In my previous blog I wrote about the ways in which we underestimate the power we have, and therefore miss opportunities to both be more influential and be more satisfied with how we go about influencing others. In her book ‘You have more influence than you think’ Vanessa Bohns also points out the ways in which we underestimate how much influence we have when we assume leadership roles, all too aptly summed up in her quote:

A powerful person’s whisper can sound more like a shout to the person they have power over.

Being in a position of power often means underestimating the impact of your words and actions AND you may be unaware of this.  That’s challenging!

Daniel Goleman also pointed this out when he recognised that leaders become less socially responsive to others and tune in less as they climb the ladder.  There’s less empathy.  It’s not intentional, in some ways it’s a necessity, given all the things you need to pay attention to.  However, when you have less empathy, you’re more likely to operate through the status you have and you’ll think more about yourself than about others.

The second consideration is that when we are in positions of power we are also less likely to consider how others will respond to what we say and do.  That means we’re more likely to do what we want to do and stress less over how others will judge us.

We are also more likely to assume that others are free to do the same, when they are NOT.

  • We don’t recognise the power of our suggestions – they become directives.
  • We don’t recognise the power of our approval – without it, people are loathe to act.
  • We don’t recognise the power of our feedback – any sign of disapproval becomes criticism.

This is not about them, it’s how relative inequities in power play out time and again.

The good news is, this doesn’t apply to those who are highly attuned to others, who are strong pro-socially inclined, who possess good emotional intelligence.

Power is a sense of purpose and a sense of acting fully in line with our intentions.  Being powerful feels good, we feel competent and active, alive.  When we hold leadership roles though, pay attention to that sliding scale of whisper to shout to make sure you calibrate your volume – don’t underestimate your power or think others have more than they do.

Make sure you use your emotional intelligence to tune in and use your power well. Watch my webinar recording on using your power for good or read my blog on improving your understanding of your own power if this is an area you would like to improve.

In an article I wrote for CEO magazine, I talk about getting a better balance and a healthier relationship with power.  You can read the full article here.

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