Power: You Know You Want It

Admit it.  You want power, and you should.  Your power is beautiful. It’s your birthright, the key to absolute success, and the foundation of a meaningful life.

Why is it hard to admit? For good reason. Let’s say you’ve agreed to partake in a word-association test. You’d likely respond to the prompt word of “power” by blurting out something like “greed”, “evil” or “bullies”. This is because most of us associate power with abuse of power, not real power. This in itself is cultural commentary and reflects the myriad of ways we’ve all been hurt by the misuse of power, from simple acts of rudeness to serious acts of violence.  As T.S. Eliot said, “Half the harm that is done in this world is due to people who want to feel important.”  Power mongers don’t feel important, they feel impotent.

Real power isn’t a bad thing; it’s beautiful. “Power is essential for all living things. No human being can exist for long without some sense of his [or her] significance. It is the lack of this sense of significance, and the struggle for it, that underlies much violence” (Rollo May, Power and Innocence, W.W. Norton, 1998). When one’s inborn tendency toward creative, magnificent power is frustrated in the wrong ways, deviancies often develop, like addictions, depression and mayhem. In the workplace, abuse of power is a major source of bullying, productivity deficits, and frustrated advancement of brilliantly talented people (especially those from traditionally under-represented groups).

Most of us know, somewhere deep down inside, that we’re immensely powerful and way more unstoppable than we readily announce – and this instinct is spot on.  No need to hide it any more. Your true strength is good for you, and your true strength is good for me.  To the extent you can access your authentic strength, I’m safer in the world.

Society has placed (and still places) profound limits on people from underrepresented groups. We support these individuals in fully expressing their original and rightful strength; doing so is the best defense against artificially imposed obstacles.

Benevolent power is the source of creative and beneficial projects. Organizations built on truly empowered leaders prosper:  employee productivity goes up and HR costs go down. But, even more, a world with truly strong people is a safer world.

Admit it for yourself. You know you want it. And you should.

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