Where’s your power?

Infographic depicting sources of powerPower.

It’s a tricksy concept, isn’t it?

Kind of uncomfortable for a lot of people.

As a leader, you have power.

You might be a new manager with just one person reporting to you.

You have power.

Actually, you have power even if no one reports to you.

We all have power.

It’s how we use it that matters.

Or how we don’t use it.

And those statements cut in two directions.

How we use it.

Power is a tool.

Just as a hammer can be used to build something beautiful, or can be used to hurt or even kill someone, so too power can be used for good or ill.

Power can manipulate, inflict itself on others, create division, intimidate, diminish, hold back – all manner of things that hurt people.

Power can also guide, strengthen, teach, lead, support, develop – all manner of things that help people.

How we don’t use it.

I was recently horrified by a friend’s description of an event where – yes, I’m going there – masculine power over a woman’s appearance was blatantly and despicably demonstrated.

There was no physical violence. Power doesn’t require physical violence; anyone who’s been hurt emotionally, intellectually, or professionally by someone’s inappropriate use of power knows that.

But I’m not telling this story to demonstrate that some people use their power in awful ways – I covered that in the previous section.

No. My point here is that the woman in this story did not use her power. Instead of objecting, she acquiesced. And the people around her didn’t act either; they too abdicated their power.

We’ve all seen, or been involved in, situations where someone (us?) didn’t use their power when they could – perhaps should – have done so.

And we can all think of times when we used our power to exploit, manipulate, or belittle someone else, even if only in minor ways. (Though is any mis-use of power minor? I’m not sure…)

Power is tricky.

As human beings – whether we lead none, one, or thousands – we owe it to the people over whom we have power to be conscious and intentional of how we wield that power.

And don’t fool yourself into believing you have no power.

You do.

Use it wisely.