Danger in the Power Grid – of Leadership

Would you stay silent if you knew your boss was making a decision that would have terrible consequences? If you were a South Korean co-pilot in 1997, you just might. In fact, you might even go down with the plane rather than question your captain.

Power is often unequally distributed in societies and also within companies. The Power Distance Index measures power inequality: those in a high Power Distance culture are deferential to leadership; in low Power Distance cultures it’s OK to wear your “Question Authority” T-shirt to work. Surprisingly, the study shows that followers in high Power Distance cultures often accept the inequality as much as leaders impose it upon them.

Unchecked, a power imbalance within a company can smother innovation and progress – and possibly bring down the plane. An HBR article describes several steps to take if you’re in a position of power at such a company. Starting at the top, and that means starting with you.