Ask Dr. Rosie: Power, Leadership and Humility
From: Sarah, Atlanta, Georgia
Dear Dr. Rosie
Thank you so much for your blogs. You provide an important perspective and provide inspiration at the same time.
I’m beginning to develop my business as a Life and Business Coach. My intention is to work with people who are business directors and leaders. I’ve got to develop a sense of power in order to feel grounded in my coaching. I’ve read your book Self-Empowerment 101 and understand the importance of personal power, however I’m afraid the way that I choose to be powerful will come across as aggressive and pushy. I’m afraid people will see me as arrogant and unapproachable. There’s no humility in this way of being powerful and that scares me. I don’t know where I’ll be crossing the line from powerful to forceful. Would you be willing to shed some light on this process for me?
From: Dr. Rosie
Thank you for your words and for reaching out with your question. Many people are challenged with the same dilemma as you. Our perception of power is loaded with interpretations that have many of us resist our own personal power. Many leaders could be so much more effective if they’d be willing to own their personal power instead of hiding from it.
Abuse of Power
It’s easy to recognize and point fingers at abuse of power. We experience it in all sorts of governmental and corporation settings and issues. We’ve come to not trust people in power because of the prevalence of abuse of their power. And, it’s not uncommon for us to see abuse even though it may not be there, because we are looking for it, and generally speaking we see that which we are looking for.
Too often our experience with power begins when we are small children. We watch our parents use power in positive and not so positive ways. It doesn’t feel good when they are using power for gain or to compensate for some lack that they are feeling in their own lives. Siblings also have a tendency to use power for the same purpose. Heck, all of us do it in one form or another until we get clear that this particular use of power really isn’t working.
David Hawkins MD, Ph.D. has written a number of books that speak to this very issue. His first book Power vs. Force is an excellent source of information on the subject. What you’ll find, Sarah, as you understand the distinctions between power and force is that with power there is an automatic sense of humility that accompanies true power. That may seem impossible that someone could experience their personal power and humility at the same time but when you get it, it makes perfect sense. And the question that arises perhaps for some is why marry humility with power?
In a six week course on Transformational Leadership I worked with nine officers of a financial institution in Silicon Valley. Through a couple of processes that helped them distinguish their particular leadership style they realized that rarely were they leading from their own authentic essence of power. Each individual in that room articulated how they were being control freaks (their words, not mine), how they were manipulating and being subversive in getting people to do what they wanted. They each realized that the way they were being powerful created a work environment that was not trusting, resistant to collaboration, back biting and competitive. Through their use of power they did not allow open communication, innovation and team building to take place.
Each realized that what contributed greatly to their choice of leadership style was fear: fear of not being respected; fear of not being able to control, fear of not being liked; fear of not getting the job done and fear of being mambie-pambie. I asked the questions “what would shift if your leadership style wasn’t generated from fear – what would show up?”
Each of these nine leaders took it upon themselves to openly explore what was possible, and they were amazed with the consensus of answers. Being powerful from fear is not providing their team, their company or themselves with a quality of leadership that they actually want to stand for.
The energy in the room shifted as each officer shared a way of being that wasn’t generated from fear. In that particular session something really important occurred. Each acknowledged that if they weren’t coming from fear they would be willing to share more of themselves with the other directors in the room. That in itself shifted the dynamic of the whole corporation. This identified one specific use of power (withholding personally and professionally) that could allow them to feel safe enough to express to each other what wasn’t allowed to be spoken before. This sharing allowed humility to be present in the room; not a meekness or submissiveness, but more of a wholeness of their being from which they could draw wisdom, compassion and collaboration. This is key to healthy leadership and effective use of power.
Humility is an interesting human quality. There’s false humility, which is fear-based and there is true humility, which is essence-based. How does a leader emanate power and humility at the same time? By noticing if their decisions and choices are originating from fear or from their authentic wisdom and maturity.
“There go my people. I must follow for I am their leader.” Alexandre Auguste Ledru-Rollin (1807-1874)
For me this is a statement conveys humility married to power. A leader worth her or his salt is open to hearing what their people are saying, their point of view and their creative ideas; otherwise it would seem to me that leadership is based on the sole premise that “only I know what’s best for my people.” Too many leaders use their power to serve their own egoic-self. None of us like or even respect leaders who don’t have the capacity to really listen and perhaps act on the information from voters, direct reports, anyone in the role of follower.
Engaging oneself not from the egoic-self but from the self that is engaged to serve the highest good of governments, corporations, educational and religious institutions and families, allows for their power to serve more than just their egoic-self.
Of all the definitions I found for humility, the word reverence resonated most. If we can hold reverence for the position of power we stand in and stand for, and we can hold reverence for those we serve with our power, we can’t help but allow and cultivate a more wholesome environment for everyone to thrive and create.
Two questions, Sarah will help you distinguish which form of power you are about to choose: Is what I’m about to do or say more about me or about those I am here to serve? And, Is what I’m about to do or say fulfilling my egoic-self or my highest Self?
Enjoy the journey,
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