The Dean’s Disease: How the Darker Side of Power Manifests Itself in the Office of Dean

In this article Arthur G. Bedeian discusses how giving a leader (a dean in this case) too much power can backfire in many ways.   My thoughts while reading this article was that why is the author only pointing his fingers at university deans abusing their powers.  After all we see this far too often in many other organizations.  My thoughts are that Bedeian either wants to use his first hand knowledge to make an improvement in the academic world or maybe there is an old grudge somewhere that he does not mention in his article.

Regardless of why this article is called “The Dean’s Disease”, this has been one of my most favorite articles that I’ve read for my organizational behavior class.  This article reminds me of how we are all human and we are made to make mistakes.  It doesn’t matter what our function is, even in the academic world where individuals are expected to be highly educated, you see how power can be abused in a way that it affects the entire education system at a university.

While reading this article I see how the main cause of this disease can be traced back to our insecurities.  I think all of us are potentially insecure with ourselves.  I think this is why we are all (at least I think all) hungry for power.  Because power means controlling, controlling other people and thus controlling our own future.  And even someone as intellectual as a dean can be blindsided by this when they see the constant praise from their colleagues and staff.  How is someone with so much power supposed to know she is making mistakes when none of her staff will speak up and reject her ideas?  And why won’t anybody stand up and voice their opinion?  Because the Dean has been given too much power.  Because majority of people are with her (or at least it seems like), because she has all the power to help them with their research or whatever they need.

So the author suggests that there should first be some prevention measures when hiring a dean, to weed out the deans who have been infected by the dean’s disease and second to have safeguards in place to make sure once they are in power they won’t abuse the power given to them.  These prevention measures and safeguards can be applied to any individual with power, not just deans.  Perhaps, the most important thing is to educate ourselves with just how diseased each one of us is capable of being when the opportunity for holding higher power arises.  Maybe the moral safeguard, is the best safeguard where we check our own behavior to see if we are behaving within the ethical code of conduct.


~ by aliahmadian on April 5, 2010.

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