Don’t Get Tripped Up on Power

Published: Jan 24, 2019
Modified: Mar 26, 2020

By Danita Johnson Hughes, Ph.D.

The 7 Cs for Keeping Power in Perspective

Leaders are found in almost every stratum of life—in companies, politics, and in social organizations such as families, groups of friends, and so forth. Leaders are powerful people because they have the ability to sway the attitudes, opinions, and actions of others. Leaders inspire, influence, and achieve results.

Everyone has the capacity to lead. That is because everyone has the ability to influence others.

Developing the right leadership strategy for the people you lead is crucial to getting the results you desire. Therefore, it is important that you strengthen your skills to better influence, motivate, communicate, and coach your people.

Contrary to what many might think, few people are born as leaders. Leadership is a skill that is developed over time, through practice and hard work.

Unfortunately, the power you earn from leadership can be misused or abused. This is often referred to as being on a “power trip.” Power tripping is usually viewed negatively and can cause others to lose respect and appreciation for you as their leader. Consequently, it is wise to learn how to keep power in its proper perspective..

Here are 7 Cs for doing just this.

  • Character. As a leader you will undoubtedly be confronted with competing demands from time to time. The ability to manage these demands with integrity, honesty, and selflessness becomes crucial at times like these. Being willing to sacrifice your success, your fortune, and even your life takes guts. Being unwilling to sacrifice your integrity takes character. 
  • Courage. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” Courageous individuals take calculated risks. They hope for the best possible outcome but are prepared for a loss.
  •  Commitment. Every day of your life you may face challenges. Commitment is the will and strength to keep forging ahead in spite of how many times you are knocked to your knees. It’s the ability to accept setbacks as merely temporary inconveniences that get in the way and try to steer you off course. In the long run, however, unwavering perseverance gets you through. 
  •  Cautious Attentiveness. A good leader needs to be accurately informed. Be sure you have all the available facts before deciding anything. Carefully consider all options and their possible results before taking action. Thinking through the potential consequences of your decisions often prevents problems from occurring down the road. Having enough information is only part of the equation. When you have all of the information that is available to you, use your intuition to fill in what’s missing.
  • Connectability. Having the ability to develop meaningful relationships with others is the most important quality a leader can possess. You gain power through relationships.
  • Contribution to the Welfare of Others. Many times people enjoy being in positions of power because of what they gain personally, not because they want to help others. However, service should come from the heart. Having the willingness to serve others and to put their needs and desires before your own is reflected in the attitude and actions of a good leader.
  •  Creative Perception. Often referred to as vision, creative perception is essential to good leadership. Leaders have a passion for change. They are preoccupied with future possibilities. As a leader, you must be able to clearly articulate your vision in order to inspire and motivate others. Employees who are excited about the leader’s vision and the direction of the organization become much more productive and willing to participate in the success of the organization.

Much popular literature on leadership is rife with contrasts between leadership and power. However, to be an effective leader you have to exercise power to realize the results you are striving to achieve. Inherent in leadership is the ability to bring others along either through the power of persuasion, erudition or position.

Individuals ascend to a position of leadership by exercising power in one of three ways:

Persuasive power is usually a result of your ability to make an emotional connection with others and through this connection manage to persuade their actions. Persuasive power is a reflection of your charisma, or ability to draw people to you.

Erudite power is that gained through extensive knowledge of a particular subject or an area of expertise. Erudite power is usually based on the acknowledgement of your intellect and/or academic accomplishment. People are drawn to you because they consider you learned in a particular area.

Positional power is based on your ability to control and have authority over others by virtue of hierarchical order. Positional power is most frequently observed in employment situations where there are levels of employees from line staff through senior management. It may also be observed in politics where a person ascends to a position of authority through an election process or by appointment.

In most cases, you may ascend to a position of leadership as a result of a combination of these factors. Whether leadership is gained through personal qualities, erudition, position, or a combination of these qualities, it involves influencing the actions of others.

Knowing who you are is the most critical element in becoming an effective leader. It requires looking through the lens of critical analysis. It’s about being in control of yourself first before you can expect others to follow your lead. It’s about having self-confidence and being passionate about your values and beliefs. A good value system can help you to stay on course when the ship gets tossed in the storm.

About the Author(s)

Danita Johnson Hughes, Ph.D.  is a health-care industry executive, public speaker, and author of the forthcoming book Turnaround. For more information, visit, or contact [email protected].