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A lesson in how power can corrupt

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in Leaders & Managers,Leadership Skills,Profiles in Leadership

Frank Lloyd Wright, the famous architect, did not endear himself to his team. In the half-century since his death in 1959, many experts have reflected on his inability to lead others.

Wright hoarded power. Even though his son worked for him for years, he would not provide a regular salary. When his son, John, requested payment, his father replied by submitting a list of all the money he had spent on John up to that point in his life. When John deducted a fair salary from a commission, his father fired him.

Similarly, Wright demanded that his apprentices list him as head architect on all documents, regardless of his role. His claims of sole credit for what was actually collaborative work have undermined his stature.  

While Wright acknowledged Louis Sullivan as his mentor, this didn’t stop him from taking credit for some of Sullivan’s designs. His attempt to bask in acclaim at the expense of others has largely backfired as investigators have questioned Wright’s assertions.

The lesson? Power can corrupt. As you gain authority, work harder than ever to support others’ success. Sharing the credit for high-profile achievements enhances your reputation and strengthens your professional relationships.

Executives who wield vast power command many types of resources, so they need not worry as much about the negative consequences of their behavior. But just because they can get away with bullying or mistreating others does not mean such antics will produce long-term benefits.

— Adapted from “Yes, power corrupts, but power also reveals,” Adam Grant, www.psychologytoday.com.

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