Without getting caught up in the politics, there are a couple of huge issues in the public domain right now and observing how leaders use their power to influence others is fascinating viewing from the sidelines. Who has power, what kind, and how they use it, always fascinates.
How we engage our own power is the difference between rising up to be better humans or crashing through to tear down the arguments of others.
But whether it’s standing up on the world stage with the power to influence many, or in small actions in our everyday lives, working with our own power is always a choice: grab it for personal gain, or use it in service to others.
And we have much more influence than we think, whether or not we have position power.
As Professor Vanessa Bohns points out in her great book ‘You have more influence than you think’ we underestimate and misunderstand our power and influence in many ways.
Here are just a few:
- When we feel ineffective at getting our point across, we tend to turn up the volume, which paradoxically makes us less effective.
- When we want to change peoples’ minds, we tend to give commands rather than suggestions, which often backfires.
- When we are unconfident about our views, we tend to remain silent out of fear of being disliked or saying something wrong.
Allowing others to keep their own sense of balance between autonomy and authority helps to avoid power’s overuses and abuses and increases the chance that you will successfully influence others.
If you want to come to terms with your own power and use it to influence with a sense of congruence, as well yes, to be effective, try this model of power. Start with three different perspectives:
- ‘I’ – my self-esteem is critical to how I decide to use my power, so I need to be aware that I have more influence and power than I think I do, and step up and use it
- ‘YOU’ – if I don’t understand what you value and feel empathy for you, I can’t influence you: this is a process between us, rather than something I can do to you
- ‘WE’ – the purpose of all human interaction is some form of sharing or collaboration. Finding the best way to meet our shared needs has to be the goal.
Make sure you use your power well to influence others and achieve good outcomes. Learn more about how to use your power well in my Influential Leader Whitepaper #3: Five insights into leadership power and how to use it for good here.