International Society of Political Psychology

Conference Abstracts

The psychological consequences of power on self-perception: implications for leadership research

Benjamin Gilles Voyer, London School of Economics

Conference: ISPP 2011
Affiliation: London School of Economics
Research Area: Political decision making

This paper explores theoretical connections between recent research on the psychology of power and self-perception, and traditional work on leadership.
The starting point of the paper is the parallel existing between the notion of independent and interdependent self-construal (Markus and Kitayama, 1991) and leadership styles (Lewin and Lippitt, 1938; Bales, 1950; Bass, 1998). Following Markus and Kitayama (1991), individuals have different ways of construing their self. Individuals can hold a dominant independent self-construal and define themselves as unique persons, uninfluenced by others. Individuals can also hold a dominant interdependent self-construal, and define themselves as connected to others, and be influenced by them. This distinction can be related to traditional differences in leadership styles, such as transformational and transactional forms of leadership (Bass, 1998), or task-oriented and interpersonal-oriented leadership styles (Bales, 1950).
A second argument developed in this article is that self-construal may actually serve as an interface between power and leadership. Recent work in psychology has shown that power triggers different types of self-construal (Voyer, 2010). Given that power and leadership are related but distinct concepts, and that the psychological effects of power enable the exercise of leadership (Galinsky, Jordan, and Sivanathan, 2008), it is suggested here that self-construal may act as a mediator of the effect of power on leadership.
Overall, this conceptualisation of self-construal as an interface between power and leadership offers a way to reconcile research on trait theories of leadership (Zaccaro, 2007) and situational theories of leadership (Hersey, 1985).