Tapping the Untapped Power of Power

Weak leaders struggle to gain power.

Insecure leaders fear losing it.

Power is good, it gets things done. Power is bad when it’s used to abuse and manipulate others for selfish ends.


Who takes organizations further? You’ll go further with teams of powerful people. Those who never use power are doomed to be controlled by others.

Warren Bennis interviewed 90 individuals who were nominated by their peers as most influential leaders. They all shared one characteristic. They made others feel powerful. (Leaders: Strategies for Taking Charge, 2003)

Great leaders use power to make others feel powerful.

Those who give power gain it.

Technically, no one can make you feel powerful. We can, however, create empowering environments and engage in empowering activities. Help others by helping them help themselves.

12 ways to help others feel powerful:

  1. Share information.
  2. Change your mind.
  3. Expect positive results.
  4. Train to enhance expertise.
  5. Ask don’t command. (unless you’re in a crisis)
  6. Set goals together rather than independently assigning them.
  7. Authorize to act and decide.
  8. Establish mistake-making policies before mistakes happen. Your reaction to mistakes is central to freeing others for powerful action.
  9. Expect people to solve their own problems, as much as possible.
  10. Be an external cheerleader – most have internal critics.
  11. Express enthusiasm for their projects.
  12. Stay involved in ways that aren’t meddling. Ask, “What can I do for you or how can I help?”

Bonus: Support but don’t intervene.

Warning: Avoid giving power to people who haven’t demonstrated responsibility.

How can leaders help others feel powerful?

What makes people feel dis-empowered?


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