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power myths

“Why do you keep talking about power?” Asked an exasperated gal pal. “It’s such a nasty topic.”

I agree, power has a bad reputation. BUT, that’s not because power is a bad thing.

Power has a bad reputation because bad people misuse it to benefit themselves.

Egocentric bad boys and queen bees have co-opted power, twisting it into something almost sinister that the rest of us want to stay away from.

Those of us who want to see leadership practiced with kindness and respect have to let go of that belief.

Power is something all good boys and girls need to have.

And use.

…to disrupt the status quo

…to make a positive difference.

…to change things for the better.

To reclaim power and build inclusive workplaces where everyone feels welcome, there are three myths about power we need to put to rest.

3 myths about power to hack


Myth #1:  Let go of the notion that you can be successful without using power.

Whether we realize it or not, everytime we take a job we’re given power. It’s called positional power, and we use it every day to make decisions, assign work, or coach an employee on how to do their job better.

“Power is required if one wants to get anything done in any large organization. Unfortunately, power doesn’t just fall into one’s lap: one will have to go after it and learn how to use it.” ~Jeffrey Pfeffer, business theorist and Stanford University professor

Some jobs do have more positional power than others, however, the power in all jobs—the capacity to transform “what is” to “what can be”—is available to us every day. Character-based leaders simply choose to use their power for the greater good, not personal gain.

Myth #2: Toss the notion that you don’t have any power because you aren’t the big boss.

If you have a job, you have power.

Companies expect employees to decide what work is done, make decisions, manage resources, and schedule work. Doing everyone of those things is a source of power. Every person, not just big shots, have job power. (Not something the bad boys and queen bees want us all to know.)

Plus, we all have personal power just waiting for us to put to good use. Position power is what we do; personal power is how we do it.

It’s a state of mind.

It’s you confidently believing in your strength and competence and helping others believe in theirs, too.

Personal power is you, says author and professor Rosabeth Moss Kanter, aiding others “to mobilize resources, inspire creativity, and instill confidence among subordinates.”

Myth #3: Avoiding power because you’re afraid it will corrupt you is an excuse.

There are perks that come with powerful positions. People hang on your every word and want to please you. That can be heady, almost intoxicating stuff. However, the presence of perks doesn’t mean we have to let ourselves be corrupted. We don’t have to believe that we’re above the law or better than those in less powerful positions. We can continue to embrace our “ordinaryness.”

Fearfully shying away from any position or personal power leaves us powerless. Leaves us without the ability to shape outcomes or make a positive difference. It leaves the bad boys and queen bees deciding our fate.

It doesn’t have to be that way.

Let’s take back power and use it wisely and well to create workplaces where everyone has a voice.

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