3 Ways to Understand and Overcome Your Resistance to Being Powerful at the Office
Many leaders instinctively embrace a collaborative and inclusive style of leadership. They often resist and struggle with the one-dimensional, command-and-control leadership style of the past, and may even exude an overt aversion when you ask them questions like: Are you powerful? Do you want to be powerful? Are you willing to be powerful? They might stammer out a reply, saying that power isn’t important to them, or they might confidently state that they are leading in a new way which empowers others without the need to be egotistical or power hungry themselves.
This self-effacing tendency could be perceived as an allergy (having a strong aversion) to power.
The good news is that this allergic reaction is curable. The first step is a proper diagnosis, because when we suffer from this allergy, our careers suffer too. For example, we might avoid taking on new opportunities, hide from the spotlight, or shy away from marketing our strengths clearly and with conviction. These types of self-defeating actions often delay our progress or stop it completely.
If you have an allergic reaction to power, you need to discover the reason behind it. Look around at the current leadership and political stage. Most of the people in public power positions appear egotistical, narcissistic, lacking in integrity, and driven by a personal agenda instead of the common good. You might have experience with a supervisor who has gotten to the top by exhibiting these same forceful traits.
But it is important to realize that, while this is one facet of power, it is not the only way to embrace and use power. In fact, it’s not the most effective or sustainable source of power at all, and it is definitely not true power, which is grounded in the belief that people desire inspired, meaningful lives.
If you have a big vision, are committed to an outcome, and are ready to treat your chronic allergy to power, follow these three steps to cure it and reclaim control.
Diagnose Your Allergy
Leadership specialists Sloan Group International have identified a Power Continuum that includes five different categories of power: Power Over, Power From Outside, Power From Inside, Power by Meaning, and Power With (illustrated below).
Many of us are allergic to power because our experience has been with people who have a “Power Over” style. This style, while effective in certain circumstances, is only one dimension of a complex power dynamic. By understanding all of these styles of power, you can determine which styles you may be allergic to, identify a wide range of examples of what power can look like, and perhaps find a style that is more relatable and appealing for you. This will help you understand that you are not allergic to all power, just some approaches that are not congruent with your own styles and goals.
After you review the chart above and determine the type of power that is most appealing, you should also begin thinking about the ways your allergy to power may be limiting your potential. Take a moment and ask yourself: How is your resistance to being powerful limiting the success of your vision? How does it affect others around you? How does it affect the next generation of leaders who are looking for role models? Are you allowing yourself to play small when you are called to play a much bigger role?
Identify Positive Power Role Models
Although the negative, power-hungry role models are often the ones who make the headlines, you should look to positive role models who embody the type of power you desire. Make a list of these people along with their traits. Do they listen? Do they serve? Are they bold? Are they innovative? How are they inclusive of other opinions? How do they take personal responsibility for their actions and results? Do they acknowledge other contributions?
Keep noticing the people around you who exhibit positive power traits and intentionally expand your list. You’ll find you are in good company.
Create Your Power Profile
By combining your awareness of additional power dimensions with your list of positive role models, you can create your personal Power Profile. Ask yourself the following questions:
- How do I describe my style of power?
- What do I want to be known for as a leader?
- What leadership traits do I find most attractive and powerful?
- When I am at my most powerful, what does that look like, and how does that feel physically?
- What do I do under pressure, and how do I regain my balance?
- What do I want others to think, feel, and say, as a result of my leadership?
- What impact do I want to have?
Women of influence are women of power. Power is the relationship between your vision and how quickly it materializes in the world. By curing any existing allergy you have to power, you’ll be able to step into your leadership role and create groundbreaking results. Now, that is powerful!9