As I sit in my hotel in Boise following a mildly successful Google Hangout into Alan Boss’s class tonight, I am quite surprised at the depth this course has taken so far in my life. I challenged Alan to convince me that his class could help “my business” (i.e. any place I worked) to make more money. I am convinced that he has met my challenge tonight.
Tonight, he talked about power and gave 20 points of power that have really made be think hard about what I am trying to do each day I go to work.
Alan Boss’ list of 20 points of power:
1. Power is the potential to achieve what you want. Influence is actually getting what you want to happen.
Example: Power is a 350 Horse Power engine in your car. Influence is actually driving down the road at 120 mph.
2. Power is a dirty word.
Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. We believe power is bad. Executives, when asked if they wanted more power, almost unequivocally said “no.” When asked if they wanted more influence, 100% of them said “yes.”
3. There are multiple sources of power. An incomplete list from his lecture is:
Positional, Reward, Coercive, Information, Charisma, Referent
He had us try and guess what the most powerful sources of power are. I guessed Informational. Positional is usually the guess from the class he says.
4. Power sources are not equal.
Referent power is the greatest source of power. It comes because people trust you. If people trust you they are willing to open up their sources of power to you. If they don’t trust you, you don’t get anything. So if you have the trust of a powerful person, you have all of that person’s power, plus your own. Remember, power leads to influence. power isn’t bad in and of itself.
The 2nd most powerful form of power is Reward.
Weakest form of power is position.
Example: 5 minutes before President Nixon was impeached did he have any power? But he was still the POTUS.
Positions are only powerful because they give you access to other sources of power. The major source of power that comes from positional power is coercive power. Both of these are really the power to destroy, not to build.
2nd weakest form of power is coercive.
5. Most people don’t understand power.
6. Sources of power are interrelated. If you see someone who has referent power there are also other sources of power immediately related to it. If you start to use positional power in a coercive way trust gets lost (i.e. misuse of positional power leads to loss of referent power)
7. Power is additive.
8. Power is historical (think trust)
9. People are naïve as to how much power they have – on both sides.
10. there is no such thing as absolute power.
11. power is one-way. (kind of a corollary to #10)
12. You can give your control to others in means of control. Like being employed, you give your power to your employer and s/he can control you. A coercive boss, for example. Or, a great boss who empowers you . You can take away the means of control at any time and refuse to cooperate. There will be consequences, obviously
13. The more power you get the more careful you have to be: it takes less effort to use it, and therefore can be very easy to over use it.
14. The nature and disposition of almost all men and women is that as soon as they get a little authority they immediately exercise coercive power.
15. never use more power than you need.
16. Power is a great motivator.
Example: people will do things for power that they will not normally do – for example, two weeks ago I created a presentation for the opportunity to speak in front of 30 of my peers and several bosses to showcase some of my recent work, hoping to influence others in my organization to think in a similar way. if people will work hard to get power, just think what will happen if you empower other people.
17. Power Sharing is Power.
Sharing power is like sharing love. It doesn’t erode, it comes back in greater ‘quantities’ than you dealt out.
18. When you admit a mistake your power goes up.
19. Forgiveness is a power — by being a release of other people’s power over you.
20. If you have a problem with the way someone wields their power it is best to speak with them in private.
This doesn’t seem like a cogent point. I probably missed the point and instead recorded the example.
Regardless, looking at power this way is altering for me. Remember, power isn’t bad. It is a way to gain influence and make things better, help yourself grow, better the position for your family and children, and do good in the world. Power can be yielded for good things and bad things. So wanting more power doesn’t have to be a bad thing. It should be a good thing.