P-Power vs S-Power

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Michael Hogan:

"David McClelland described two types of power needs,

  • p-power (power needs for personal goals) and
  • s-power (power needs focused on goals for an institution, a group or a society).

While p-power people tend to see life as a zero-sum game in which there are winners and losers, s-power people are regulated by reflective judgment, self control, and social responsibility and are driven to win for wider, social purposes (McClelland, 1975). Studies reveal that men with exclusively p-power tendencies show double the testosterone levels of men who possess a mixture of both p-power and s-power when imagining winning a contest; furthermore, men with a mixture of p-power and s-power do not show the same dominance-testosterone link to actually winning the contest as do men with exclusively p-power tendencies (Schultheiss et al., 1999). Studies also suggest that while women have on average the same levels of p-power as men, they show higher s-power on average than men (Chusmir and Parker, 1984), suggesting that women are more motivated than men to control others for the wider benefit of communities and organizations, not just for themselves." (https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/in-one-lifespan/201305/approaching-power-humility-and-wisdom)


Michael Hogan:

"Researchers have found that the use of assertive and forceful control by parents can lead to more resentful, disruptive and antisocial behavior in their children over time (Kochanska et al., 2009), which may lead these children to abuse a position of power later in life, if the opportunity arises (Rogow and Lasswell, 1963). However, power does not corrupt everyone. Research suggests that power makes bullies of people who feel inadequate in the role of boss (Fast and Chen, 2009). We need people to feel empowered and we need people to assume positions of leadership, but Robertson suggests that people with power need to audit themselves for potential distortions in thinking and behavior that power can cause – they need to keep their p-power in check and maintain the social conscience and perspective that derives from their s-power. Robertson also notes that the temptation in a materialistic society is to become individualistic in our pursuit of power, money, and status, thus compromising our s-power tendencies. The sad reality is that materialism and money can act like a drug that may destroy judgment, degrade morality and make people miserable and unhappy if money is not used for altruistic and social purposes (Kasser, 2002).

According to Robertson:

“Real winners enjoy the benefits of power – the testosterone fuelled drive, smartness, creativity and goal-focus – and enjoy influencing other people by dispensing resources that other people need and want. They thrive on being able to have an impact and they do not cripple themselves by believing their success to be due to inherited, unchangeable qualities…Winners feel in control of life, and that sense of control will help shield them from stress and help them succeed better and live longer and happier. But true winners appreciate that, no matter how much of chimera it is, the ego is a dangerous dog. The men and women who take on the burden of power and use it well always keep the dog at a certain distance and on a tight leash of accountability to principles beyond themselves. Taming ‘I’ may be the greatest challenge for mankind’s success” (p. 274 – 275)." (https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/in-one-lifespan/201305/approaching-power-humility-and-wisdom)

More Information

The above is from a review of:

* Book: Ian Robertson, The Winner Effect: How Power Affects Your Brain.