How Leaders Self-Regulate Their Task Performance: Evidence That Power Promotes Diligence, Depletion, and Disdain
When leaders perform solitary tasks, do they self-regulate to maximize their effort, or do they reduce effort and conserve their resources? Our model suggests that power motivates self-regulation toward effective performance-unless the task is perceived as unworthy of leaders. Our 1st studies showed that power improves self-regulation and performance, even when resources for self-regulation are low (ego depletion). Additional studies showed that leaders sometimes disdain tasks they deem unworthy, by withholding effort (and therefore performing poorly). Ironically, during ego depletion, leaders skip the appraisal and, therefore, work hard regardless of task suitability, so that depleted leaders sometimes outperform nondepleted ones. Our final studies replicated these patterns with different tasks and even with simple manipulation of framing and perception of the same task (Experiment 5). Experiment 4 also showed that the continued high exertion of leaders when depleted takes a heavy toll, resulting in larger impairments later. The judicious expenditure of self-control resources among powerful people may help them prioritize their efforts to pursue their goals effectively.