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The Psychology of Power

Why You’ve Had Bad Leaders & How You Can Be a Great One

Length: 60–75 minutes

Lord Acton said, “Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

We know what he means. Gather around the water cooler, and everyone has a Bosszilla story to share. Although we may chalk up our managerial misfortune to our leader’s poor disposition or training, and vow that we would never submit others to the same mistreatment, evidence from psychology suggests that this is hubris. The experience of being “in charge” changes how individuals think, feel, and act, often for the worse.

Combining science and stories, Alison explains how power affects all of us, and provides tips for how leaders can lead better than they were once led, as well as how organizations can create cultures that foster excellent leadership.

A customized version of this keynote is presented as part of the required leadership curriculum for general officers in both the U.S. Army and Air Force.


  • Senior leaders
  • New leaders
  • HR, Ethics, & Compliance professionals looking to understand and prevent employee misconduct


  • The benefits of hierarchy
  • How and why power “corrupts” (spoiler alert: it changes the brain)
  • Who is most vulnerable to being corrupted by power and why
  • How organizations can help leaders be their best selves