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“The day the power of love overrules the love of power, the world will know peace.”

Mahatma Gandhi

“Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.”

― Abraham Lincoln

I was not sure whether to call this article Use of Power or Abuse of Power because we are witnessing both in spades right now. I determined to use the first because it reminds each of you that we all have choice regarding how we exercise our power individually and collectively. As a business leader, you are uniquely called to recognize and choose in every moment what part you play as you model your use of power. This is especially important when the battle for peace, love and equity is at war with behaviors from fear, inferiority complex and scarcity thinking. Use of power for good or ill, has always been our societal dilemma, and now it requires a conscious, structured resolution, including at work.

As business leaders, here is a crucial question for you: Will you influence the creation of a better world in your business; one that is characterized by win/win for all, even for those who have been conditioned to put themselves first and to win at all costs? Will you make it a priority to guide even those hardened to the fate of others when they are pushed into lose positions? The answer to this question is a resounding YES! Just as parents play a large role in developing the character and behaviors of their children, so too do you either contribute to or diminish healthy use of power in your people. And how you do this is crucial for every relevant reason, including your bottom line.

Will you help your employees consistently show respect, remain receptive, give recognition to ALL, including those who are vastly different? Can you provide them with a psychologically safe and emotionally and socially competent environment so each openly discloses their thoughts and feelings, makes honest requests and communicates expectations, without fear? Can you make it so they are inspired to speak up and tell the truth even when you or others may not initially understand? Will you offer them consistent support they need to expand into their greatest human potential? Your use of power and your choices about this are crucial.

As a business leader, first, you yourself must model keeping your heart open while choosing powerful and intentional actions, free of hateful, vindictive, or self-righteous intent. You do this all while communicating high expectations, and standing for justice, including when your people engage in violations. At best, this can be part of the learning process. To some, pairing justice and open-heartedness sounds like an oxymoron. It is not; rather it is firm and respectful, and results in an environment where the needs of all are considered and people trust your authority which comes from love. Your intention especially during correction must come from healthy use of your power. How you operate matters so much, as does how you address challenges and invest in developing your people.

Sometimes your use of power will not look or feel sugar sweet or polite. And… it will not be mean or shaming either. It may not always start with collaboration or compromise. Often you are defining what is allowed and what is not, always with why. You assume that with adequate knowledge and support, your people will grow both caring and influential. Power used well, becomes the living outcome of your legacy. You promote a safe, orderly and caring society, including at work.

Malice is not needed nor is it ever helpful in this endeavor. As you demonstrate your ownership and joy in your own power, doing so with loving intent, you assist those you lead in doing the same. If you need to understand specifically what this looks and sounds like, please let me help. Most people were not given the understanding or the tools to use power in positive, purpose-based and values-based ways. Our world needs you, a powerful leader, to embrace today’s trend to develop healthy use of power in all.

This article was published in St. Louis Small Business Monthly in the column The Extraordinary Workplace, February 2021.

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