37 Provocative Thoughts about Power

Since publishing Influential Leadership: A Leader’s Guide to Getting Things Done, I’ve had a great many conversations with people about leadership and power.

At a junior level, most people are afraid of the topic, or at the very least, wary. They don’t want to get ensnared by the intrigue, although they are still ambitious.

Middle level leaders seem to dislike it, yet realise it is an important concept they ought to get their heads around. Senior leaders have learned how to harness its potential.

That doesn’t mean power is intrinsically bad. Actually, most that is good in the world has been created by someone who had the power to make it happen.

However, you do need to get to grips with it if you are to fulfil your potential.

And that means you have to think, and to learn.

To provoke that thought, and help you to start advancing on this topic, here are 37 ideas that will give you pause for thought.

On the purpose of power:

  • If you are not prepared to pursue power — get out of the game of work because you will never excel.
  • Power itself is a neutral concept until intention bends it to either abusive or virtuous action.
  • Power is about getting what you want and need, for yourself and others. Who wants to be powerless?
  • Gaining power and influence gives you independence and responsibility.
  • Power = input; politics = process; influence = output.
  • Do you have enough power? Yes, if you are consistently able to make happen what you want to make happen.
  • Powerless People Peddle Petty Politics.
  • Powerful People Promote Positive Politics.
  • Most people exaggerate the power of other people and underestimate their own power.
  • Your relationship with power says plenty about your history, but what about your future?

On the pursuit and use of power:

  • If you want to create a powerful resource, just start learning more about the people you work with. Ask more questions.
  • Power creates influence because people calculate how it can help or hinder them compared to other power sources.
  • Power can be spent, lost or stolen, as well as acquired and used.
  • Power usually goes to the person who is alert to it, seldom to the one who is most capable of using it well.
  • Scarcity is what makes an asset powerful.
  • If you empower someone, you are investing some of your power in them with a view to getting a return at some point.
  • If people break your rules, your power is probably going down. If you’re breaking others’ rules, your power is probably rising.
  • The reason why the wrong people often acquire power is that others leave it lying around.
  • It is not your actual power that enables you to influence, but the power others think you have.
  • If you trust, you have given someone a power over you. And if you don’t trust, can you work with others?
  • Where there is change, politics follows in hot pursuit. This is because power is liquefied and is being redistributed.
  • People have power as do issues and agendas. To gain more power, try picking up and running with an issue.
  • People who keep name dropping are borrowing power from someone else — and EVERYONE knows it!
  • Harnessing the power of informal groups is a big opportunity (ignored by most) for greater influence in large organisations.
  • In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king. Seek assets that others want and haven’t got, and your power will grow.
  • Has your power risen or fallen today? The value of power can go down as well as up!
  • If political capital is the quality of your relationships with powerful people, what’s your investment strategy?

On the consequences of becoming powerful:

  • Having less power forces better thinking and preparation. Powerful people beware complacency.
  • If you have enough power, you don’t need politics.
  • Beware: As power accumulates, purpose gets forgotten and power becomes the goal.
  • Power is addictive. It also creates hallucinations. Be careful not to overdose.
  • Regard power as a precious asset and it will help you to spend it wisely.
  • Ego and power are dangerous bedfellows.
  • The relentless procession of short-term problems keeps talented people occupied while the powerful prosper.
  • Power, like money, makes it difficult to work out who your real friends are.
  • Power without goodwill fast becomes oppression.
  • The acquisition of power delivers responsibility. What good will you do with it?

Now, a final question, what do you think about power?


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Originally published on the Influence Blog.

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