The shadow side of power

February 11, 2021
Jeff Couillard

Have you ever received feedback that surprised you? Disappointed you? Kicked up some guilt or shame?

Imagine a scenario where someone - a teammate, a volunteer, or maybe a family member - musters up the courage to tell us that our words or actions have profoundly affected them in a hurtful way. In our minds, we might be thinking “that wasn’t my intention”, and therefore when this feedback came our way, we dismissed it or attempted to minimize it. After all, responding this way can offer us a safe refuge, a place to hide from the realization (and any guilt or shame) that we’ve ‘unintentionally’ harmed a relationship and someone we care about.

Herein lies the fundamental challenge of applying the Right Use of Power with the people in our lives. The scenario we shared above is just one example of a powerful moment of awareness known as the Intention-Impact Gap. What you choose to do next can determine how you make people feel and the impact you ultimately create.

Ensuring that our impact matches our intention.

Yes, having good intentions is important (of course). As is using those best intentions to guide your actual behaviour (the things you say and do). Unfortunately, we can often use our “good intentions” as an excuse when things go poorly or unexpectedly.

Much more important is being aware of the impact we’re having (and working to close the gap between the two) that matters.

How are you using your power?

Take our 5-question survey to find out.

Some of the shadow effects of power

When we find ourselves on the ‘up’ side of a power dynamic (e.g. parent and child, teacher and student, leader and team member), a few common shadow effects begin to show:

And while we know there are a few other shadow effects of power, we also know that the bigger the power differential between people, the larger those effects can be felt.

Questions? Thoughts? Feedback? Whatever it is, we would love to hear from you!