by Deepak Chopra: Power and success go hand in hand, which implies a learning curve that brings both.
But of the two, power is more fragile. This is true for a number of reasons, including competition from rivals who want the power a leader has attained as well as the corrupting nature of power, which creates enemies. It’s inevitable that power gets wielded to benefit some and disappoint others. To keep rivals at bay, some leaders create an atmosphere of intimidation, hoping to instill enough fear to keep power within their grasp.
(In this series of posts we’re discussing the qualities of leadership using the acronym L-E-A-D-E-R-S. The fifth letter, “E,” stands for empowerment.)
Even so, the Shakespearean maxim of “Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown” extends to power in general, which brings anxiety and fretfulness at every level of success, along with various temptations for the ego to run wild. To alter this situation requires a different learning curve, one that begins early in anyone’s career. This learning curve isn’t about management skills but about self-awareness.
As a leader, even when you have only a bit of power, the following situations are likely to occur:
1. You will favor some people and ignore others.
2. You will accept some advice and reject the rest.
3. People will be jealous of you and make unfair comments behind your back.
4. Rivals will constantly seek out your weaknesses.
5. Some of your decisions will work out, others won’t.
6. You will have to delegate authority.
7. You will rely on people you do not entirely trust.
These situations arise in the board rooms of top corporations, in government offices, in the military, but also on school boards and local steering committees. Human nature plays itself out when given any opportunity. No wonder that power brings such mixed rewards. To negotiate these pitfalls, a self-aware leader wants to minimize the backlash, both for himself and his followers.
Self-awareness minimizes the backlash for yourself. You are constantly monitoring your inner state, seeking to remain in the ideal position, which has these characteristics.
- You feel centered.
- You are rested and alert at the same time.
- You tune in to your emotional state.
- You are comfortable in your body.
- You feel attuned to the situation around you.
- You notice signs of confusion and conflict in yourself and confront them head on.
- Your conscience is clear.
The opposite of these traits brings down the most powerful leaders, including those who head nations.
- They are overly influenced by the voice around them.
- They are often exhausted from overwork and bad sleep.
- They are tough and hard-boiled, ignoring any emotion that suggests weakness.
- Their bodies are machines to be driven and used.
- The pick and choose which parts of the situation to respond to; the rest is denied and ignored.
- They maintain a facade of total certainty, denying any sort of doubt or inner turmoil.
- They do what needs to be done, regardless of the moral consequences.
I’ve weighted these two lists to make the first more desirable, because it describes the trait of a leader who can live with power and use it well, to his own benefit as a person. But it’s clear that many leaders prefer to be ruthless, tough, intimidating, and devoid of moral restraint. That’s why psychiatrists point out that psychopathic personality types often do very well in the corporate world – they lack any form of empathy and feel no compunctions about the way they treat others.
The choice really falls to you, so I’ll point out that in a smaller world with limited resources and a looming sense of planetary peril, the conscious leaders are going to be more and more valuable. Ruthless plunder and swaggering disregard for Nature’s balance aren’t things we can afford much longer. Human ingenuity guarantees that there will always be new avenues for success. Choosing to be a conscious leader doesn’t imply that your rise to the top will be thwarted. It’s really a matter of the road less traveled. We aren’t used to living with conscious capitalism, and yet our survival depends on it. Similarly, we desperately need conscious government and a conscious military. A new power base that can deliver sustainability is the key to success from now on. The only question is how long it will take for society to create leaders with enough vision to see it.
Photo: Stephen Shepherd/Garden Picture Library