Tuesday, 29 March 2011

about power

Contributor: Photostock

I came across an unusual term today – “the failure to use power”. The context was describing behaviour involving blaming. Apparently there’s a behaviour pattern that includes not taking responsibility or control of something we should be doing, and this is referred to as “failure to use power”. How interesting.

I have been fascinated for years in the use of power. ‘Power’ can be a misunderstood word.

What it’s not: If power is thought of as the right to boss others around and make them do whatever is required, that’s not power – that’s control. At least this is my definition of what power is not.

What it is: Power is a beautiful and necessary thing. Imagine what life in the office would be like if no one was in charge. There would be no clear roles or responsibilities, no accountability, no consistency of processes and work would be in chaos. Without power, office life would be pure anarchy - sort of like playing a game without any rules or referee. When it comes to other people, the key word is “influence”. Power relates to the influence a person has over the actions of others. When it comes to ourselves, power is about taking responsibility for what we can control (which isn’t much).

According to Russ Harris (author of The Happiness Trap) the only two things we can control are our own behaviours and our attention.

So, the mis-use of power could include aggressive behaviours like:

  • Bullying and intimidation
  • Manipulation and coercion
  • Attempting to control things/people outside our control

And similarly, the failure to use power could include:

  • Blaming someone else for something you could/should have controlled
  • Avoiding responsibility for your own wellbeing

Personal Power

Each person has their own level of Personal Power, which is about being responsible and in control of oneself. Personal Power means one ensures responsibility for their own behaviours and interactions with others. It means that a person looks after and takes care of themselves to protect their own wellbeing. It also requires that a person must be self aware and also aware of others to respect those intangible boundaries of "who I am" and "who you are". Personal Power is a feeling that one is not at the complete mercy of events, but instead can have an impact on what happens to or around them. Essentially, Personal Power is to be in control of ones’ behaviours and attention.

My current musings on power, which may change by this time tomorrow! Any thoughts or comments? Click ‘here’ and have a rant.

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