Power and leadership

In the spring of 2006, I was invited to give an introductory talk to The Power Game, a Leadership Vancouver one day role playing game in which participants explored how community leaders could influence the ideas and decisions of elected government leaders. This was my contribution to playing The Power Game

The use of power without leadership is frightening. The use of power with leadership is awesome. Frightening and awesome are powerful adverbs and powerful realities. They make understanding the nature of power and the nature of leadership and how they relate very important.

Leadership is a social responsibility. Leadership is taking active responsibility for the interests of others by contributing to their interests and to our common interests. Leadership is exercised by individuals.

The use of power, including the withholding of power, changes behavior. Power is exercised by individuals.

Understanding Power

Understanding the sources of power, how we exercise power, how we respond to power, and how we create power improves our ability to be successful regardless of our interests.

Power lies in our social organization but power is exercised by individuals. We exercise power in the parts we play, in our behavior, in what we say and do, and in how we say and do things. We have power in the parts we play, and choose to play, and we have power as individuals.

The power of force lies in positions of authority. The power of authority is the use, or threat of use, of force. This power is available to individuals who we are given authority or who take it by force. This power is exercised by individuals.

The power of wealth lies in the use, or promise of the use, of resources. This power is available to individuals who own or control the use of resources. This power is exercised by individuals.

The power of knowledge, the power of ideas, and the power of our feelings, – what we care about and how much we care, – lies in all of us. The power of the idea lies in its ability to change the way we see and do things. This power is available to individuals regardless of their interests. This power is exercised by individuals.

Our knowledge of power and the power of our ideas is the force and resource we have to engage with the power of authority, and the power of wealth, and the exercise of that power over others.

The Power of Ideas

Ideas are more powerful than the threat of force or the promise of wealth. We see this in the power of religious and political belief systems. We exercise this power through communication.

Successful leadership lies in the power of communication. We exercise power and give power to others in what we communicate and how we communicate. It lies in what we say and do and how we say and do things. Our success in exercising our power lies in the choices we make and how well we perform.

When we communicate we have a responsibility. When we communicate we have an opportunity. When we communicate we exercise power.

Our future lies in the pursuit of ideas that work in our common interests and that are rooted in our common sense and in our knowledge and understanding of human nature and human behavior.

Knowledge of what works is available to everyone. We acquire our knowledge through observation and conversation. Conversation is how we learn about the interests of others, how we change the way we see and do things, how we influence the way others see and do things, and how we learn and practice the art of leadership.

Playing the Power Game

The power of the roles we play and how we perform our roles are the dynamics in play. The outcome depends on the ideas created, how well those ideas are sent to the other players, and how well those ideas connect to the interests of communities who contribute the power of numbers.

Leadership is an art. The art of leadership lies in what we care about, in our knowledge of what works, and in how well we communicate our ideas in what we say and do.

If we give our knowledge of ideas that work to people who care about our common interests we create leadership. To create a civil society we need to give others ideas that work in our common interests. We need to give the art of leadership.

The art of leadership resides in integrity, in caring about the interests of others, and in creative contribution. This engenders trust, appreciation and respect, – the foundation of relationships, successful enterprise, and good leadership.

It is like acting. When we know the part we are playing, when we know the interests of our character, and understand the given circumstances, we can play our part with integrity. We can make good choices about how we play the part and we are able to perform well.

As in life, the parts we play, the choices we make, and how well we perform, create the story.

Our performance lies in how well we send our ideas to others, how well we demonstrate we care, and how well we are able to connect with our audience.

The power of integrity, of caring, of creative contribution, and of performance are the powers of leadership. It is how we demonstrate leadership and how we come to be trusted, appreciated, and respected as leaders.

It is the power that changes our behavior and the behavior of others. It is how we create a civil society and a way of doing things that creates a sustainable life now and in the future.

We each have a specific role. We each have a point of view and a contribution. The questions are, – what are our interests, what do we really care about, and how well are we performing.

In the Power Game we are creating the story. We have the opportunity to learn how we contribute to creating the story of our life and how we can contribute to creating the story for others. Good luck.

Prepared as an introduction to the Power Game
Leadership Vancouver Program
Roger Chilton
April 10, 2006