Dean’s Disease: Infected with Power

Arthur G. Bedeian’s article, “The Dean’s Disease: How the Darker Side of Power Manifests Itself in the Office of the Dean,” provides an analysis of how College Dean’s can (and often do) lose themselves to power.  Although Bedeian alludes to the different situation that Dean’s face from other leaders, the disease described in this article is generalizeable to any new leader and the effects that power can have on them.

Bedeian states that there are three reasons Dean’s Disease occurs: doppelgangers, strategic praise, and a taste for power.  Basically, Dean’s (and I would argue any new leader) is faced with people who want to please them for personal gain.  This includes being surrounded by yes-men, flattery, and the desire to preserve power.  People at the top want to keep their power by surrounding themselves with people who will agree with them and praise them, people below want to gain that power by being agreeable. This is not a phenomenon that only college Deans experience, but most, if not all, hierarchical organizations operate like this.

As Bedeian points out though, there are ways to resist this power-driven disease.  Leaders should be accessible to their employees rather than creating that divide between “us” (those in power) and “them” (those not in power).  In addition, Leaders should establish and adhere to values such as, honesty, and integrity.  Most importantly, Leaders should surround themselves with people who are not afraid to challenge their ideas.  Contention is good…it keeps everyone on their toes, including Leaders.  When people stop questioning assumptions/ideas, things can become stale and creativity is lost. 

Thus, while power that comes with being on top may be exciting and overwhelming, if Leaders let that power consume them they will find their success shortlived.  I personally would rather be an effective Leader as opposed to a powerful one.

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