Deborah H. Gruenfeld

Professor, Organizational Behavior
+1 (650) 725-6939

Deborah H. Gruenfeld

The Joseph McDonald Professor and Professor of Organizational Behavior

Lacob Family Faculty Fellow for 2022-2023
Academic Area:

Additional Administrative Titles

Co-Director, Executive Program in Women’s Leadership
Co-Director, High-Potential Women Leaders Program

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.


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 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

  • R. Michael Shanahan Faculty Fellow for 2021–22
  • James and Doris McNamara Faculty Fellow for 2016–17
  • Stanford GSB Trust Faculty Fellow, 2013–14
  • 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


Journal Articles


Working Papers

Academic Publications


Executive Education & Other Non-Degree Programs

Act with power, navigate the workplace, and take the lead with new strategies and tactics in this unique women’s leadership program.
Act with power, strengthen negotiating skills, learn to manage teams, and lead with impact in this unique leadership program for women on the rise.
Evolve as a leader in an executive education program that reinvigorates and ramps up your professional journey.

Stanford Case Studies

Service to the Profession

  • Member, Society of Experimental Social Psychology, Academy of Management

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