This is why those in power think they are above the law.
We’ve all heard the adage “power corrupts” (the longer version is “absolute power corrupts absolutely”). When we think of power and corruption, we most often associate leaders. A leader is a leader who is in a powerful leadership position and seeks to selfishly seek more power and control by exploiting and subjugating others, taking resources far beyond his or her share. That’s it.
In a world full of dictators and “strong man” leaders, it’s easy to see how damaging a strong, autocratic leader can be. However, once anyone gains power, it can infect anyone and lead to corruption and misdeeds. Why is power associated with corruption?
With power comes privilege.
Those in power have an abundance of resources that they can use to their benefit. This allows people with power to achieve or experience things that people with less power would otherwise avoid. they get special treatment. Corruption can also occur because those in power can “protect themselves” from trouble. Our two-tiered justice system allows those in power to hire the best lawyers, save themselves from financial hardship, and simply throw money at solving problems.
People in power may also make threats and threats (“Don’t you know who I am?”). People with less power often retreat when confronted. Or they may align themselves with those in power, benefit from the relationship, and become powerful (and potentially corrupt) themselves.
Power can change self-perception
Philosopher Terry Price suggests that powerful individuals may engage in the act of “making exceptions,” believing that rules and laws that apply to others do not apply to them. This can easily lead to corruption. There is also evidence that the more power people have, the more focused they become on their own desires and the less able they are to see the perspective of others. This is especially problematic for individuals in positions of power or authority who may exploit those in their charge.
use power for good
Is the power of an individual or a leader necessarily a corrupting force, leading to bad behavior? No. One way to distinguish between corrupting power and power used for positive purposes is what leadership scholars call “personalization.” There is a difference between what we call “socialized” power and “socialized” power. Personalized power is used for personal benefit, whereas socialized power is used to benefit others.
The best antidote to power and corruption is humility. It is important for leaders and people in positions of power to have the humility to objectively evaluate their own actions. They need to understand that their power is given to them and that it may be temporary, and they hold their leaders accountable by holding a mirror up to their leaders’ actions. It is necessary to understand that it is the duty of those close to the leader, those in his inner circle.
People and leaders in power need to understand that it is their duty to use their power wisely to benefit others. Don’t abuse it. Nor may it be used to justify illegal or immoral conduct that harms others.
Price, T. L. (2008). Understanding ethical failures in leadership. Cambridge University Press.