Jonah Lehrer
The Wall Street Journal

Surprised by the scandalous downfall of Mark Hurd, Hewlett-Packard’s “unusually effective and straight-laced” CEO? asked Jonah Lehrer. You shouldn’t be. If there’s anything to be learned from the “steady drumbeat of charges against corporate executives,” it’s that “the very traits that helped leaders accumulate control in the first place all but disappear once they rise to power.” Contrary to the notion that “nice guys finish last,” research shows that “the surest way to accumulate power is to do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

But once nice guys reach the top, the headiness of wielding power causes them to morph into “a very different kind of beast.” They lose their ability to empathize with others, especially lesser mortals, and ignore information that doesn’t “confirm what they already believe.” Most tellingly, perhaps, they learn to excuse faults in themselves that they are quick to condemn in others. That’s not to say that every CEO is a secret villain. But “even the most virtuous people can be undone by the corner office.”