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Deborah Gruenfeld: Power & Influence

Biography

Stanford Graduate School of Business
The Joseph McDonald Professor and Professor of Organizational Behavior

Research Statement

Deborah H Gruenfeld is a social psychologist whose research and teaching examine how people are transformed by the organizations and social structures in which they work. The author of numerous articles on the psychology of power, and on group behavior, Professor Gruenfeld has taught popular courses on these and related topics to MBA students and executives at Stanford and at Northwestern University’s J.L. Kellogg Graduate School of Management.

Bio

Professor Gruenfeld’s work on the psychology of power not only gives credence to the old adage that power corrupts, but it explains why this occurs. Whereas the classic Machiavellian perspective suggests that power’s effects are mostly premeditated and strategic, her research suggests that when power corrupts, it can be without conscious awareness. Her theory of power, published in Psychological Review with co-authors Dacher Keltner and Cameron Anderson, asserts that power is disinhibiting: by reducing concern for the social consequences of one’s actions, power strengthens the link between personal desires and the acts that satisfy them. Recent papers document also that power leads to an action-orientation (Journal of Personality and Social Psychology,) limits the ability to take another’s perspective (Psychological Science), and that it increases the tendency to view others as means to an end (Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.)

Professor Gruenfeld’s early work examined power dynamics in work groups, including the U.S. Supreme Court (Journal of Personality and Social Psychology; Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.) Her analyses of published opinions by U.S. Supreme Court justices suggested that when decisions are made by groups in a democracy, participants’ styles of reasoning depend more on group dynamics (that is, whether justices are in the majority or the minority) than on individual’s personalities, or their ideological preferences (liberal versus conservative.) This work received “outstanding dissertation” awards from the American Psychological Association and the Society for Experimental Social Psychology.

Professor Gruenfeld was a fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavior Sciences from 2002-2003, and she is a member of the Society of Experimental Social Psychology. She is also the recipient of research grants from the MacArthur Foundation though the Program in Arms Control, Disarmament, and International Security at the University of Illinois; and the Citicorp Behavioral Sciences Research Council.

A sought-after teacher in the field of organization behavior, Professor Gruenfeld teaches in many of Stanford’s Executive Education programs. She co-directs the Stanford Executive Program for Women, the Stanford Faculty Women’s Forum Workshop on Leadership, Management and Influence, and the Women Do Lead program for GSB alumni. In the MBA program, she teaches required courses on teams and organizational behavior, and offers the elective “Acting with Power.”

Professor Gruenfeld joined the Stanford Graduate School of Business in 2000. She received her bachelor’s degree in psychology from Cornell University in 1983, her master’s in journalism from New York University in 1985, and her PhD in psychology from the University of Illinois in 1993. Before starting her academic career, she worked as a journalist and public relations consultant.

Academic Degrees

  • PhD, University of Illinois, 1993
  • MS, New York University, 1985
  • BA, Cornell University, 1983

Academic Appointments

  • At Stanford University since 2000
  • Assistant-Associate Professor, Kellog School of Management, Northwestern University, 1993-2000

Awards and Honors

  • James and Doris McNamara Faculty Fellow for 2016-2017
  • Stanford GSB Trust Faculty Fellow, 2013-2014
  • Fellowship Recipient, Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, 2002
  • Dissertation Research Award, American Psychological Association at Kellogg Graduate School of Management, Northwestern University, 1993, 2000
  • Outstanding Dissertation Award, Society of Experimental Social Psychology, 1994

Teaching

Degree Courses

2018-19

OB 205: Managing Groups and Teams

This course introduces you to the structures and processes that affect group performance and highlights some of the common pitfalls associated with working in teams. Topics include team culture, fostering creativity and coordination, making group...

OB 333: Acting with Power

The ability to function effectively within a hierarchy is a crucial determinant of managerial success, yet many people struggle with "authority issues" that make certain hierarchical roles and positions difficult for them. This course draws on...

2017-18

OB 205: Managing Groups and Teams

This course introduces you to the structures and processes that affect group performance and highlights some of the common pitfalls associated with working in teams. Topics include team culture, fostering creativity and coordination, making group...

OB 333: Acting with Power

The ability to function effectively within a hierarchy is a crucial determinant of managerial success, yet many people struggle with "authority issues" that make certain hierarchical roles and positions difficult for them. This course draws on...

2016-17

OB 333: Acting with Power

The ability to function effectively within a hierarchy is a crucial determinant of managerial success, yet many people struggle with "authority issues" that make certain hierarchical roles and positions difficult for them. This course draws on...

Executive Education & Other Non-Degree Programs

  • Executive Program for Women Leaders Act with power, navigate the workplace, and take the lead with new strategies and tactics in this unique women’s leadership program.
  • Stanford Executive Program: Be a Leader Who Matters Learn to generate change, inspire innovation, and instill excellence at this six-week executive program.

In the Media

Teamwork Produces Better Decisions

Silicon Valley Business Journal, September 16, 2004

Complex Thinking and Clear-cut Belief

Chicago Tribune, September 4, 1996

From Paper to Reader, Something Gets Inferred in the Translation

Washington Post, April 16, 1992

Insights by Stanford Business

writtenA Look Back at 2016

December 19, 2016

Read 10 Stanford Business stories from the past year, including pieces on work-life balance, power, and management.

writtenRiding the Feedback Loop to Authentic Self-Expression

September 9, 2016

How the lessons of improv theater help business leaders become their true, powerful selves.

writtenBehavior Lessons for Leadership and Teamwork

March 20, 2012

Body language is critical to your effectiveness in working with other people, says social psychology researcher Deborah Gruenfeld.

writtenThe Thought of Acquiring Power Motivates People to Act

December 1, 2008

Research explores the relationship between having power and taking action.

writtenDeborah Gruenfeld: Diverse Teams Produce Better Decisions

April 1, 2004

Research suggests that those with a team's minority viewpoint force the majority to think more and consider diverse evidence.

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Read about executive education

Cases

Leigh Rawdon | E389 Deborah Gruenfeld, Arar Han, Lisa Sweeney2010

Leigh Rawdon | E389 Deborah Gruenfeld, Arar Han, Lisa Sweeney2010

Leigh Rawdon | E389 Deborah Gruenfeld, Arar Han, Lisa Sweeney2010

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