Power is an Inside Job — or is that Only in Fairyland?


Power in Today’s Structures

Today’s party line is that power is external and the only way to be powerful is to chase, pay the price for and achieve success as it’s been defined for millennia: position power, prestige and money. Many leaders have one of those, fewer have two and even fewer have them all. Standford Business School’s Jeff Pfeffer summarizes this part line perfectly with his pragmatic and practical distinctions. He’s teaching people how to become powerful in today’s structures:

Today’s Structures are Crumbling

While position power, prestige and money are the success metrics used for millennia, new power rules are being defined as we speak. The current political, economic and social structures are crumbling all around us. Want proof? Just look at how differently these institutions looked when your parents were your age and now:

Image_Power is an Inside Job table

In order to remain stable, confident and effective when external systems and structures are shifting frequently and drastically changing, leaders need new power sources.

New Power Sources

The new power sources are internal — honesty, integrity, values-based leading, vision, self-trust, self-respect, self-understanding, self-awareness. Nobody is born knowing about him/herself, so if there isn’t a sufficient level of introspection and self-reflection during life, there is no self-learning. Questions such as: why do I choose financial gains over integrity or a partner who looks good instead of makes me feel good are useful starting points to self-awareness.

As the wise ancient Greek, Socrates, said: “An unexamined life is not worth living.” Why? What makes life more powerful and enriching through self-examination?

Self-examination allows you to assess your motivations and align your thoughts, feelings and behavior. When these are aligned around a vision and values, you become congruent, confident and capable of making intelligent decisions, in any environment. If you don’t know which part of you you’d “sell,” you don’t know how you’ll react within a specific context and therefore, may — and usually will, be surprised about your actions, reactions, decisions and agreements.

Imagine if you enter into a negotiation with someone who is better at negotiating than you are, and can influence the way you behave. If you don’t know how you behave, you won’t be able to represent yourself very well and you might even leave the meeting thinking, “I hadn’t intended to say or do that…”

Imagine, on the other hand, that you enter into a negotiation with someone who is a more skilled negotiator and you know where or how you get hooked and can accommodate yourself. Let’s say you get hooked when people criticize your achievements and this makes you feel weak, which leads you to withdraw or become overwhelmed by the discussion at hand. A very unpleasant experience. Let’s say, because you know yourself, you resolve the hooks and therefore, do not get sidetracked by such ploys, you’re much more powerful — not only to get what you want, but to influence others, as well.

Isn’t Inner Power Really Fairyland?

The people who question inner power are those who haven’t developed any. Everyone is born with the capacity to build the inner resources to stay calm and strong amidst the wind, yet too many people are dependent on external validation, regardless of how it feels; what it costs.

If you want to verify the wealth of inner power, note which power sources that visionaries used to create transformations bigger than themselves: Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela. They did not use position power, prestige or money to achieve their goals, but rather dependent on their commitment, vision and generosity in transforming society for the sake of the greater good. They had to forsake immediate gratification and external validation in order to achieve their intentions.

The Challenge in Using New Power Sources

The challenge to using new power sources is overcoming the collective socialization. There isn’t one group of people (within a country) that participates within the global economy, that hasn’t adopted the use of external power at the expense of the internal. Even people in countries with ancient cultures such as Greece, India, China, Iran, most have abandoned the use of their ancient wisdom for the sake of looking successful to others within the modern world. “What will people say?” has become more important than “Who am I?” and so, internal power has been undermined and even, condemned as naive and useless.

Fast-forward to today’s world in which leaders who have tried all the tips and tricks suggested by myriad leadership professors, serial entrepreneurs, coaches and “gurus,” and only the insightful few will shift out of “If I haven’t succeed in doing what they’ve said, it must be because I need to try harder.” This line of thinking is what most people think, yet it doesn’t create any meaningful results in times of transition.

Try harder or try something profoundly different?

What to Do?

      1. Drop the thought that you need anything OUTSIDE yourself to be a leader worth following
      2. Start nurturing your inner power — the power that transcends position and context

Start getting to know yourself. What makes you tick. What motivates you. What depletes you. What humiliates you. Look in the mirror, straight into your eyes and say “I respect you.” If you’re able to look yourself in the eyes and questions your motivations, bravo. If you have to look away or break into tears, use that information to explore more deeply. It’s about the relationship between you and you.

For Doubters Only

If you notice yourself dismissing the idea of inner power altogether, try influencing someone without having position power, prestige or money and see what happens.



{Image by Freepik}