The Test of Power- Harvard Business School on TedX

“We like to sort the world into good people who have stable and enduringly strong, positive characters, and bad people who have weak or frail characters. So why then do seemingly good people behave badly?”

In this fascinating presentation, Nitin Nohria, Dean of Harvard Business School, explores what happens when “good” people have power and in particular, what happens when people in positions of power assign responsibility to someone else. He suggests that “…character is as malleable as anything else” and that giving people power is a test, getting people to respond in ways you may not be able to predict.

One of the keys to prevent people in positions of power to misuse their power, he states, is for them to be humble and see themselves as capable of doing things they can’t imagine they would. “We need leaders with greater moral humility, who know they are fallible and therefore…have antenna to recognize there are times they can go astray.”  In other words, if people believe they can be as fragile as people who do “bad” things, they are more likely to make a strong choice and avoid doing “bad” things.

This is particularly interesting in the context of people who don’t want to change, considering that one of the biggest challenges with people who don’t want to change is the fact that they often don’t believe they need to. Ironically, in life those who most resist change need it most.

Gaining humility is not easy, though, so how do we get people who lack “moral humility” as Nohria calls it, to change? How do we get them to develop a new character?

Changing people who don’t want to change is KCI’s unique value. We know that the first thing that’s required is to use a system that is designed for those who don’t want to change. Current systems, based on trust, transparency and understanding, don’t work. People who don’t want to change, who think they are always right and that “it won’t happen to them” will only abuse and manipulate systems that are based on the best of intentions. Check out KCI’s new book The Art And Science Of Changing People Who Don’t Want To Change to learn more about this key system.

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