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  • Writer's pictureAdil Malia

Virtues of Power

Mindless Power corrupts absolutely and makes you fall. Powerlessness dilutes completely and never lets you rise ! Mature Power is healthy !

For strange reasons we have grown to believe that Power is the diet of the demons. Use the word Power in a social forum and you will see strange side glances peering at you as if you were the undisclosed surrogate dark-devil love child of Lady Macbeth with Marcus Brutus fostered by Machiavelli !!!

The fact however is different. When we feel powerful, we feel free. We feel as if we are situationally in control, un-threatened and very safe. We therefore feel positive . We feel responsible. We sense and are naturally attuned to search for opportunities to succeed rather than perceive threats that make us fail !!!

Blessed are those who feel powerful. The cycle of feeling powerless is vicious. This depleted state of self-confidence rapes our ambition and makes us constantly feel insecure, discouraged, defeated and thus forever, emotionally anxious. It makes one see the hole more than appreciate the doughnut! Dacher Keltner identifies this as a cycle of exhaustion that activates a psychological inhibition system of dark fears that drown our success. The classical debate in a corporate arena between seeing an item of expenditure as an item of 'Cost' or as an 'Investment' arises from this deep-down prompter.

Power and Powerlessness:

'Absolute Power' and 'Powerlessness' are at the two extremities of the Power spectrum. Power infuses confidence and thus makes you approach untapped opportunities and potential. Powerlessness infuses fear and thus makes us avoid and flee in protection from the unknown as threats. Both extremities are dangerous. Power corrupts absolutely and makes you fall. Powerlessness dilutes completely and never lets you rise !

Impacts Individual Psychology:

Power transforms individual psychology. It makes the powerful think and behave in ways that it leads to more acquisition of Power for them. Like wise by logical extension, the Powerless behave in weak ways such that in return does not evoke confidence in the others to bestow them with more Power. Nor does he consciously even attempt to be in position of Power.

Both the states - Power & Powerlessness are deep seated in the non-conscious psyche of the individuals. There is no conscious evaluation that they undertake, when they face a situation. There is an unconscious triggering of our thoughts, feelings and emotions that sets-off behaviours that make us either rebel or obey, control or yield, master or slave when we come face to face with choices whilst transacting different situations in life.

Multiple Sources of Power :

Power arises from various sources particularly in a state of abundance over rarities. It could be Abundance of money (Warren Buffet), intellect (Amartya Sen) , special skills (Serena Williams), beauty ( Kim Kardashian), political or social contacts (Bill Clinton), unique experiences (Neil Armstrong), net-work of relationships, control over assets (Bill Gates ), knowledge of markets , positive perception of stake-holders (Deepak Parekh) , inheritance by birth (Prince Charles - in a certain social order like a monarchy) or maybe sheer physical strength (Arnold Schwarzenegger) or backed up Power (say a strong Army for a Dictator - Hitler).

Three factors have to prevail for a person to get recognized as having 'Power'..... (1) that factor which is valued for Power should be available or be present in that person in abundance (2) that item/source of value creating Power, should be rare and not easily available or accessible (3) Assertion of the above two factors by the holder of that Power to control others or their behaviours makes the individual 'Powerful'.

Type of Power - Personal v/s Social Power : * Personal Power is about self-belief in ones own self ...values, strengths, knowledge etc. It is belief that makes one believe that his competencies alone can successfully tackle whatever the situation or challenge at hand is. It allows one to shed fears and inhibitions that prevent us otherwise from fully connecting with ourselves.

Elie Wiesel , the Nobel Prize winner says...."Ultimately, the only power to which man should aspire is that which he exercises over himself". There exists a theory that Power rightfully belongs only in the hands of the humble and the gracious. Such a leader derives power from exhibiting powerlessness. Personal Powerholders often times have a tendency to self exaggerate their prowess. This naturally leads to disasters in action often caused by over-confidence.

* Social Power in comparison to Personal Power is explained by its capacity to dominate others through force or influence and control their behaviours and outcomes of their behaviours in a given situation.

Dominance is the ultimate determinant between the two types of Powers - Personal and Social. In Personal Power, self dominance is the determinant whereas in Social Power others become critical. It is ability to dominate others that determines Social Power.

Both , Personal and Social Powers are necessary but in a leadership prism - 'Influenced Social Power' has greater authenticity, acceptability and sustainability compared to 'Enforced Social Power' . Anything that is forced is rejected. Anything that is influenced is adopted. The day the leader loses his Personal Power, chances are high that his Social Power will also diminish (Jack Welch). Sometimes, even without specifically asserting, others may accept you as their mentor/leader when they are overly impressed and influenced by your Personal Profile and Power (Eklavya in Mahabharata).

Wisdom : Between the two extremes of Powerful and Powerless - one destructive and the other fully diluted , balance in the equilibrium is induced by the factor of wisdom. Wisdom helps the power holder to enhance his 'Influencing Social Power' instead of feeling Powerless or indulging in naked display of arrogance through 'Enforced Social Power'

Power Paradox for Success :

Pat Williams offers an intuitive and insightful exploration into hidden paradoxical leadership qualities thru the lens of Power. Effective Leaders use Personal Power to derive 'Influential Social Power' as they reflect paradoxical abilities to manage leadership realities. Positive Leaders succeed because they tend to : - see the unseen and hear the unspoken words...visionary - have the rational knowledge but manage to influence thru emotions...versatile - are strong but dare to be friends with the weak.. - succeed because they dare to fail.... - sees tough opportunities in crisis..brave explorers and - have absolute and total power but use the least to deliver results...matureand discretionary

Virtues of Power

Whilst Power is misunderstood and relegated to being a vice, Power has many virtues. Power enhances confidence for action. It liberates our thinking. The more you feel powerful, the more you want to use Personal Power and Influence to get things done when there is resistance as compared to those who feel Powerless in a stressful situation. Power incites Action. It has a positive effect on our health and physiology as much as on developing a robust psychology.

Whilst Lord Acton may have given the axiom - Power Corrupts and absolute Power corrupts absolutely, effectively power used in approved quantity to positively influence action, is healthy.

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