A fascinating question is whether it is better to hire people who are power seekers or to avoid them. There has been quite a deal of research about this question and it turns out that people who are power seekers – who seek to gain authority and dominion over people or resources,  have a number of negative characteristics.

Examples of these findings include:

  • Individuals differ on their extent to which they seek to dominate others and control resources and outcomes. (Fiske & Berdahl, 2015)
  • Leaders who crave more power are
    • less able to handle stress and conflict in their group (Fodor, 1985)
    • prefer those who are ingratiators but do not respect them (Operario & Fiske, 2001)
    • produce more negative self-views among subordinates (Fiske & Berdahl, 2015)
  • In interview situations (a power situation) dominant people prefer socially capable candidates, whereas non dominant people prefer capable candidates (Fiske & Berdahl, 2015; Operario & Fiske, 2001). Non dominant people can therefore be better recruitment decision makers.
  • Overall: Power decreases people’s ability to consider how others think, feel and see the world.

So, on balance it is better if people are not power seekers because power seekers bring a wide range of negative characteristics with them. The alternative to seeking power is seeking outcomes.

An outcome seeker is somebody who seeks to gain the best possible results for their own organisation and their colleagues whereas a power seeker tends to be dominant or even domineering. Outcome seekers are often so because they are highly conscientious, which brings other positives such as high levels of engagement.

So, how can you identify power seekers?

One of the best ways of doing so is with the Schwartz Personal Values Questionnaire. You will see at the top of the diagram above there is a segment called “Power”. If a person is high on this measure then you should be concerned that they will be more focussed on their own authority than pursuing outcomes. It is wise practice to avoid hiring candidates with these characteristics. If you would like to find out how to measure values including power click here.


Andrew Marty
Managing Director

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  • Fiske, S. & Berdahl, J. (2015) Social Power. In Kruglanski, A., & Higgins, E. (eds) Social Psychology: Handbook of Basic Principles (pp. 678 – 692). New York: Guilford Press.
  • Fodor, E.M. (1985) The power motive and reactivity to power stresses. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 4, 853-859.
  • Operario, D., & Fiske, S.T. (2001) Effects of trait dominance on powerholders’ judgements of subordinates. Social Cognition, 19, 161-180.


Andrew Marty