. And any potential buys were not going anywhere near this dumpster fire. So FTX was forced to file for bankruptcy. 30-year-old CEO and founder Sam Bankman-Fried resigned.
He tweeted that he was “really sorry,” though! SO maybe that counts for something. Cue the world’s tiniest violin playing in the background.
\u201cFun fact:\n\nIf you spent $1,000 shorting the 2022 Super Bowl advertisers, you'd be a billionaire today:\n\n\u25ab\ufe0f FTX\n\u25ab\ufe0f Carvana\n\u25ab\ufe0f DraftKings\n\u25ab\ufe0f Uber Eats\n\u25ab\ufe0f Meta Oculus\n\u25ab\ufe0f Rocket Mortgage\n\u25ab\ufe0f Coinbase\n\u25ab\ufe0f Vroom\n\u25ab\ufe0f Salesforce\n\u25ab\ufe0f GM\u201d— Chris Bakke (@Chris Bakke) 1667931782
But there’s more!
Later that day, reports emerged that FTX transferred $10 BILLION to Alameda — the same sister company mentioned above. That’s right, the one that started this mess — sparking controversy about how much access top leaders had to the company's finances.
Nov 13: Where’s the money? New reports reveal that those BILLIONS of dollars had just … disappeared?
Nov 14: Now the cops are involved. Where the hell is the money, man? Regulators are trying to get to the bottom of this, while looking into criminal liabilities.
Nov 16: Here comes the class action. Defendants are suing FTX’s Bankman-Fried for misleading information. But the walls are now closing in on celebrities who appeared in FTX commercials, including Tom Brady, Gisele Bundchen, Stephen Curry, Larry David, and Shaquille O’Neal.
"FTX’s fraudulent scheme was designed to take advantage of unsophisticated investors from across the country, who utilize mobile apps to make their investments," the lawsuit alleges. "As a result, American consumers collectively sustained over $11 billion dollars in damages.”
There you have it. But don’t hold your breath — there’s more to come, I’m sure. In fact, the documentary is already in the works
And if you still don’t follow, here are some TikToks tracking the drama:
SBF bears a striking resemblance to Bernard Madoff. #money #crypto #ftx #finance #sbf #news #binance #alameda #bitcoin #ethereum #ftt #coin #cryptocurrency
Every time payday rolls around, I’m on top of the world. Jeff Bezos-level rich - even though I’m anything but. And then somehow the very next day, rent is due.
The cycle continues. The next payday, bills for my apartment. I find myself without a surplus of savings since I just moved and newly-furnished my apartment completely.
Even more terrifying is the looming presence of the holiday season. Halloween’s officially over and before we know it, hello Thanksgiving…and then there’s Hanukkah, Christmas, New Year’s. It’s insane.
I’ve been feeling very British lately. Not in a Union-Jack-obsessed, “Keep Calm and Carry-On” way. I went through that phase in 2012 with everyone else… no thank you. And it’s not even a surge of patriotism catalyzed by the Queen dying — I’m firmly team Diana and team Meghan.
Now that fall is officially here, the holidays will sweep in and I’ll have to contend with the fact that I won’t be spending them with my family in the UK. I went home to London earlier this year, so there’s not much left in my travel budget for another trip across the pond. A few domestic jaunts might be in my future, but the closest I’ll get to England this winter is watching Love Island and Love, Actually.
So in that spirit, I’ve been filling my days with content from my favorite Brits. I’m listening to all the old British rock bands I grew up listening to, patiently awaiting the new Arctic Monkeys album, and rewatching anything with Michaela Coel in it. I even shipped myself an order of British Baked Beans, so you know it’s dire.
I’ve also been watching British YouTubers like Grace Beverley — my favorite. Generally, I only go on YouTube to watch Vogue Beauty Secrets and AD Open Door videos. But I’m so glad I stumbled on Grace. Her content is a mix of London lifestyle (what lured me in), relatable entrepreneurship, and mindful productivity. I’m not a hustle-and-grind-girlboss, but as a creative person in a 9-to-5, I need all the help I can get to stay plugged in. So, the video “how to be really really really productive without getting overwhelmed” changed my approach to WFH.
Grace outlines her own productivity method: the to-do table. Instead of making a simple to-do list, she divides her tasks into a table that anyone can follow. As someone who’s survived with to-do lists for years, I recently implemented Grace’s method, and it’s revolutionized my workdays.
how to be really really really productive without getting overwhelmedwww.youtube.com
I follow her routine to a tee. Here’s how it works:
Essentially, she divides her daily responsibilities into four categories: quick ticks, tasks, projects, and non-negotiables.
- Quick Ticks: Actions that take less than 5-minutes
- Tasks: To-do’s that take up to 30-minutes. Probably don’t take too much brain energy.
- Projects: Long-term list items. These help guide your priorities, even if you’re not crossing them off in one day.
- Non-negotiables: Pick 3 things each day that you must get done. This is how you’ll truly measure success.
With everything written down and sorted, next address your schedule. Meetings, deadlines, and time blocks — whatever works best for you. Write it down. Then make a pact with yourself to stick to them.
This way of categorization provides a roadmap for prioritizing your day — making you far more productive. Have you ever spent the entire day on small tasks and then suddenly realized you hadn’t moved the needle on any task? Or do you spend way too much time on tasks that aren’t a priority? No more. With your non-negotiables laid out, you know what to laser-focus on and what to dedicate energy towards.
Also, it pays to know your working style. I’m not a morning person. Yet, I have to be up and at ‘em super early. So, first thing in the morning, I march through my Quick Ticks to warm me up. I set a time limit, so I can knock out some easy wins which is totally inspiring. Then I move on to bigger things without lingering on emails or admin. For others, it might be more helpful to tackle the big things with all that early-in-the-day brain power earlier.
Grace has great tips on avoiding overwhelm and burnout. My favorite is taking more intentional breaks rather than scrolling through social media. I call this scrolling “productive” because I’m “coming up with pitches.” Oh, the lies we tell ourselves. It’s more productive in the long run to giving my brain a break with non-screen related stimuli.
Grace’s solution? Set a timer to read a real, an actual book. I’ve never thought of this. It’s a genius way to check off some books on my TBR and kickstart my creativity. After reading a good book, I’m completely inspired to write. So having books near my desk helps me step away from the computer during my lunch break for an actual reset. (And yes, the current books I’m reading are by British authors: Assembly by Natasha Brown, and Love in Color: Mythical Tales from Around the World, Retold by Bolu Babalolu.)
In my pursuit of switching out my WFH set-up and getting my life together, I’ve engineered my workstation for success. With my new WFH essentials and Grace’s productivity technique, I’m revitalized for work — despite the fall blues and my melancholy about the pending holidays.
Here are the things getting me hyped for work and helping me crush my Grace Beverley-inspired to-do tables — no lists in sight: