Today we’re talking about a topic that is core to leadership. It’s about making peace with power. And with wanting power. It sounds like a simple thing, right? But… are you actually comfortable with the acquisition of power and what to do when you have it?
Welcome back to our ongoing series on leadership. Today we’re talking about a topic that is pretty core and pretty essential to becoming a leader in this world. It’s about making peace with power, and with wanting power.
It sounds like a simple thing, right? Like, power. You know, it’s a concept. We all kind of understand it. But, are you actually comfortable with the acquisition of it and what to do when you have it? Are you comfortable with those as a concept? What I mean by that is, in order to make a real impact, accepting the need for power is a huge deal.
So first I want to ask you a few questions. I’m going to have you think about your relationship with power as it is now, and whether or not your resistance to wanting to have it, is getting in your way or not. I don’t presume to know every single listener and know what you’re thinking when I talk, and what your experience is. So, of course, for some of you, this is going to be a concept that’s perfectly simple, and for others of you, it might be something you’ve never contemplated at all.
When we embark on business, we do it for all kinds of reasons, whether you’re an employee or a business owner, or a writer, or a freelancer, it doesn’t really matter. But we get into it for all kinds of different reasons. Some people get into it because they want to make a difference. Some people get into it because it’s just all they know how to do, and that’s how they make a living. Some people get into it because it sounds fun, right? Like, whatever it is that you do, everybody has their different reasons. But once you’re in it, once you’re doing it, it, whatever it is, for a long time, generally, most of us get bored at some point, and we want to try to figure out how to make a bigger impact, how to have our life and our livelihoods have more meaning to them.
So this conversation presumes that you want that, that you want impact. In order to have impact, you have to be able to acquire power and wield it responsibly.
Now a lot of people do a lot of shouting at the wind. You know, we all know what rebellion looks like. Comfort with power, is the thing that changes rebellion to revolution. It’s the thing that makes you not tip it windmills, and actually tip at something that you can make a difference at. The people that make a difference have power, positive or negative, it doesn’t really matter. Now some power comes from money. That’s probably the easiest power to point at the more money you have, the more power you have. But what does that really mean? Like, let’s break that down a little bit. What does it really mean to have… That money is power? Well, it means that you have the money to pay, to get your mission out to the world. It means that you can pay for advertising dollars. It means that you can pay for the attention of people who matter, and can help make a difference. What does that mean for the rest of us? When we talk about, you know, how one person can make a difference, what’s the difference between that one person who makes a difference with no money and the rest of us?
What do they have that we don’t have? They have power. They understand that power can come from more places than just money. It can come from social equity. It can come from collective consciousness. It can come from the attention of others. And that’s the one we’re focusing on today.
Power to make a difference, more often than not, comes from the ability to hold and wield the collective power of the attention of other people.
No matter what you’re trying to do, whether it’s a social change movement, or simply having enough power to have influence over your industry, being able to influence other people is key. Now, a lot of us like ethical entrepreneurs, you know, a lot of the people listening, I’m sure, are going to have a fundamental disconnect here. It’s and it’s the thing that stops good-hearted people from making a difference in this world, is that we feel kind of dirty wanting power. Right? The concept of it, power-hungry, money-hungry, these are concepts in our culture that are really well trod, you know. And the people who have power, we often look at with a tremendous amount of disdain and frustration, because of how they wield it and what they do to others with it.
So the idea of wanting to have something that other people have so that we can play at the same table, it feels kind of gross for a lot of people. It feels like why on earth would I chase something that that’s what they have? Well, that’s the very reason why you should want it. Getting comfortable with that idea is everything.
You can’t make a difference in people’s lives unless you have the power required to have credibility, unless you have the power required to speak up for the things that you believe in. Whether you have the power to actually step out and say something risky. That is all different kinds of power.
Now I’ve seen power look different on all kinds of people. You know, I have a client who is a really well-known author who has many, many books out, and the power that she wields is quieter. it’s loving, but it’s power nonetheless, and she understands the power that she has. She knows that when she speaks people listen, and with that comes, you know it, a bit of responsibility.
Early in her career, she understood that in order to continue to get her message out to the world, she was going to need to play a little bit of the game. She was going to need to write books that were marketable, she was going to need to create visuals that were palatable, and she was going to have to make choices that, sometimes were compromises, in the interest of pursuing power, because with power comes choice. Until you have power, you don’t have a lot of choices, you have to do whatever’s in front of you and you have to do whatever you need to do to survive. Once you have power, you get to have choices, and with choices comes impact.
So when you think about your earliest relationships with power, what do you think about? When I say, how are you going to get enough power to do the things you say you want to do? How are you going to acquire enough power to lead, what’s your first thought? Do you know? Have you ever contemplated that before?
Well, there’s a lot of really practical ways and we can tie this to simple tactical stuff. Putting out a podcast is an attempt at acquiring more power for me. I’m doing it right now as you listen and I speak, I am working to acquire little bits of equity-based power. The more you like what I have to say, the more power I gain.
It’s just inputs and outputs. Because the more willing you are to listen, when I speak again. The more you like what I’m saying in this sentence, the more likely you are to listen to the next one. It’s that subtle. It doesn’t have to be all of a sudden I have a million dollars in my bank account. It’s the simple act of getting people to hang on your every word.
Really. It’s really that simple. Because if I do a good job at what I’m doing right now, you’ll listen to the next episode. That’s power. I now have the power to ask that of you.
Power is not a negative. It can be wielded as one, but just like you’ve heard me say a million times, it’s just a tool like any other. Just like a hammer. A hammer can be used to harm or a hammer can be used to build. Choose which one you’re going to do.
Comfort with power also comes with that responsibility piece. Like for example, I am a very good salesperson, back in my retail days, I could sell anything to anybody. Story I’ve told many, many times before I worked in a, a makeup and body care store when I was 23, I was a store manager, and I hated selling, I hated being on the floor. I had 40 girls under the age of 23 that worked for me, in a store that didn’t have a bathroom. It was a time.
One day, this woman came in, that was a sales rep for another skincare company. She was literally there to sell me hand cream. And I said to my staff, if I can sell that woman our most expensive hand cream, will you guys listen to everything I tell you to do about selling. And they all laughed, they’re like, no way is she going to buy the hand cream? She’s here to sell you hand cream. Half hour later, she walked out with three tubs of hand cream, 80 bucks, a pop.
I can literally sell ice to Eskimos.
That comes with a dark side. Because I can do a lot of harm with that much ability to manipulate. Because that’s what it is. Right. I did a trick, to get this woman to buy hand cream, I gave her a hand massage. Now she’d spent two hours driving in an air-conditioned car with her hands sitting in front of vents. I knew all of that, I thought about all of that.
I gave her a hand massage with our fancy hand cream on one hand and not the other, and then told her to compare the two. Well, shocking, one hand looked 20 years younger. So she wanted all the hand cream. It wasn’t the hand cream. When you massage somebody’s hand, they increase circulation and blood flow, you put any cream, I could have rubbed vaseline all over her hand and it would look 20 years younger. It really didn’t matter, it wasn’t about the product. It happened to be a good product, so I didn’t feel bad, and her product was crap, so I didn’t feel guilty about it. But the point was, I wasn’t really selling her hand cream, I was selling her on the experience that she got from all of it. Right.
And I knew certain things about the situation that made that a lot easier. That is a manipulation. I am not saying that with pride. It’s a manipulation. Much of sales is. Now the kicker comes in when what you’re selling is something that you can feel really good about, and understanding that no matter what, there is a manipulation involved. Manipulation does not have to be an inherently negative term the way that we associate it.
You just have to accept that that’s what’s happening. Because if you understand that’s what’s happening and you understand the power you have to manipulate, then you can do it really responsibly. Then you can say to somebody, “Hey, I want you to buy this thing and here’s all the reasons I want you to buy it, and here’s the reasons why you shouldn’t.”
You have to accept that there’s power involved there. It’s when you use it to only cajole, only manipulate, only get people to buy things as if they are your personal ATM. That’s where power crosses over into a dark side. And that’s what we see more often than not. So that’s why we have a negative association with it.
But power has an incredible ability to persuade, it’s everything you need in order to persuade people to your side. It’s understanding when to push and when to pull, when to speak up and when to be quiet.
Power gives you the ability to turn your rebellion into a revolution. One more time. Power is the difference between rebellion and revolution. The lack of power inspires rebellion. Always. The acquisition thereof among the rebellious is the thing that will turn a rebellion into a revolution. You want to make change? You get comfortable with power.
Alright, everybody. I will see you all next time. Have a great day.
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