Exercises on Power and Control

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This blog is about control amidst varying contexts for leaders who want to learn to be stable amidst fast-paced change or chaos. It includes exercises to help you identify what empowers you and how to use these to feel in-control.

What is power?

Every interaction is about power. The power to meet one’s basic human needs, which motivates each one of us.

Internal power is the ability to use inner resources to wield inner and outer results, especially useful when external systems and structures are crumbling. External power is the use of position power, prestige or money to influence the way other people think, feel and behave. Many people use external power with fear in order to subdue others, yet dislike the resulting compliance and lack of creative problem-solving. When inner power is used to bring people together around a meaningful goal that serves everyone, it is most powerful.

In addition, inner power is energy that is constantly consumed and re-generated, creating a sense of stability and strength that leads to fulfillment. External power does not satiate in the same way as one needs more and more position power, prestige or money to feel good about him/herself. This process never ends; it creates resource hoarding and greed that are also unfulfilling behaviors.

What is control?

Control is a perceived experience of being able to determine outcomes. The LIM assumptions have given us the impression that we can actually control the outside world. In fact, most people have a hard time controlling or influencing their own thoughts, feelings and behavior, yet seek to control the outside world. I wrote about this last week, so you can read more about that here. The reason that I write about power and control frequently is that they’re interconnected to all aspects of leading. Plus, they require various levels of exploration to be masterfully used.

Feeling in-control in various contexts

One of the keys to HCL leading is to satiate yourself or “fill your belly” before leading. This allows you to lead from your highest-effective self, which helps you feel “in control.” This “in control” feeling means that you’re focusing on your triads and don’t fear external outcomes, while you’re attentive to guide and influence specific experiences, relationships and results. You can transfer this feeling of “in control” to any context because it’s part of you when you’re focusing on your triads. The more you can dip into your own inner power to feel good about yourself, the more flexible you can be and lead across contexts, which is important as the economy shifts and shakes amidst systemic change.

When you notice that you need something to happen outside of you to feel good/calm/secure/reassured, etc, ask yourself who is leading — your least- or highest-effective self? The needy self is the least-effective self who has been socialized by the LIM. Your empowered self is your highest-effective self who knows the right thing to do in any situation. You can also call this type of leading, clean leading.

As a reminder, I’m including this image re: who we are when born/young and who we end up via LIM socialization — it’s never the person, it’s always the system/context:


Exercise: Explore what empowers you

Make a list of what you respect in yourself and then a list of what empowers you and see how/if they’re different. Maybe there’s a lot of overlap, maybe they’re distinct lists and either way, they provide a wide range of ways to feel good about yourself. As you use these resources to feel “in control,” you won’t need any outer control and that will help you conserve time and energy. The more time you spend looking externally to feel good about yourself and get things done, the more you’re looking in the wrong place. Look internally to your triads and influence the outer world, knowing that everyone has the right and responsibility to take care of themselves. As a leader, look for ways to meet everyone’s needs while achieving goals that are clear and compelling.

Other questions you can ask yourself:

      • What do you currently do that disempowers you? In which contexts do you do that? How do you feel in those situations?
      • Do you notice any patterns between disempowering habits you used as a child within the family context and the ones you currently use within your family and work context?
      • Choose one disempowering behavior and shift it — how might a slight change make it an empowering tool? For instance, if you were labeled as a lazy person as a child, you can transform that to know that you need motivation to do something with zest. Then search for what motivates you and find relationships and work around those motivators.

After you’ve assessed what disempowers you and know what empowers you, ask yourself how those attributes or experiences make you feel. In control, out of control? How can you use that “in control” feeling from your empowered self to lead differently than you have in the past? Take one example in your home or work life and reflect on it from the perspective of your empowered self. What do you notice?

it IS possible to feel “in control” while the existing political, economic and social systems are shaking and we, 7B-strong continue reshaping the world. Take the example of fire fighters — they deliberately walk into burning buildings while most of us would run the other way. They learn about fire, heat, chemicals, building structures and the like (all inner – this is about knowledge or ways of thinking), giving them the needed resources to be able to walk into dangerous situations and come out alive. They also have the certainty, significance, connection and contribution that they’re doing something good, of service to others and that feeds their inner needs, generating inner power. From all the past fires, you’d think that most fire fighters would be burned to death by now, yet most thrive because they’re “in control” amidst outer instability and danger. They can’t control the fire, yet they control their triads and influence the outcome by understanding fire’s needs, so to speak.

Using inner power and feeling “in control” from that state of power provides many ways to move toward danger, chaos, challenges. In an organizational context, this can mean moving toward conflict, seeing people as people and responding to their emotions with respect without getting physically, emotionally or politically injured. Another example is standing up for people when there is blame or criticism within a team. This strategy uses the value of humanity as power to face and influence unfair or unproductive situations. The more you depend on inner resources, the more stable you feel across contexts.

Enjoy the process of getting to know yourself and let me know what you learn!


[Image from Freepik]