There is also the question of finding leaders who are more interested in receiving prestige and respect than having power. This is a particular challenge since many people who desire power tend to self-select into positions of leadership, while prestige-motivated workers may be happier working in less flashy positions.
“A real trick for organizations is to identify who those people are and raise them up into positions of leadership, whether or not they ask for it, because they might not always be as inclined as power-hungry people are to seek high-status positions in their organization,” Maner says.
But Maner cautions against seeing these prestige-motivated leaders as a cure-all. “Our work has painted a pretty magnanimous portrait of prestige-oriented leaders,” Maner says, “but I think that’s probably an oversimplification.”
In future research, he hopes to explore how prestige-motivated leaders make decisions when forced to choose between what will make the group happy and what is best for the organization.
“We have some preliminary evidence that they will undermine the goals of the group if it means maintaining prestige within the eyes of their subordinates,” he says.
In the end, the goal of his research is to help organizations function smoothly and productively.
“The ultimate goal here is to figure out how to help groups perform better,” he says. “That means selecting better leaders and bringing out the best in leaders. By understanding the motives that might drive leaders to behave in ways that hurt their organization, we’re better armed to combat those behaviors.