Brené Brown on
Power and Leadership
I’ve dedicated my entire career to studying human behavior, emotion, and thought. I’ve spent the last ten years specifically looking at leadership. Here’s what I know for sure:
We can’t understand leadership if we don’t talk about power. We have a strange relationship with the word “power.” We often think of it as a negative, strong-arm experience, yet – at the exact same time – one of the single worst human experiences is powerlessness. No one wants to feel powerlessness. It’s a desperate and isolating experience.
In a 1968 speech given to striking sanitation workers in Memphis, Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. defined power as the ability to achieve purpose and effect change.
This is the most accurate and important definition of power that I’ve ever seen. The definition does not make the nature of power inherently good or bad, which aligns with what I’ve learned in my work.
What makes power dangerous is how it’s used. Power over is driven by fear. Daring and transformative leaders share power with, empower people to, and inspire people to develop power within.
For more on power and leadership check out the Dare to Lead conversation with Joe Biden on Empathy, Unity and Courage.