I want to unpack this question. Now some may start with what true power is not, but like bank tellers learn what real money feels like by thumbing 100’s of bank notes so I would like to draw our attention to what it is, rather than what it is not.
I believe there are 10 key aspects of true power I would like to touch on. Benchmarks we could use to audit how we exercise power in whatever context we find ourselves and at whatever level we may function.
The true transcendent kind. It is a force for good. It works with whatever resource, gifting, aptitude, or influence to bring hope, goodness, justice and legacy. To improve an environment, not control it or worse decimate it. Aggression whether obvious or through manipulation masquerades as power but is the exact opposite. It is weakness to shout at other people. To belittle them. It is weakness to undermine other people or abuse their willingness to please. It is weakness to threaten and instill fear.
There is a phrase ‘the meek shall inherit the earth’. Meekness is defined as ‘strength under control’. Why would the meek be trusted with an inheritance such as earth? They would rule it without destroying it. True power is strength under control. The force of clear vision. Of clear purpose. The force of kindness and expecting the best from others. A force that will confront injustice with wisdom and without violence. It is not about how much force you can exert over another, but rather how much force you can exert for another.
True power builds with others in mind. It builds with generations in mind. True power is outward focused. This does not mean that an individual has no self-awareness or self-care. Nor does it mean that an individual is a door mat in the name of meeting others wants and desires. It means that others matter in your individual journey through life. It means that it is not all about you. If we all adopted this, we wouldn’t have to worry about door mats or self-neglect. The operation of empowering and considering others would bring a safety to our individual souls.
True power is inclusive. It is found in the collective. Diversity is strength. True power understands that though the back of the tapestry is full of threads – a mess really, when all is done, the end picture is beautiful. The end picture is a message, even maybe a song. All those colours, all those threads, knitted together to bring forth art. True power is patient as each thread is pulled through an eye of a needle and shaped through the breathing holes of the canvas.
‘If you have diversity but you don’t have an inclusive culture and diverse people have to assimilate to the dominant culture, you’ve lost out. Because no-one is innovative when they are trying to assimilate into something they do not know…. when they are accepted for who they are, they will perform at their best.’ Dr Judy Dlamini (Executive Chairman Mbekani Group) #riseblackocean
Diversity is not only colour or gender. It is found in differing skill sets, personalities, strengths, weaknesses, nationalities and points of view – ways of being. Whether at work, in family, in communities or any arena of life – true power knows that bonded diversity is the glue. True power always looks to bind people together, not divide them. We don’t absorb anything and everything in the name of inclusion. True power filters the character flaws that cause harm but works with differences and yes weaknesses that simply need a home. This power understands dependency and vulnerability and allow these two dynamics to work to bring people together rather than to divide and conquer.
It allocates trust alongside accountability.
‘We have heard corporations say they are on a journey of transformation and have many black executives they bring on board only to find these people cannot actually implement the decisions that they make and so there is no authentic power. What we are doing is putting black faces to white power. If we are going to be authentic then let’s trust people. Let’s trust their abilities, trust in their competence … that if we give them particular tasks and need them to make decisions then we allow them to make them and see them through to the end.’ Dominic Gaobepe (Director: Cohesion Collective)
What do we need to effectively train, develop, mentor, coach and empower others?
The work ahead of us is to define this meaningful work and design the intervention of empowerment. Do not say you are a leader if you have no investment in the ones you lead. If your power is only for your advancement, then you are weak.
True power harnesses the resources at its disposal to ensure force for good, building with others in mind, inclusivity and empowerment. Money is a tool not a weapon. Influence is a mechanism not manipulation. Position and title are an opportunity not a disco suit (I don’t want to have to wear Ray Bans in your presence). True power asks the question: what is at my disposal to affect change?
True power is a friend of adversity
What is that you say? Make friends with suffering? Well, true power knows that adversity will come and must be overcome. True power has a healthy perspective of the reality of adversity. The reality of resistance. The reality of failure. Yes, you will fail. You will make the wrong choices. Others will be mean and let you down. Yes, you will let someone down.
This is adversity.
In South Africa the load will shed, guns are fired in the streets, service delivery is poor, corruption is high. So, what are you going to do about it? Are you going to run? Complain? Cause dissent? If you can’t beat em, are you going to join em? When your business closes, you are not promoted, you are demoted or worse fired (unfairly). Should you become sick, injured or lose someone close. What are you going to do? Will you fold? Or will you rise up, grieve, heal, adapt, inspire, testify?
True power is resilient my friends. IT NEVER GIVES UP! Please watch the video clip below.
Do we agree? This scene is a perfect depiction of true verses false power. Did you see how everyone stopped working and watched? Broken and absolutely desperate they waited for an outcome – any outcome rather than the death and brutality that surrounded them.
Then we see the force of true power. Of a man insistent on overcoming, roaring out against his abuser. Louis Zamperini did not throw the plank down and attack Watanabe . Neither did he give in. He looked his enemy in the eye and conquered the task. He took the power back. Watanabe loses all power and beats him repeatedly. Power lost to a power hungry man makes a savage out of him … or her. Look at the hope true power gave? The inspiration. Even when on the ground, all he can see is his true self – an Olympian runner, a man with a gift. Watanabe falls to his knees in the face of this power. The power of a man who would not bow to adversity. You can be a friend of adversity but not bow to it.
In the sequel to Unbroken, Louis Zamperini goes back to where the Japanese war criminals are serving their sentences. What does he do? He walks among them, lifting their heads, shaking their hands and hugging them. Remember these weren’t people who had said something nasty at the water cooler or who had taken credit for a work project or left you out of an office party, these men tortured and almost killed thousands of soldiers. Yet Louis forgives. He releases. When it comes to the true power equation – forgiveness is the Siamese twin of resilience. You see, everyone of us will need forgiveness as much as we will need to give it.
It is unafraid to see its own weakness and error. True power recognises where it needs to grow, learn and make better decisions. True power becomes more powerful in the face of criticism. Watch video clip below and please note it is a metaphor and that I am not advocating for nuke empowered villians …especially ones as hideous as this one!
True power absorbs criticism and allows learning and growth instead of implosion and defensiveness. True power is malleable. It moves with every experience of missing the mark. Re aiming. Realigning. Re-firing. Humility is a gift to all. A great test of another’s ability to exercise true power is to see how they handle humiliation. Do they lash out, rage, or get revenge? Or are their feathers oiled with the mockery sliding from their shoulders?
‘the power that you have resides with you and whether you choose to use it or not is your issue. You need to own your own career and development.’ Dr Judy Dlamini (Executive Chairman – Mbekani Group) #riseblackocean
True power knows that without making an active choice or taking responsibility for one’s own choices, there is no momentum in this thing called life. Though systemically there is dire need for change, what choices will you make? The red pill or the blue pill? Will you allow the system to dictate? Or will you seek out to exercise true power?
Now it may seem that we are talking about a true power that seems to sit in a type of utopia … idealistic. We need to remember, we are designed to reach for the stars, we are designed to reach for the heavens. We search for this ideal daily even if it is only an ache in our hearts.
‘I cannot fight the darkness that is out there but all I can do is to light the light that I have so that it can shed light to other people’ Tambu Ndoro (Systems Practice Implementator|Facilitator|Strategy Planning & Development) #riseblackocean
Choose your power people and take ground!