Have you ever found yourself on one end or the other of a “power struggle”?
Of course you have. We regularly find ourselves in a competition to get our needs met, or to get our priority to the top of the list. Sometimes, an outright conflict if the stakes are high enough.
Especially if it’s getting your 9-year old to brush his teeth and get to bed on time.
You name it, the underlying dynamics and forces at play in all of our interactions with others is the phenomenon of power.
And, unfortunately, most of us don’t have a great set of tools, skills and resources available to navigate the complexity of many of the power dynamics that we find ourselves in. So we lean on old habits and tendencies, coping strategies and tricks that we’ve picked up along the way.
Sometimes we get it right. Other times we lose our patience with the 9-year old and he ends up in tears, and we end up ashamed at our outburst of emotion and the impact that it had on someone we love and care for. Or we send off that terse email, barely able to contain our impatience and frustration at a team member who’s late with their report again.
We believe that all roads lead to power, and that a deeper understanding of power (what it is, how you get it, and how to use it well - with wisdom and skill) will transform your leadership and your life.
Here’s Jeff Couillard, co.CEO and Advanced Right Use of Power Instructor, explaining the importance of power awareness and skill building for anyone who leads or cares for others.
Prefer to read? Below is the transcript from the video.
What is power?
I start almost every workshop with a question like that, what is leadership? What is power? Let's define the thing that we're here to talk about. And not surprisingly, perhaps, people have a tough time answering that question. And I certainly would have had a tough time answering that question a few years ago when I was introduced to something called the Right Use of Power Framework, which lays out some fundamental assumptions about power and a set of language and definitions that make power much more easily accessible, something that we can actually talk about, because the answers to that question, what is power, are going to vary quite widely.
You're going to have a perspective on power based on your own experiences with people in power. And when you're in a power position, whether that's a position that carries with it some power, or maybe that's a position that you didn't have power and you experienced what that was like. All of us have had that experience, have had a power struggle or a power dynamic exist in relationship.
That just seems to be the natural order of things and how we organize ourselves.
But we have to ask ourselves - if we don't have a shared definition of power, how can we understand it? And power is fundamental to a lot of things that we're trying to accomplish through our leadership. From employee engagement to diversity and inclusion to just getting things done, some productivity. Power is at play all the time.
And so in this video series, this post and some down the road, we're going to break power down.
We're going to talk about what it is, what are the different factors within power. And we're going to try and cultivate a deeper understanding of what power looks like in ourselves, how we understand our own power and help you spot power as it shows up in other relationships. Because sometimes what happens is power will show up in a dynamic, a power struggle, and we'll call that a conflict and we'll start to "other" the people in that conflict. We'll say it's well, it's their fault. They show up this way. And when we take a big step back from it, a lot of our conflicts in life, both interpersonally and more broadly, when we start thinking about polarization in our politics and different perspectives and ideas within communities about what that community means.
And when we actually look at those factors, we have to talk about power because ultimately we're engaged in these power struggles and we need a toolkit. We need a set of skills. We need a way to talk about power in a neutral way so that you and I, if we're in conflict, can sit down and agree on some of the fundamentals.
And when we can do that, we have a starting point of connection that we can then build off of. But if we have fundamentally different perspectives on what power is and how to use it, that's going to show up as tension in our organizations and in our relationship.
So thank you for joining us. This is an essential conversation. The fundamentals of leadership actually rest on each of us understanding our own power, how it shows up, and the impact it might have on the people that we care for.