Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Elements of Power

It is beautiful here. We got a light dusting of snow (over a foot) so I am now snowed in for a while. If I were a more frivolous person, I would be building a snowman or having a good snowball fight.

I read a great book The Elements of Power - Lessons on Leadership and Influence by Terry Bacon.

A part of me thought power was bad and not something to strive for. I think this is because it is often misused. Also my perception was often of coercive or oppressive power which although are powers, tend to be less powerful than good power. I always prefer to inspire (which still requires power).

Bacon has a section on the morality of power.

In order to accomplish things, we need power. "Power is like a battery. The more voltage (power), the more it can potentially do." Hence the importance of a book on power. The more we understand the sources of power, the better able we are to tap them.

I like the chapter summaries (Bacon calls them Key Concepts) at the end of each chapter. There is also a "Challenges for Readers" at the end of each chapter - questions to stimulate thought.

Key Concepts from the first chapter:

1 - People have 5 sources of organizational power (role, resources, information, network and reputation), 5 sources of personal power (knowledge, expressiveness, attraction, character, and history) and one metasource (will).

2 - Power is like a battery...

3 - Power is relational and dependent on the domain in which the person is operating.

4 - The magnitude of your power is dependent on your relationships.

5 - Each power source can also be a power drain.

6 - Power can be diminished (EG when a person leaves a position)

7 - Power is not immoral (although it has the potential to be - especially when the power is absolute)

The rest of the book elaborates on these seven points showing us how to enhance them and giving stories of how they have been gained, used or lost.

As I read the book, I realized I actually intuitively cultivated many power sources. I know those elements of power have allowed me to accomplish what I have. And I also realized how charmed I am to have much of the power that I have (caused by history, network, information etc.)

I loved the book. It is well organized, well written and thought provoking.


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