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What is power? It is the ability to act effectively toward the attainment of a goal. In interpersonal dynamics, it is the capacity to influence people physically, emotionally, or intellectually, to compel them to perform, feel, or think in a certain manner.
The positive and negative aspects of power.
- The positive aspects of power.
- When we are powerful, we have more capability to be the person we want to be, doing the activities we want to do. We make choices assertively. We survive, and we thrive. We feel optimistic and confident; powerless people feel helpless and oppressed.
- Power is only one aspect of the process of living in a dynamic world; it can be defined as the administered vigor which makes things happen. But power disrupts that process when it is sought for its own sake, when we embrace a position solely for the attainment of power. Power is meant to be the servant of our efforts to reach goals which are based on our values. Although one of those values might be "to obtain power," power frequently becomes an intoxicating distraction away from other human goals which must be honored -- friendship, love, compassion, social accord, and so on. Then, instead of friendships, we have power alliances; instead of mutual cooperation, we have cold-hearted calculations -- and enemies.
Techniques for gaining and using power.
- We can find many sources of power. Some of those sources include:
- Knowledge, especially in this "information age." Specialized knowledge includes that of human nature (in ourselves and in other people), motivation, the workings of our occupation and the world in general, and other information which increases our ability to participate and influence.
- Skills. These are jobs skills, social skills, organizational skills, and so on.
- Influence. We can gain authority over people and resources. This can mean anything in the spectrum from dictatorship to the swaying of other people's opinions to the non-manipulative service as a role model and source of inspiration and support.
- We don't project an inordinate value onto things. For example, we don't believe that money buys happiness, although it can buy goods and services which make a personal world in which happiness is easier to attain; for example, we can buy a home in which we are comfortable, and gifts for friends -- but we don't try to use money to buy the particular things that money can't buy. And we don't give inordinate power to people, wrongly believing that they control our destiny and dignity.
- We are not fearful. However, we are appropriately cautious, recognizing other people's power to hurt us.
- We don't entrust people with the responsibility for our lives. In the example, of the doctor, we don't expect the doctor to maintain our health; a doctor can help us during crises, but our health-maintenance is our duty -- through our decision to eat nutritious foods, and to exercise, etc.
- We develop our own values, viewpoints, opinions, and decisions, instead of letting other people impose theirs.
- The steward has the capability of acquiring more power than does the tyrant. Both the steward and the tyrant can build consent by crystallizing the people's self-interest toward a common goal -- but, ultimately, the tyrant's personal aims will conflict with those of the people, thus creating resentment and rebellion (and a loss of the power that would otherwise be given through the people's cooperation). A tyrant views this turmoil as part of the game; a steward considers turmoil to be either an unfortunate part of the creative process or as an indication that his or her management has excluded people whose voices need to be heard.
- The steward is more likely to have a reign of peace, and peace of mind. The attitude toward leadership is that "someone has to do it"; what's important is that the service be done, not that this person must be the one to do it. The power comes from consent, or from fate, or divine grace. When circumstances or a personal decision require a new person in the position of power, the current steward might regret unfinished projects and unfulfilled dreams, but the power is probably passed with dignity and tranquility, rather than with a tyrant's last gasp of destruction and self-destruction (as in Hitler's latter-day decisions to scorch Germany and to kill himself).
- The power of stewardship is likely to be more endearing. People readily give authority to a strong person who will use that power to benefit them. Philosophers have said that the path of the power and the path of love are incompatible; stewardship allows us to use power while retaining our human qualities of kindness and love. Some of our most-beloved heroes have been leaders who used their power to help us and to make us stronger; the most-hated people have been those who used their power to hurt us to realize visions that did not include us.
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