the delicate nature of power

Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.
— Abraham Lincoln

As an executive or entrepreneur, you have the power to shape your destiny. In addition, your position of power enables you to significantly influence others. How do you, the leader, determine what you have and should have control over and what you are truly powerless over? Your leadership style and perspectives are the sum total of your life experiences, education and the skills and knowledge you have developed throughout your business experiences. When we are conscious of who we are, what we are feeling and how others see us, control can be a beneficial tool for leading others. However, if we use control to mask our fear, self doubt or to simply have power over others, it can be a dangerous tool.

How leaders utilize control varies greatly. On one end of the spectrum, there are those who use an unstructured, ‘laissez faire’ approach to leading their companies.... too little control, too much flexibility and no stability. On the opposite end of the spectrum, there are the leaders who have seen great success by being highly disciplined, structured and organized. Both extremes can work so well that the leader begins to unconsciously associate their success with their method of control. However, extreme approaches become vulnerable in times of great change, such as in sharp or deep downturns in the economy, with new regulatory laws, market/industry trends, or with the loss of key personnel. During such times, it is important for the ‘laissez faire’ leader to amplify their level of control to create stability and for the controlling leader to release some control in order to adjust and maneuver through the extreme circumstances.

There is a fine line between using too much control in the workplace and too little. The goal is to be aware of the way you use your control and to understand the direct impact it has on your organization, others and ultimately, on your success and happiness. Understanding how and when to use control is a critical key to inner and outer success. One should view control as something that is not found at one extreme or the other, but rather, in the middle. It is adjustable to the present circumstances and used with as much flexibility and power as a ship’s ballast. Like the sails on a ship, control should help guide you to ‘flow’ with the circumstance, your instincts and the people around you, adjusting every step of the way.

One of the great challenges that every leader confronts, is finding clarity in what they have or don’t have control over and knowing how and when to use that power. In addition, it is imperative that a leader listen to their instincts and act accordingly during challenging times. This all begins with an awareness of energy management, because control can be extremely draining both intellectually and physiologically. You must learn to accept you cannot do everything or control everything and with some examination you may find you don’t even want to. As a result, you learn to trust and rely on others. The key to leadership, is developing the ability to surround ourselves with individuals who bring a skill, perspective or experience that will collectively create an approach which far exceeds what any single mind could ever accomplish. You begin by connecting people, then you lead, guide and teach them. Through diligent, committed practice you will discover an amazing outcome: you begin to trust your instincts simply by observing and knowing which instincts and beliefs will help you and which may work against you. When you teach and encourage others to do the same, you create a powerful synergy, far more potent than any form or degree of control. This empowers you to see patterns in your business and in your life, resulting in clarity for problem solving and creating authentic abundance.


“Trying to Maintain Control Takes its Toll. For years, I was “The Man”, “Charles in Charge”, and “The King”. I perceived success in my profession as being a function of my ability to handle a large volume of projects, to direct several other people and to achieve good results based on being smarter, better prepared and more tenacious than others. In short, I was a “workaholic” with a one dimensional life and focus. Eventually, the load became too much and I imploded. I had set up a paradigm that I could not maintain. It had to be fed to stay afloat. However, the returns were diminishing and the personal toll was escalating. I crashed – lost my family, became depressed and self-destructive. Slowly, with the help of others, I learned to let go of the reins, to ask for help and to trust others to assist. The results have been astounding. I’m happier, more confident, stronger and more successful - the professional product and rewards have been greater than I ever achieved on my own. My team mirrors this change. Now, no one is “controlling” anything or anyone else. Instead, we have shared goals. I am fully aware of the toxicity of the “in charge”, “the man” and the “captain of the ship” approach when misapplied. I also fully know the power of letting go and seeking help. I’ve learned that it’s there for the asking and a superior course–indeed, I’m grateful to have made the change.”

C.L. Trial Law Attorney

It is wisdom to know the cycles of life and where any particular circumstance that we are involved in stands on the curve. If we want to perpetuate something, we should join it to new growth to compound our progress. If we want to destroy something, we need only lead it to its extreme, for all things decline after their zenith.
— Deng Ming-Dao, Chinese Philosopher


Questions for Self-Exploration

The content, structure and flow of this exercise are designed to guide you in:

  • exploring your earliest experiences with control

  • examining your style and use of control

  • discovering how your style of control is affecting your interactions with others

  • applying this knowledge to use control constructively and thus improve your ability listen to your instincts and guide others