A Radical Take on Power
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As financial advisors, you have asymmetric knowledge because you know more about investing and financial planning than your clients.
Asymmetric knowledge yields power. You may feel a sense of superiority and confidence.
We can blame Machiavelli for the poor reputation of power.
He believed any means was justified to acquire political power. His work is often cited for the troubling proposition that the “end justifies the means.”
There’s another side to power, though, reflecting a more nuanced view. It can improve communication, convert more prospects and deepen relationships with existing clients.
What is power?
“Power” has been defined as “the capacity to alter the states of other people or to influence others.”
Various psychological reasons drive the need to influence and control others.
Some are happier, more accessible, and more empowered when they have power.
Power provides a sense of security and control. We innately seek control over our environment to reduce uncertainty and ensure survival. Power reduces vulnerability and gives us control over resources and outcomes, contributing to a feeling of safety and stability.
But some introverts, who don’t want attention, may shy away from having power.
Power doesn’t always corrupt
There’s no shortage of historical examples of those in power engaging in horrific conduct, reinforcing the belief that “power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
Power doesn’t corrupt everyone. One study (discussed here) found that those who were selfless before an experiment weren’t adversely impacted by power, while those who were previously selfish were corrupted by it.
It seems that power corrupts only those predisposed to be susceptible to corruption.
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Different types of power
There isn’t just one type of power. Physical dominance is a form of power, but stature alone doesn’t give you power unless other traits accompany it (like when it is accompanied by the ability to make intelligent decisions or to lead effectively).
Michael W. Kraus, Ph.D., says, “...power and status are much more context-specific than we realize.”
Unethical behavior isn’t the only path to power
Rather than lying, cheating, and stealing, a more benign path to power is just appearing to be competent.
One study found that individuals could exert influence in a group when they behaved in ways that make them appear competent, “even when they actually lack competence.”
Using power productively
Here are some suggestions for using power constructively:
1. Empower others: One of the most constructive uses of power is to empower others. Instead of hoarding power or using it to control and dominate, use your power to uplift and support clients and colleagues. This can involve providing growth opportunities, giving people a voice, and creating an environment that fosters collaboration and inclusivity.
2. Lead by example: When you have power, use your position to set a positive example. By demonstrating integrity, ethical decision making, and a commitment to the greater good, you inspire others to do the same.
3. Promote fairness and justice: Power can be used constructively to advocate for fairness and justice. You can work to ensure equal opportunities, fight against discrimination and oppression, and use your influence to create positive change in areas like social justice, human rights, and environmental sustainability.
4. Encourage innovation and creativity: Power can be harnessed to foster innovation and creativity. By providing resources, support, and a safe space for exploration, you can encourage others to think creatively, take risks, and develop new and valuable ideas.
5. Build relationships and foster collaboration: Create synergies, enhance productivity, and achieve collective goals by leveraging your power to bring people together, facilitate dialogue, and encourage teamwork.
6. Mentor and coach: Use your power constructively by mentoring and coaching others. Sharing knowledge, providing guidance, and supporting growth and development can profoundly impact lives.
Don’t be put off by its poor reputation. Use your power to do good.
Dan trains executives and employees in the lessons based on the research in his latest book, Ask: How to Relate to Anyone. His digital marketing firm makes extensive use of artificial intelligence to help advisors increase their SEO rankings and improve their marketing and helps advisors integrate AI into their practices.