Power. It corrupts the best and attracts the worst. Its allure is loved and despised. It brings more pain and less happiness. And yet, men chase it like wild animals. We cannot help ourselves. But not only can we not help ourselves, we are nothing without it. Welcome to earth, where women are born with value and men are born without it. Us men need to find our value. Women must preserve their deteriorating value, and men must accumulate it. We find it by earning, then providing. Our output is what defines us. And our level of output originates from the personal power we hold.
From all the literature I have come across on power, I find Robert Greene’s The 48 Laws of Power to be the most effective and useful. This article will seek to deliver a different angle on power. It will focus on the accumulation of power through five facets relevant to any organisational hierarchy. Before reading further, read my thread on personal power HERE for a brief introduction of the five facets. Also go through the mandatory reading The Philosophy of Becoming High Value if you haven’t already.
Here’s a web definition of Power:
- the ability or capacity to do something or act in a particular way.
- the capacity or ability to direct or influence the behaviour of others or the course of events.
The power in this context fits the second definition, where an individual has the capacity to influence others to gain an objective. But power is much more than just that. There’s a pattern across history on how individuals have wielded power. It goes along the lines of: power is taken with brute force through a set of cunning, conniving tactical steps. It is then guarded, and only accessible to the bearer who uses it either for the prosperity of a nation or himself.
But this is changing rapidly. Power now is like an open source where everyone can participate. One meme that goes viral can direct a whole audience towards a new way of thinking. It no longer acts as a currency that needs to be hoarded in order to be utilised. Just google How Social Media Toppled an Egyptian Dictator and you will see what I mean.
This change will continue to happen as more people adopt the internet in their lives. But the essence of where influence originates from does not change. Influence will still need to be backed by credibility if it is to yield any substantiating impact.
What Does this Mean to You?
For starters, the dynamic shift with regards to power makes it easier for people like you to obtain it. Your capacity to influence others has increased, and will continue to increase. No longer will you need to cultivate a sphere of people around you to influence. Social media and technology has sorted this step out for you. If you wanted to, you could influence thousands in a matter of weeks. What you need to work on is your credibility. I firmly believe those who are the most (positively) influential online, have great influence offline. Those who thrive online, have their life sorted and thrive offline.
I am going to deliver on how to increase your personal power offline through five facets. Also, a key theme in this article will be leverage. Leverage is what dictates the underlying forces of power. It is the element that will be used consistently throughout the five facets. It is important to understand that the facets I will describe are largely useless to your own personal power unless you exert leverage on each one.
The 5 facets of Personal Power
Previously labelled as ‘Character’, reputation is one of the facets found in the 48 Laws of Power. It is the vehicle that delivers your credibility before your arrival. You can get half your work done before arriving to a scene if you have a solid reputation. So first and foremost, your focus should be on developing a reputation. It will take time and you will need to work on it everyday. But it is well worth it as it sets the foundation for all the other facets of personal power.
Integrity measures what you do when no one is watching. Reputation is what you’re known for as a result of everyone watching. The best men hide their shadow from the spotlight. The more your actions remain unchanged irrespective of an audience, the less you have to guard your reputation. This means you need to assess who you are in private as opposed to who you are in public. Too much variance puts you at the risk of ‘slip ups’, where your private nature involuntarily reveals itself out in the open tarnishing the reputation you’ve built. This is why shadow integration is so crucial. Systematically eliminating your regretful actions one by one integrates you with your shadow so you become whole. You’re a member of the lobby room if you’re reading this. You should be disclosing the shadows you find most challenging where we can collective discuss it and integrate it.
Your ability to not get upset and resentfully lash out against an opposition is probably the most useful trait you can learn in this day and age. But as politics, belief systems and ideologies become more polarised, the baseline neuroticism of the population will rise. Consequently, more people will become insecure, feel unsafe and protect their delicate sensitivities lashing out of hate and resentment. Something I learned in corporate management is to treat people I like and dislike, the same. It was probably the most useful habit I have ever developed in my life as a result of working with high end managers and executives.
The ability to stay calm and composed in the face of someone trying to undermine you gives your reputation a powerful aura. Those observing will remember you as someone who does not get fazed. They instantly begin to conjecture what it takes to throw you off, which only adds more weight to your character.
Tolerance to Conflict
Your tolerance to conflict largely paints the picture of what kind a leader you are. The ability to confront and seek the truth is a very rare trait to come by and the demand for it continues to increase. People need leaders who are able to confront conflict. The reputation that you will radiate as a result is someone who can push through adversity and difficult conditions. Naturally, people are drawn to this quality. You cannot afford to break down in front of those you lead. The whole point of creating a reputation is to emanate superiority. Because without it, people will not want to be led. This means your tolerance to conflict should be well above average. The prospect of confronting it should excite you.
It’s also worth knowing that your tolerance to conflict is disproportional to your level of neuroticism. The lower your negative emotions, the higher your tolerance to stress. You should be using the shadow integration method on which negative emotions manifest when encountered by conflict.
I have written an unorthodox piece on becoming an effective leader. It takes a different approach by utilising human emotion through influence and compulsion. Read the article; How To Be An Effective Leader. The piece elaborately explains the use of influence and compulsion under different conditions and personality types. In relation to power and leadership, the simultaneous use of both methods extracts the most amount of utility when leading others. The crux of the article sums up in one sentence; explicitly detail the benefits of complying, while implicitly stating the consequences of defying.
I remember quitting my job as a pharmacist manager years ago when an owner of another pharmacy called me two days after my resignation. “Are you on the market?!” he asked me. I told him “Hi Bob, look, I’m really not looking for any work, I want to spend-”
“I got the perfect position for you, just name your price!” he interrupted me.
My efficiency and effectiveness of managing patient outflow was already recognised in the industry I worked in. I was surprised that my reputation preceded me in a way that tilted the negotiations in my favour before I even showed any interest. What was more astounding, was how Bob’s staff immediately sharpened themselves up upon hearing that I had accepted the offer. If you can build a formidable reputation, it will do half the work before your arrival. Don’t underestimate this leverage.
If you have been following me on twitter for a while, you by now know my obsession with competence. It is the only facet that’s irreplaceable, giving you infinite leverage capacity. And what I mean by that is; your specific knowledge within a domain cannot be replicated. This gives you exclusive right to apply leverage on anything and anyone that relies on the value produced by your skill set.
Pick Your Domain
We are past the tribal era where the large muscular guy imposes his will by force in an act of power. In this modern day, men have multiple domains to master and become dominant and attain power. But the vast options have also made it infinitely more difficult for men to apply conviction and self-determination. I’ve stressed this before, I’ll stress it again, personality is everything. You need to spend time studying your personality. I would spend about $100 on several personality tests to really get a good grasp of which traits stand out that define you. Do different tests and cross reference each. I am not going to go into details on the traits but here is a list of them:
Excellence is found in exploiting your traits. Once you have recognised and acknowledged what personality type you are, find work or become productive in domains where you can manifest your traits. Then practice till you become perfect. Then practice more to apply efficiency. The aim is to provide value largely built by the strength of your traits. Your value then, becomes your signature. It makes you a “part of” the value itself, an indispensable portion of it.
Follow the 4 stages of learning
- Unconscious Incompetence
- Conscious Incompetence
- Conscious Competence
- Unconscious Competence
Stage five is speed. Efficiency is what makes you stand out from the competent. When you reach stage five, it’s an indication that you have become the best at what you do. Speed separates you from others as the winner. Why? Because it means you can provide the most amount of productivity of labour, in the shortest period of time. And if you can deliver it flawlessly, then you become an absolute force to contend with. Never let your specific knowledge self-automate. And never teach others 100% of what you know. It’s crucial to understand that the value you provide from your competence does not self-automate. You need to be a part of it. You need to ingrain yourself into the system that generates the value.
The more society values your competence, the more you can leverage it. But it is infinitely better to occupy a sublime position within a moderately valued domain, over a semi-competent position within a highly valued domain.
Competence is leveraged when you provide value that you happen to generate with ease in exchange for value you do not generate. The value in pursuit could be monetary, positional, tactical, political, or anything of subjective value to you. The first step is to observe and study what relies on your competence within your sphere of influence. Is it a person? Is it a system? A department? Anything you find that relies on your competence is subject to unfair advantage and manipulation. Also note that the scalability of your competence will magnify your leverage capacity.
Using specific knowledge to impose authority through leverage is a game played at the highest level of organisations. Businesses and political figures leverage their value for positional advantage and power all the time. Leveraging competence is a mandatory element that ascends you on the socio-economic hierarchy.
There’s a saying written by George Orwell; he who controls the flow of information controls the world. The same principle can be extended towards the control of resources within organisations. Resources are the lifeline of any organisational hierarchy, and it usually comes in two forms; tangible and intangible resources.
When I say intangible resources I don’t mean intangible assets, although there may be an overlap between the two. An example of an intangible resource would be; 10% of the repeat clients within a business only demand to do business with you. This gives you ‘resources’ in the form of profit that would otherwise not be there for an organisation. The fact that certain clients only conduct business with you indicates loyalty to a “personal brand”, which is considered an intangible asset in business. A significant portion of your personal brand relies on your reputation. But the resources are in effect, your clients.
Another form of intangible resource is your ability to influence people in a way (see How To Be An Effective Leader) that makes them defiant to everyone else, so only you can manoeuvre them. Your ability to effortlessly make people comply turns them into a resource that can be utilised by you and only you. I’ve used this several times at work to get rid of incompetent managers. I lobby the staff to support me and comply to my commands (and only mine), rendering other managers “ineffective” in their job.
Tangible resources are resources that you have access to at a relatively low cost compared to others. The comparative advantage gives you the ability to utilise it with leverage within an organisation. Tangible resources could come in any form and it largely depends on the organisation. For instance, when I used to work in community pharmacy I shared the responsibility of stock ordering. At the time, Viagra happened to just come off patent and generic companies were popping up everywhere with deals. I found a supplier who I made a exclusive side deal with, something nobody does in community pharmacy. I created a contract that I would would exclusively order lines from this supplier in the event of stock shortages from any other supplier.
In exchange, I would get to purchase generic Viagra for 98 cents per box for 12 months as opposed to $4.90. The sales guy checked with his manager, and the deal was set. I leveraged this as a resource and it became well known that; if you wanted cheap generic Viagra, go see UM.
To get a comparative advantage on resources will largely depend on the goods and services the organisation provides. Therefore, ideally you should make a list of all the resources your work needs to provide as service. Then see whether you can improve a particular resource availability through your position, connections and perhaps your own personal assets.
Your ability to control resources within an organisation is extremely powerful because you directly impact the economics of a business.
The mere knowledge of being known for supplying resources at low cost gives you tremendous reputation as an individual who priorities the viability of a business. There is no downside to this. You will at least become reputable as a resourceful person. And at most, you can leverage it in exchange for any other value within the organisation.
Legitimacy refers to having the licence ‘to do’. It derives its power from a licence provided by a governing body or an academic institution. In relation to personal power, legitimacy is the most difficult facet to attain. My audience reading this either already have it or lost the time opportunity to acquire it. It is an element of power that is taxing on your time and takes many years to yield any substantiating impact. However, the good news is that with the technology of this day and age and the egalitarian nature of schools, the attainment of legitimacy has diversified across several domains. For instance, aside from a governing body or a schooling institution, it is now possible to create legitimacy over time in one these domains:
- Reputable social media presence
- Entrepreneurship in a start-up
- Small business that provides a service
I hold a pharmacist licence and an MBA degree which I am currently doing an extension on. By far the most valuable decision I made was to study my MBA. Not just because of the content I learned. But the credential is highly valued in the business world. If you are a manager with a decent job, I strongly recommend you look into doing an MBA. In any case, your path towards your purpose should ideally acquire you a form of legitimacy.
Promotion Favours Legitimacy
In organisational hierarchies, the possibility of facing high competition with regards to promotion is common. Whether you disapprove of the schooling system or not, credentials separate you from the pack. It gives you an unfair advantage during promotions and management selection. I was faced with competition many times in my career where my credentials ended up giving me an edge. If you’re ambitious with an aim to get promoted or reach a higher salary package, an MBA or a credential relevant to the organisation can help you achieve both. If you and your colleague are working in the same department, and you have done an MBA while your colleague has not, it goes without saying that you will be the first choice for promotion.
Legitimacy Insulates You
When COVID lock down happened, demand for health professionals, web developers, software engineers and information technology all went up. At the time I was temporarily working at a pharmacy which was the only business that was open in the area, with the other being a medical centre. Obviously my degree just so happened to be useful in a unpredictable pandemic, but don’t discount the fact that a credential can force society to rely on your labour.
Before I explore this facet, it is important to know that there is tremendous overlap with each of these facets discussed above. And each one will play a substantial role with regards to your relations with others. The essence of who we are and what determines our importance will never change across time. If you want network and connect with others, you must bring something to the table. The four facets discussed above aims to achieve that in the most pragmatic way possible. To understand the relational aspect of individual power, you need to first make sense of some definitions;
- Ties – The people you know. Some call this your contact list. It is a list of everyone you have access to, whether you see everyday or email, or call.
- Coalitions – A group of people that work in a coordinated manner to exert force and influence.
- Density – Measures the strength of your ties and your coalition. Having a contact list is one thing, but being able to leverage them for effectiveness is another.
- Centrality – Determines how close you are to people of influence within coalitions.
A Typical Hierarchy
Lets explore the image above for a moment.
What I am going to discuss refers to a reasonably well managed company who seek to promote competence and ideas. We have an organisational hierarchy with a division that contains people within a coalition, and people outside it. This image is a snapshot of one operating group, but depending on the size of the company, there could be several coalitions that form within departments. Inside the coalition you have a group of people which the colours represent a field of expertise. This means, people do not make it into a coalition at random. They must bring something to the table.
The arrows inside the coalition represent the density between the individuals. The number of arrows pointing at you determines the extensiveness of your ties. The arrow between you and the influencer is the formation of centrality. The image depicts you as an outsider, where centrality is crucial if you want to have any credibility within the coalition. But to form your own relational power, you take a different approach. Here’s a guide;
- Grow your ties to as many people as possible. Don’t worry about the quality of the people you are connecting to. Aim to grow your contact list as much as you can.
- Apply density to those in your contact list that prove valuable and have something to offer. Density will strengthen your ties with certain people. This is achieved by creating a bond and covenant of trust through;
- increasing interactive exposure with someone
- increase frequency of interaction & dialogue
- value exchange
- vulnerability exchange
- Form your coalition. You need clear objectives and purpose for your reasons of forming a coalition. Then you need to invite those that appeal to such purpose and can provide value to help you attain it. I formed my own coalition several times throughout my career;
- To motivate staff to improve themselves, and be invited into the coalition
- Co-ordinate task completions in my absence
- To collectively achieve a target for business growth
- To collude and fabricate pretext to fire toxic employees
Coalition is an absolute necessity if you want to possess influence that extends beyond your sphere of influence. As a leader, how you create your coalition and the atmosphere you establish will speak volumes. Invite only on the basis of competence. Not friendship. The coalition you form of your own design, will end up reflecting and representing you.
To my members reading this; read each facet carefully. Try and align the content with what you are currently going through. Fantasize on how you can develop and apply each facet relevant to your field. THE LOBBY is where you can apply critical and analytical thinking by asking questions and solving problems. Use it to its full extent and discuss the facets to effectively develop it, tailored to yourself.