Deborah H. Gruenfeld

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

Deborah H. Gruenfeld

The Joseph McDonald Professor and Professor of Organizational Behavior

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, Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University, 1993–2000

Awards and Honors

  • Lacob Family Faculty Fellow, 2022–23
  • 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

Em Reit, Deborah H. Gruenfeld
Journal of Experimental Social Psychology
July 2022 Vol. 101
Melissa J, Williams, Deborah H. Gruenfeld, Lucia E. Guillory
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology
February 2017 Vol. 112 Issue 2 Pages 201-223
M. Ena Inesi, Deborah H. Gruenfeld, Adam D. Galinsky
Journal of Experimental Social Psychology
2012 Vol. 48 Issue 4 Pages 795-803
Li Huang, Adam D. Galinsky, Deborah H. Gruenfeld, Lucia E. Guillory
Psychological Science
January 2011 Vol. 22 Issue 1 Pages 95-102
Adam D. Galinsky, Deborah H. Gruenfeld, Joe C. Magee
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology
2003 Vol. 85 Issue 3 Pages 453-466
Dacher Keltner, Deborah H. Gruenfeld, Cameron Anderson
Psychological Review
2003 Vol. 110 Issue 2 Pages 265-284
Deborah H. Gruenfeld, Jared Preston
Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin
2000 Vol. 26 Issue 8 Pages 1013-1022
Deborah H. Gruenfeld, Paul V. Martorana, Elliott T. Fan
Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes
2000 Vol. 82 Issue 1 Pages 45–59
Deborah H. Gruenfeld
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology
1995 Vol. 68 Issue 1 Pages 5-20


Deborah H. Gruenfeld
April 7, 2020

Working Papers

Deborah H. Gruenfeld, Nathanael Fast, Adam Galinsky, Niro Sivanathan 2008
Deborah H. Gruenfeld, Cameron Anderson, Dacher Keltner 2000
Deborah H. Gruenfeld, Margaret Ann Neale, Elizabeth Mannix, Katherine Williams 1998

Academic Publications

Don DeCarlo, Deborah H. Gruenfeld
Insurance Advocate
May 2020 Vol. 131 Issue 7 Pages 17–25


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

Deborah Gruenfeld, Arar Han, Lisa Sweeney

Service to the Profession

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

In the Media

Insights by Stanford Business

January 24, 2024
If we want to change power structures, then we need to understand the animal forces that drive our behavior.
December 13, 2022
Members of the Stanford GSB faculty recommend some of their favorite programs.
December 12, 2022
Eleven articles to help you work, lead, and collaborate better.
August 04, 2022
When confronted with a controlling, aggressive leader, people “have more power than they think they do,” says Deborah Gruenfeld.
July 07, 2022
The latest books from Stanford GSB faculty and lecturers.
June 20, 2022
This episode explores ways to overcome the unique challenges women in business face from society and themselves.
April 12, 2022
How to use power more effectively in your business.
February 17, 2022
Five lessons in five minutes: Professor Deborah Gruenfeld shows how to build and lead successful teams.
December 11, 2020
Cozy up and listen up to our top episodes from 2020.
December 09, 2020
We’ve compiled an eclectic collection of books to share — or hoard — while sheltering in place this season.
November 19, 2020
We’ve gathered together the most memorable articles, interviews, podcasts, and videos from a year of world-changing events.
June 08, 2020
On this podcast episode, we discuss how to harness power through non-verbal communication.
April 28, 2020
We all know what it looks like to use power badly. A new book shows us how it can be used well.
December 19, 2016
Read 10 Stanford Business stories from the past year, including pieces on work-life balance, power, and management.
September 09, 2016
How the lessons of improv theater help business leaders become their true, powerful selves.
March 20, 2012
Body language is critical to your effectiveness in working with other people, says social psychology researcher Deborah Gruenfeld.
December 01, 2008
Research explores the relationship between having power and taking action.
April 01, 2004
Research suggests that those with a team's minority viewpoint force the majority to think more and consider diverse evidence.

School News

January 18, 2024
If/Then aims to help business leaders address modern problems
December 06, 2022
Articles, videos, and podcasts that capture great teaching and memorable lessons.
November 04, 2021
Squad game: New MBA students get a crash course in decision-making under pressure.
February 19, 2019
The newly established symposia are a testament to the lasting impact of David M. Kreps’ contributions to Stanford GSB.
June 01, 2011
Neale is the 13th recipient and first woman to receive the Davis Award for lifetime achievement by a faculty member.
April 15, 2008
Christina, BA ’78, and Hamid Moghadam, MBA ’80, established the Moghadam Family Professorship in Stanford GSB, adding their names to an honor roll of donors.
January 01, 2007
To attendees at the WIM banquet, 2007 from Prof. Joanne Martin