“All Power Corrupts, and Absolute Power Corrupts Absolutely”

Although I’d rather that this was untrue, I think there is more truth to it than not.

It’s not so much that power corrupts; rather, as leaders, the more power we have, the more our actions determine whether we are corrupt or not.

There are many people who when they get the power, focus on themselves, looking to benefit from the power, to profit from it. Here the corruption is personal, the leader is now acting in his own best interests, rather than in the interests of his team, his department or his followers.

But there are other types of corruption too, whilst people think that with position comes great power, often that power has certain controls which don’t allow the leader to wield the power in the manner in which they committed to, or that they promised.

Here it’s what the leader wants to do that becomes corrupted, his ideas may get watered down. Often his followers can feel let down by this lack of follow-through on what was promised

Maybe the leader wants to completely revamp the team, and bring in some new talent, whilst you might think that this is possible, there could be things such as workers’ councils or legal requirements that block this or it can be something completely different, where a leader needs to get approval from a subcommittee before they can act, but that subcommittee refuses approval.

As a leader, it can be tough to work in these situations where we constantly need to compromise our plans and our ideas. It can become frustrating, to know what needs to be done, but to be powerless to be able to implement it.

I remember reading an autobiography of Napoleon, who said he had great respect for the Duke of Wellington because after every battle the Duke needed to answer to the British Government for the troops lost or resources used, whereas Napoleon, had no one to answer to, he was the emperor, he could do whatever he wanted. He said this was a terrible handicap for Wellington to operate under.

When we become leaders we need to understand the power available to us, but also the constraints that we need to operate under. We need to know this before we engage in activities or undertake plans which we may not be able to complete.

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