The Power Within: Your Potential to Create Change

Rosa Parks is often remembered as the quiet seamstress whose refusal to give up her seat on a Montgomery bus in 1955 sparked the civil rights movement. Her seemingly small act of defiance was a powerful catalyst for change. She wasn't a prominent leader at the time; she was an ordinary person who had had enough of the injustices. Her decision to remain seated was a statement against systemic oppression. This single, courageous act demonstrated that power doesn't always come from those in high positions. It lies within the actions of individuals who dare to stand (or sit) for what they believe is right. While everyone can exercise power through their choices & actions, the power to lead systemic change lays in a well-organized community that builds power together, just like civil rights movement did.

Everyone has power; many just haven't discovered it yet. Have you? Let's talk about it!

5๏ธโƒฃ Myths About Power:

First, let's address some common misconceptions that give Power a bad reputation and prevent many from exercising it:

๐Ÿ”น Power is dirty & corruptive: While power can be misused, it's not inherently bad. When used ethically and responsibly, power can be a force for good. We need it as a tool to drive change! When power becomes a goal in itself, it can lead to the dark side, often resulting in power-grabbing, hoarding, and abuse.

๐Ÿ”น Power is only for those at the top: Power exists at all levels of an organization or community. Everyone has the potential to influence and create change, regardless of their formal position. Everyone has a capacity to have power! 

๐Ÿ”น Power is finite and zero-sum: Many believe that if one person gains power, another must lose it. In reality, power can be expanded and shared, benefiting everyone involved.

๐Ÿ”น Power is solely about control and dominance: Power can also be used to empower others, foster collaboration, and build trust. It's not just about getting your way, but about creating shared purpose and working together.

๐Ÿ”น Power is static and unchanging: Power dynamics are fluid and can shift over time. As circumstances change and new challenges arise, individuals and groups can gain or lose power.

๐Ÿ”จ How to Build & Use Power as a Democratic Leader?

How you use power determines whether you're exercising leadership or not. Are you using it only for you/small group of people, or for collective good? Are you hoarding or sharing power? Democratic Leaders use power NOT to create more followers, but more leaders!

There are many traditional ways to build power - attaining a high position like CEO/President; becoming an expert; accessing resources like money or information; or acting as a gatekeeper to powerful individuals. Let's explore other mindsets for a more democratic leadership approach:

๐Ÿ”น Build Trust: The most effective way to build your power is by having more people trust you. People who trust you are ready to listen to your ideas, and take action together. How do you build trust? By cultivating trust-based relationships. Learn more about how to strategically build trust to expand your influence HERE.

๐Ÿ”น Build Coalitions and Alliances: Beyond trust & relationships, it's crucial to align the interests of different stakeholders to form coalitions. First, consider your goal and ask yourself, "What do I need more power for?" Then, identify the stakeholders you need on your side to build collective power through a coalition.

๐Ÿ”น Become Anti-Fragile: Antifragility is the ability to thrive and grow stronger in the face of challenges, as described by Nassim Taleb. This concept embodies the mindset of "What doesn't kill me makes me stronger." The crux of the idea is that thriving amidst challenges and uncertainty lessens your dependence on others, enhancing your agency.

๐Ÿ”น Develop Moral Compass: The more clarity you have about your values, and how to act upon your values, the better you can answer the question of โ€œWhat is the right thing to do?โ€. This will allow you to think independently of external pressures and groupthink, which is self-empowering.

๐Ÿ”น Empowering Others: True power comes from empowering others. Fostering an environment where everyone can contribute their best amplifies the collective power of your team, strengthening your leadership. Power is not a zero-sum game! Paradoxically, the more power you share, the more power you generate within your team, organization, or community.

๐Ÿ™…โ€โ™‚๏ธ How NOT to Abuse Power?

I was at the airport going through security when an agent started yelling at me because I had forgotten to remove my watch. I told him there was no need to yell. Offended, he made me do an additional security check and wasted 30 minutes of my time examining my luggage unnecessarily. This was a case of micro-power abuse. So, how not to be like him?

๐Ÿ”น Why do I need power? If you are seeking power, you better know why! Is it just because you are trying to overcompensate for something else you are missing (path to the dark side)? Or is it because you have a clear change in mind that will bring some collective benefit? Clarity of purpose can prevent power abuse.

๐Ÿ”น Who am I serving? Are you serving only your needs, or you include the needs of other people? The more people you are serving, the more ethical you might be.

๐Ÿ”น Am I creating dependency on me? People often gain power, and keep it only for themselves so that others always depend on them. The duty of a Democratic Leader is to create new capacity in others and empower new leaders.

๐Ÿ”น Am I being transparent and accountable? Have I communicated my intentions and reasons for this action clearly? Am I prepared to take responsibility for the outcomes of my decision?

โšก How to Use Power to Empower?

Each one of us has power within us that has yet to be activated. So, how do you enable people to find this hidden potential?

๐Ÿ”น Create space for meaningful experiences for others: Let your intern present at the next meeting; let your associate handle the next pitch. It may not be perfect, or even fail. That's ok! The next step is to reflect to help them learn from the experience. Success or failure of a single event isn't as important as the journey of continuous growth that will develop a new capacity for everyoneโ€™s benefit.

๐Ÿ”น Ask questions instead of projecting certainty and answers: When people ask you a question, respond with the most powerful question: โ€œWhat do you think?โ€ This will empower them to think, feel heard & seen, building trust & confidence. I even do this with my two toddlers!

๐Ÿ”น Enable people to create more trust: Connect people, teach them how to build trusting relationships, and facilitate conversations. The more people trust each other in an organization, the more collective power you have, and the more you can do together.

๐Ÿ”น Support them in articulating their purpose: Effective leaders have a clear understanding of their own purpose and empower others to do the same. Learn more about purpose HERE

๐Ÿ“š Book of the Week

To further explore strategies for building and distributing power, I recommend reading "Power for All" by Julie Battilana & Tiziana Casciaro. This insightful book explains how anyone can understand, gain, and use power ethically and effectively by leveraging networks, expertise, and influence to create positive change.

โœŠ Until next time, think about where you need to start to build your power to become a more effective democratic leader.  

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