Jump to the following topics:
- What is power?
positive and negative aspects of power.
for gaining and using power.
What is power? It is the ability to
act effectively toward the attainment of a goal. In interpersonal
dynamics, it is the capacity to influence people physically,
emotionally, or intellectually, to compel them to perform, feel, or
think in a certain manner.
positive and negative aspects of power.
- The positive aspects of power.
The negative aspects of power.
- When we are powerful, we have more capability to be the
person we want to be, doing the activities we want to do. We
make choices assertively. We survive, and we thrive. We feel
optimistic and confident; powerless people feel helpless and
- Power is only one aspect of the process of living in a
dynamic world; it can be defined as the administered vigor
which makes things happen. But power disrupts that process when
it is sought for its own sake, when we embrace a position
solely for the attainment of power. Power is meant to be the
servant of our efforts to reach goals which are based on our
values. Although one of those values might be "to obtain
power," power frequently becomes an intoxicating distraction
away from other human goals which must be honored --
friendship, love, compassion, social accord, and so on. Then,
instead of friendships, we have power alliances; instead of
mutual cooperation, we have cold-hearted calculations -- and
for gaining and using power.
- We can find many sources of power. Some of those sources
Take back your power. Sometimes gaining power means to take
back the power we have wrongly given away -- to people, beliefs,
money, possessions, and so on. To give our power away means to
believe that someone or something is better at serving our needs
than we are. Certainly, for example, a doctor is better at
diagnosing our illness, but "giving away our power" would be to
relinquish our right to ask questions, and to inquire about
possible options in treatment, and to seek a second opinion. We
take back our power by right-sizing our estimation of things:
- Knowledge, especially in this "information age."
Specialized knowledge includes that of human nature (in
ourselves and in other people), motivation, the workings of our
occupation and the world in general, and other information
which increases our ability to participate and influence.
- Skills. These are jobs skills, social skills,
organizational skills, and so on.
- Influence. We can gain authority over people and resources.
This can mean anything in the spectrum from dictatorship to the
swaying of other people's opinions to the non-manipulative
service as a role model and source of inspiration and support.
We can gain power from other people. In politics,
international relations, and interpersonal dynamics, the desire to
govern other people might be an expression of one of three aims:
(1) to express power for its own sake (i.e., using power to gain
more power), or (2) to dominate people (i.e., using power to
impose our goals at the cost of theirs), or (3) to be a
facilitator and steward (i.e., to accomplish goals for the good of
all). Stewardship offers these advantages:
- We don't project an inordinate value onto things. For
example, we don't believe that money buys happiness, although
it can buy goods and services which make a personal world in
which happiness is easier to attain; for example, we can buy a
home in which we are comfortable, and gifts for friends -- but
we don't try to use money to buy the particular things that
money can't buy. And we don't give inordinate power to
people, wrongly believing that they control our
destiny and dignity.
- We are not fearful. However, we are appropriately cautious,
recognizing other people's power to hurt us.
- We don't entrust people with the responsibility for our
lives. In the example, of the doctor, we don't expect the
doctor to maintain our health; a doctor can help us during
crises, but our health-maintenance is our duty --
through our decision to eat nutritious foods, and to exercise,
- We develop our own values, viewpoints, opinions, and
decisions, instead of letting other people impose theirs.
Get power by taking responsibility. To assume responsibility
is to participate actively in whatever is happening in our lives,
so that we can protect and enhance our interests. We lose power
whenever fail to take responsibility, i.e., whenever we make
excuses, or wrongly blame other people, or claim victimhood when a
situation was partly our fault, or unduly react (rather than
merely respond) to people and situations, or relinquish processes
and outcomes to other people or to kismet. We can assume
responsibility in such matters as our finances, health, job,
personal relationships, actions, thoughts, feelings, problems,
successes and failures, various circumstances, and our life in
general; the fact is that we are responsible for those
things, regardless of whether we acknowledge this fact. Even when
we take responsibility, we cannot control all events around us,
but we can still assert responsibility (and power) by selecting
our responses to those events.
Express power through every action you make. Power is an
aspect of our general assertiveness into life; it gives our
assertiveness a forceful presence which must be acknowledged by
people and materials. At every moment, we are interacting with the
outer world and our inner world, so we have an opportunity to
select whichever position allows us to express and receive power.
The management of power is a skill which can be practiced
- The steward has the capability of acquiring more power than
does the tyrant. Both the steward and the tyrant can build
consent by crystallizing the people's self-interest toward a
common goal -- but, ultimately, the tyrant's personal aims will
conflict with those of the people, thus creating resentment and
rebellion (and a loss of the power that would otherwise be
given through the people's cooperation). A tyrant views this
turmoil as part of the game; a steward considers turmoil to be
either an unfortunate part of the creative process or as an
indication that his or her management has excluded people whose
voices need to be heard.
- The steward is more likely to have a reign of peace, and
peace of mind. The attitude toward leadership is that
"someone has to do it"; what's important is that the
service be done, not that this person must be the one to do it.
The power comes from consent, or from fate, or divine grace.
When circumstances or a personal decision require a new person
in the position of power, the current steward might regret
unfinished projects and unfulfilled dreams, but the power is
probably passed with dignity and tranquility, rather than with
a tyrant's last gasp of destruction and self-destruction (as in
Hitler's latter-day decisions to scorch Germany and to kill
- The power of stewardship is likely to be more endearing.
People readily give authority to a strong person who will use
that power to benefit them. Philosophers have said that the
path of the power and the path of love are incompatible;
stewardship allows us to use power while retaining our human
qualities of kindness and love. Some of our most-beloved heroes
have been leaders who used their power to help us and to make
us stronger; the most-hated people have been those who used
their power to hurt us to realize visions that did not include
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