January 21, 2018

Knowing your own power

Two senior managers in conversationIt’s surprising, in a way, how little we know of our own power—our power to impact on other people.

We tend not to realise just how impactful we can be. We say things with full force when actually something more measured would meet less resistance, cause less hurt, and serve us better. This is especially true if we have formal authority as well as personal power. We’ll get a better outcome if we deliberately turn it down a bit.

Other times…

We have less power than we think we have. We don’t get the results we expect. Our power turns out not to be what we thought it was. In this case, we do well to moderate our actions to match the level of power we actually have.

Then our power will grow with our success.

Accurately gauging our personal power can make the difference between being effective and being irrelevant.


We may flinch from the sight of our own power, but it’s there whether we accept it or not—better to embrace it and use it for good rather than deny it, and so diminish our own contribution.

Do you know your own power—its nature and its strength?

Worth getting to understand it well. Then you can use it for the best.

If we’re serious about collaboration…

Three people, two shaking handsEveryone seems to want autonomy at the moment—well, perhaps not quite everybody.

The trouble is…

Complete autonomy means no influence.

If we’re serious about collaboration, we have to share power. We have to accept we won’t get our way on everything.

If we want some influence, we might have to give up on some autonomy.

We might even have to give away some power, to gain some influence, though, of course, we’ll want to retain as much of both as possible.

As with many things…

It’s all a balance.

It’s you

Man thinkingIt’s you.

It’s you that needs to take action, that is.

Or it might be.

You see…

You might be the one best-placed, even if you feel inadequately prepared.

Sometimes you don’t notice you’re closest. You stand back. You think someone else will take action.


You wonder why no-one is doing anything.

You might look around to see who out there is in the best position to act; who has the power.

Sometimes, in fact…

It’s you.

And we need you to act.

Probably as soon as possible.

We don’t laugh at the majority

High Street sceneWe don’t laugh at the majority, because the majority has power.

And we don’t laugh at power, because it’s dangerous. It might throw us out.

But we do laugh at minorities, because minorities are weak.

And we do laugh at weakness because it’s safe.

Minorities are different, and different is funny. Really, it is. Unexpected difference is the basis of humour.

Yes, I know, you’re horrified to think you’re involved.

But we all do it, because it’s everywhere. It’s in our culture and our language, and it’s unconscious, in our norms, the little jokes. Sure, we’re mindful in some areas. But not in others.

Sometimes it’s the little, subtle things that hurt, not the big ones, because we don’t notice, but they do.

I know I’ve made these mistakes. It’s a lifelong effort, learning to avoid them.

For all of us perhaps.

The making of Gold Medal performance

Jessica EnnisWatching interviews with Gold Medal winners and other Olympic high performers, it’s striking how most of them seem thoroughly pleasant and even ordinary people – very far from the sometime stereotype of winner as warrior. In short, they are profoundly human.

Sure, in the background, there may well be a coach demanding ever higher effort. And it seems that bringing a little more aggression into his game has made a difference for Andy Murray, for example.

Older hands talk about experience bringing the presence of mind to deliver absolute performance as well as winning medals. Younger heads instead sometimes stopping at “merely” beating their rivals.

What this got to do with leadership and people and change and the everyday?

Are top athletes leaders? In the sense of influencing others, and so stimulating change, they clearly are.

So here’s the thing…

The most inspirational Gold Medal winners combine both power and humanity. Neither is enough on its own, for them or for us.

Danny Bole – A model of empowering other people

Fascinated to catch this week’s castaway, writer Frank Cottrell Boyce on BBC Radio 4 Desert Island Discs say that filmmaker Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire, Trainspotting) was one of those people who, when he said to do something, you did it, because if Danny said do it, you believed you could do it – what a great gift to give another person, and what a fantastic power to cultivate.

Evidently, Frank was spotting an ability in others he possessed himself, judging by what he had to say about the work he’s done and his family.

An opportunity for us all perhaps – help each other bat away our limiting beliefs.