Contrary to popular opinion I do not think power corrupts. Rather, I think power shows you the true nature of most people, most leaders.
Power allows leaders the opportunity to exercise their inmost mores and ethos with little to no constraint. The more power, the more of the real person you see in a leader.
This is a frightening way to look at power but perhaps a more honest way. Leaders, like all people, have contraints placed upon them and these constraints are myriad – the public eye, the board of directors, fellow employees, partners, policies and procedures, market dynamics. the legal system, culture, etc.
All of these things serve to restrain leaders (and others) to operate within a certain, dependable framework.
The more power one builds however the more flexible these systems, walls and constraints become. This is fine for a leader such as Mahatma Ganghi or Martin Luther King Jr. They tend to use their power toward what we would define broadly as “the greater good” although even King had relational boundary issues that became evident with the authority that arose.
Put that power into the hands of a young artist named Adolph Hitler or a young communist idealist named Josef Stalin and millions upon millions die.
Power does not corrupt – power unleashes what is within.
A wise leader recognizes their inner darkness and seeks boundaries in the form of close advisors and structures or policies that constrain them in certain ways leading to greater accountability.
As I have written before such constraints or boundaries do not limit but rather they unleash a creative spirit that would not otherwise rise up in an unfettered environment.