What Is Power, Really?

Rick Miller published on Forbes.com:

Many assume power comes from “outside-in.” They believe power is granted to a person by someone else. They see power as a position or title, which comes with authority and control, and a belief in the form of supremacy over others.

Others believe that real power comes from “inside-out.” They maintain that power is an opportunity for each individual to cultivate by themselves. Real power is increased within a person simply by the choices they make, the actions they take, and the thoughts they create.

I am an inside-out guy. I don’t believe it matters what the organizational chart says. Power is available to everyone, no matter their position or title. But what is power, really?

Real power is influence, and it increases as we offer more support to others. Being powerful is more about giving support than getting support. Contrary to what you may have thought about power, service is the highest form of leadership. Serving others is a key to sustainable growth. And it creates the kind of influence that truly powerful people wield—the kind that resonates and uplifts.

Real power is clarity, and it gets stronger with discipline. Having power is more about creating an environment that encourages every individual to engage in their own form of self-discipline. That’s not to say discipline never comes from above, but by empowering each member of an organization to be accountable, discipline from above will not be required as frequently. Discipline brings clarity to any situation, increasing an individual’s power.

Real power is energy, and it intensifies from inside as our insight and self-understanding grow. Insight is an integral element of being powerful. A person with real power does not influence the world around him or her without consideration of the bigger picture that begins inside. From my experience with this vantage point, true growth—both personal and professional—is far more likely. Insightful individuals are able to tap into an internal energy that is felt by others as power.

Real power is impact, and it grows as we focus on our creativity. Creating the future is not about waving a magic wand. It is a concrete practice that serves the purpose of being powerful with a purpose. Creative solutions make an impact—on people, organizations, and societies. Real power sometimes comes from the unlikeliest of places.

Real power is confidence, and it rises as we better understand and live our values. What do you stand for? When you speak about your values and act accordingly, you increase your power because you are confident in your assertions. The power is palpable—and effective.

Real power is what happens when people connect what they do to who they are. [click to tweet]

Power Is Contagious

Once anyone in a group chooses to become more powerful, everyone around that person becomes more powerful. Research supports this view. Scientists have found that positive emotions spread from person to person in a work environment. An individual’s or group’s emotion plays a strong role in the behavior of an organization.

Studies show that positive mood or emotion enhances creative problem solving, cooperation, decision quality, overall performance, the search for creative solutions, and confidence in being able to achieve positive outcomes. One study by Wharton’s Sigal Barsade, PhD, found that a spread of positive emotion is associated with improved cooperation, decreased conflict, and increased task performance in the workplace. They call it “the ripple effect.”

I’ve experienced this cascading effect again and again throughout my career. I call it viral engagement.

How To Increase Organizational Power

When an organization builds effective, integrated strategies in six areas—customer, competition, financial capital, cost, community, and climate—they establish the conditions for creating real power. When the organization deploys plans in the following areas, a truly powerful organization is created:

Measure and improve employee engagement; ensure diversity and gender-balanced leadership; consistently assess, improve, and expand employee “hard and soft” skillsets; add new skillsets when necessary; align team members around a values-based vision for the future; and build a change-adaptive culture to meet accelerating changes in market needs tied to management’s strategic decisions.

What could happen if your organization recognized where true power comes from?

 

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