Understanding Power

powerThere’s a saying, “All power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely”. Whilst I’d like this to be not true, I do believe it that there is more truth to it, than not.

It’s not that power corrupts, it’s more that as leaders, the higher we go the more power we get, and it’s what we do with this power that defines whether we are corrupt or not.

There are many people who when they get the power, they 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 doesn’t allow the leader to wield the power in the manner in which they committed too, or that they promised.

Here’s 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, 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, or it come be something completely different, where a leader needs to get approval from some sub committee before they can act, but that sub committee refuses approval.

As a leader it can be tough to work in this situations where we constantly need to compromise our plans, 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 he Napoleon, he 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.

Gordon Tredgold

Leadership Principles