What is power?

March 12, 2012 by Joshua
in Blog, Leadership

Nearly everybody considers power important in social contexts. Nearly everybody wants more. Even if they don’t want to become the most powerful politicians, business leaders, or whatever, they still generally prefer having more power to less. People denigrate others for seeking too much, but I think that’s sour grapes. Nobody wants to feel powerless.

So what is power?

I’m not sure people understand what they mean by “power” in social contexts. I find the more precisely you understand a concept, the better you can use it.

I came across the following definition for power some time ago and found it worked perfectly ever since.

Power: the ability to influence others

I like this definition because it ties power to ability to manage the motivations of others — what else does influence mean? — which is based in emotions. Learning to understand and manage your emotions makes you powerful.

Resources like money can influence others, but so do social skills like charisma, attraction, and so on. Physical strength doesn’t influence people that much.

Think of someone powerful — in business, politics, religion, … whatever — and think of what made them powerful. Did they do that thing themselves or did they motivate others to help them? I doubt Rockefeller drilled an oil well himself. His power came not from physical power but ability to influence others.

If you want power, learn about emotions and how to manage them. You can get power other ways, but this way always helps.

(I predict when you do it this way you’ll find the ability to influence others is a side benefit to the ability to manage your own emotions.)

Tomorrow: what is status

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2 responses on “What is power?

  1. Pingback: How do you respond to others’ suffering? » Joshua Spodek

  2. Pingback: Why most basketball players are tall and one way tyranny emerges » Joshua Spodek

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