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Leadership Power

Power. The undiscussable word.

From the moment you receive a promotion, the people around you will start behaving subtly differently. Suddenly there’s a status threat, no matter how small, that triggers people to be more considered in what they’re willing to share with you.

Emotionally intelligent leaders with high levels of self-awareness sense this shift in energy, this slight retreat, and understand intuitively that how they use their power will either build a culture of trust, or start seeding pockets of distrust.

Julie Diamond speaks about four (4) rules of power:

  1. Power is a feeling and not a fact! Power is a behaviour that is driven by emotions
  2. It’s easier to feel low power than it is to feel the positive influence of a high power role; so no matter how high up you are in the company organisational chart, any threat will trump how you feel
  3. Context trumps social rank; if you change social groups, move to another division, your social status doesn’t translate
  4. Social power is very fragile, and it easily creates entanglements and enmeshments.

Transformational leaders understand the importance of power dynamics and strive to use their power to serve and support others.

Dr Brené Brown offers insightful perspectives on power in her work.

  • Power Over vs. Power With: Power over refers to a hierarchical, controlling type of power, while “power with” is about shared power, collaboration, and empowerment. She advocates for “power with” and “power to”, highlighting that courageous leadership and connection come from empowering others rather than controlling them.

  • Power and Vulnerability: Embracing vulnerability is essential for authentic power. By being open and honest about your own vulnerabilities, you can connect more deeply with others and create more meaningful relationships and communities.

  • Power and Shame: There is a relationship between power and shame ~ leaders who are standing on a rickety platform of self-worth are more likely to abuse power. In contrast, when power is used to support and uplift others, it helps reduce shame and fosters a sense of worthiness and belonging.

  • Power and Empathy: Empathy plays a huge role in wielding power responsibly. Leaders who use power empathetically create environments where people feel seen, heard, and valued.

Here are some questions for you to think about as you reflect on your own relationship with power:

  • Am I providing team members with the resources, support, and autonomy they need to succeed, or am I micromanaging and dictating their every move?
  • Am I applying rules and policies uniformly across the team, or do I show favouritism and inconsistency?
  • Am I actively seeking and genuinely considering the opinions, feedback, and ideas of my team members, or am I disregarding their contributions and making unilateral decisions?