No one wants to talk about power. Understandably. Power has become a dirty word, conjuring images of coercion and domination. But regardless of whether we talk about it or not, it exists. And poor use of power has a huge – and costly – impact.
Almost every conflict and organizational breakdown revolves around either the misuse of power or the failure to use it appropriately or at all. We hold back for fear of reprisal. We don’t contribute opinions that could have critical impact. We fail to listen to others’ opinions. We’re riddled with indecisiveness. We’re unable to give or receive direct feedback. We shut down productive dialogue. These are all issues related to power.
So what does power really mean? Power is simply energy in use. It’s neither inherently bad nor good. The need for power is a natural, fundamental human need to exercise influence over people, processes, and things.
Most people think of power as positional: your place in the hierarchy and the authority and influence you have based on title or status. But truly effective leadership requires personal power as well. Personal power isn’t contingent on your position. It is sourced from within. Personal power is your self-awareness and confidence; it is your ability to trust your perceptions and speak them firmly and clearly. Personal power is your capacity to bounce back from difficulty and to keep learning and growing. It’s the ability to have productive conflict and to challenge others to step up.
But first and foremost, personal power is the dignity with which you treat yourself. When you treat yourself with dignity, you communicate with authenticity and confidence, and naturally treat others with dignity and respect too.
Our research shows that when these two powers, positional and personal, are combined, one’s capacity for leadership grows exponentially. We call this power squared. As a squared leader, you are a purpose-driven leader who uses power effectively. You do what is best for the organization, making truly exceptional things happen.