What Is True Power?
In every relationship on the planet, whether that be a strong or a week tie, there’s a power balance in each and every one.
By power I mean authority but not in the traditional sense. You can have contrived power, this is classic dictatorship. This power balance is highly skewed towards the dictator and the further down the line you get that less respect they have for the person in charge.
In the 1993 classic, Schindler’s List, Oskar Schindler talking to Amon Goeth (a notorious Nazi Army Commander) about what real power is, Schindler defined it as “power is when we have every justification to kill, and we don’t”.
Power isn’t exercising your right to punish someone or do something negative. Power is realized or increased when one holds restraint and shows compassion.
Power legislated by someone else isn’t actual power either. More and more politicians, elected officials, and executives give us reasons regularly as to why we shouldn’t view them as powerful. In their current position they may be powerful but how long will that last? If you don’t grow a following, if people don’t look up to you, if you’re not putting a dent in the universe, you’re going to lose your power.
A kid on the Internet can record one message on YouTube and become very powerful.
You see the power balance has shifted a lot in the past 20 years. Who we’re supposed to hold in high esteem isn’t true anymore. But really, even 50 years ago, when someone gave someone power, be it political or in business, they had to earn it. No power is given, power is only taken.
When you’re viewed as in a position of power you have a different (much higger) standard you are held to. And it’s much easier to lose respect and fall out of power than it is to gain more power.
Money used to signify power, it still does to this day but it’s losing its thunder. We get it, if you have money you can do some amazing things. But if you have money and you aren’t helping make the world a better place you aren’t gaining power, most likely the opposite is true.
So comes the obvious question, how do you acquire power? The easy answer, be someone who does well with more power/responsibility. That means trusting the people around you, building people up and having high expectations for yourself and the people around you.
It might sound counter intuitive but to gain power we must serve others. We must give power away. Going out of your way to help people changes the power balance in relationships, choosing the nobler motives, acting in others best interests not just our own is how you gain power.
True leaders (the most powerful) approach every problem the same. They ask how can I help? And how can I empower the people around me.
From elementary school sports to some of the largest companies in our world. Those who give the power away the most, end up gaining more from it in the end.
If you truly want to gain power, every day ask your team how can I help? How can I serve you better? Giving power away is the easiest way to gain actual power.
Photo Credit to one of my favourite authors, Hugh McLeod. He has a lot of great ideas.