Resist the temptation to misuse power at the top

February 9, 2016 | 1 min read

"The higher your position in an organization, the more pressure you are under and the more likely you are to lose yourself, " says Oscar David, who works as an organizational psychologist at the TIAS Senior Executive Program.

The Senior Executive Program is aimed at experienced top managers who are continuously having to solve complex issues under heavy pressure. David specializes in the field of leadership and power.

How do you as a leader stop yourself from falling into the trap of abuse of power, fraud, self-enrichment at the top?

Leaders must perform under heavy pressure, make choices in difficult situations and continue to manage the expectations of their community. Time pressures and heavy pressure from stakeholders, both internally and externally, are their constant reality. It is important therefore to regularly take time to reflect and think about your behavior, motivations, and the way you relate to others.

What more can you do?

In addition to reflection you can look for strong anchors in your own values. What are your core values by which you want to be guided? One such core value is that you want all employees to achieve proper self-fulfillment. You should always keep these core values in mind with every decision you make.

This is easier said than done, especially when you live on the cutting edge.

It is true. But everyone has a conscience, an inner voice. Especially when making important decisions you must take a moment and listen to that inner voice. This conscience is always in line with your values.

In case of really difficult decisions it may help if you explain your problem to others: colleagues, your Supervisory Board, friends, or family. Be open to the opinions of others but be aware of the bias in their advice. Remember the nature of the source of this feedback and understand its value. At the top level, you frequently have to deal with "yes-men" in the organization. Ensure you have a critical group of people around you who can distance themselves from your position.

And how do you achieve this?

The most valuable feedback comes from people who do not depend on you. A soundboard outside the organization, such as your peers in the Senior Executive Program. People who want to help with no strings attached.

Oscar David is core lecturer at the TIAS Senior Executive Program, a program for ambitious senior professionals at TIAS School for Business and Society.

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