It’s all about power. Or is it?

Over the years I’ve have worked with leaders in all walks of life. From new managers who are in their first team leadership role, small business owners who are navigating economic challenges, and executives trying to master corporate politics. So what do all of these leaders have in common? The answer: power.

How one perceives power is at the root of most leadership roadblocks. Leaders either secretly don’t feel they have power and want it. They feel they don’t deserve power and are intimated by it. Or, they want more power and abuse it. All of these power scenarios impact our interactions with others and contribute to career and culture challenges.

Most people have a dysfunctional perspective on power that’s negative, external, and ego driven. It’s the reason you self-sabotage, get nervous around other leaders and nurture self-doubt. However, great leaders have figured out that power is actually an internal state-of-being. When you begin to realize that power is something you already have inside of you, and not something you’re given by someone or something else, you can begin relaxing and experiencing a profound change in your leadership.

In her book Real PowerJanet Hagberg talks about six main stages of power. We all experience each stage of power depending on our current situation in life, but the goal is to move through each stage until you’re living with a sense of true peace and confidence within yourself. Getting yourself to a point where you no longer need the validation from external sources to feel worthy. When you get to this point – YOU KNOW IT – and your leadership behaviors show it.

Powerless:
Leaders in this stage are held back by fear and can appear manipulative. They have low self-esteem, feel uninformed and helpless. I’ve seen top-level executives trapped in the powerless stage. How do you improve and get out of the trap? There are many ways to move forward: Getting support from a coach or mentor, confronting your fears, taking responsibility and starting to appreciate yourself.

Power by Association:
Leaders in this stage are dependent on others. They have a lack of confidence and have a strong need for security. If this is you, how can you move forward? A few ways include finding a mentor, getting additional credentials, asking for feedback, and doing things on your own to help build your confidence and lesson your dependence on others.

Power by Achievement:
At this level, leaders perceive power by material accomplishments (title, money, cars, houses, etc.). These leaders feel like their the expert, are highly ambitious, and are driven by the ego. The challenge in this stage is that the leader doesn’t think they need to develop and grow personally because “life is good”! Until of course a crisis happens (unemployment, death, divorce, bankruptcy, etc.) and they are utterly unprepared, and find themselves hitting the WALL. Sound familiar? So how do you move forward? Know and accept the fact that your ego is inflated. Try new things that make you think differently, learn to be alone and to seriously reflect on yourself, surround yourself with others who are already in further stages of power, and create a long range leadership plan.

Power by Reflection:
This is the power stage where you have all questions and no answers. Leaders in this stage appear confident, strong and can be skilled mentors. However, if this is you, you may be feeling stuck in confusion and misunderstood. How do you move forward? Let go of control! You need to do a great deal of self-reflection, and begin tapping into your core to find your true purpose.

Power by Purpose:
This is the stage of inner vision. Leaders in this stage feel and appear self-accepting, humble, calm, courageous, conscience, and confident in their life calling. Wow, we all want to be here but it takes work! Be careful though, when you enter Power by Purpose a leader’s challenge can be a lack of faith and feeling like they are losing too much – Not letting go of the control, and finding themselves moving backwards.

Power by Wisdom:
These are the leaders who have true compassion for the world, are unafraid of death, are quiet in service, and are conscience of their community and the world. Examples may be Mother Theresa, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. – True souls of the earth. How can you move into power by wisdom? Self-sacrifice and humanness.

Real Power is by far the best book on organizational power that I’ve read in the past decade. If you haven’t already, I highly recommend you read this monumental work of art. Thank you Janet for your research, wisdom and dedication to humanity!

Gina Soleil, is a speaker and acclaimed author of Fuel Your Business: How to energize people, ignite action and drive profit. She blogs and speaks about how to create a business where people are energized, feel good and are happy. Visit Gina Soleil and follow her on Twitter.

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