Initially, I had another topic planned for this week but in light of all that’s been happening in Nigeria – our elections – I kept being nudged towards this topic. Today, I’d like to talk about power and how we can avoid being controlled by it.
Everyone wants power. Maybe some more than others but we have all been in situations where we wished we had the upper hand. It’s also quite alarming how from a very young age we see the need for power and how it is yielded badly. Take for example, the time you were made class monitor or even just asked to write names of noisemakers. Remember how powerful you felt? Or the time you were a prefect in secondary school, or even just a senior. The juniors you must have punished, took snacks from, denied sleep just because you could.
I think power is something everyone should think more than twice about before taking it up. I look at our nation and I wonder if half the people in charge ever think about the effects of their actions. Yes, you cannot please everyone but that does not mean you cannot try or in the very least make decisions that help more than half of the population. People have lost jobs, their homes, and even their lives due to reckless decisions people in power have made. There is a wise saying that goes ‘just because you can, doesn’t mean that you should’ and I completely agree with that.
I want to make it clear that I am not ignorant of the pull power has. We are human and power can be very intoxicating. So today, I’d like to share three pointers or tips (or whatever you’d like to call them) on how to check yourself and how you deal with power.
According to Dacher Keltner, founding director of the Great Good Science Center (and a professor of psychology at the University of California, Berkeley), ‘people lose the skills that got them power in the first place’. These skills, he says, are collaboration and selflessness. So the first tip is ‘know your mental state’. It is important to understand that power met with personal desire is dangerous. It causes us to act out in different ways. It is important to watch out for these feelings and changes in your behavior. Some of us know that we tend to go overboard and become way too controlling. Some of us are also way too laxIt is important to admit that and put your other great talents to use in places that can bring about positive change. Honestly, leadership is not for everyone, and that is not a bad thing.
Two: Listen to critics. This point cannot be stressed enough. SURROUND YOURSELF WITH PEOPLE WHO ARE NOT AFRAID TO GIVE YOU HONEST FEEDBACK. I had to use shouty capitals because I cannot emphasize this enough. Pharrell said ‘the truth will set you free but first it will piss you off’. That is true but what’s even truer is the ‘setting you free’ part. Please make sure to listen to criticism. Sometimes, even negative criticism holds a lesson. No one is above correction. In fact, the moment you think you are above reproach, the power is already getting a hold of you.
Three: Consider empathy training. Keltner stresses that empathy is a skill that is critical for leaders. In positions of leadership, there will be greater social-emotional demands making you the automatic problem-solver. This is sure to take a toll on you and sometimes makes us cold or numb to people, their emotions and their problems. To be able to handle the pressure and make sounds decisions, you need to learn skills that boost empathy such as good listening, and ability to read body language.
These tips are definitely not all it takes. Prayer is also key. God helps to keep us leveled – if we listen to Him.
Note: You can access the full article ‘Be A Better Leader: Avoid The Power Trap’ here https://execed.economist.com/blog/career-hacks/be-better-leader-avoid-power-trap