How to Be a Powerful Leader

I am certain that after the dust of centuries has passed over our cities, we, too, will be remembered not for victories or defeats…but for our contribution to the human spirit.” John F. Kennedy

There are many times when life calls us to stand and be a leader, whether a group needs you to rise up or to model leadership for your children. What does it take to be a good leader?

THE PROBLEM: Traditionally, leadership has been viewed as a set of competencies, with the search for the right mix of behaviors and skills a multi-billion dollar business. Yet the right formula that sustains success over time remains elusive.

The problem is that most skills are based on “Force”, using ones own will to direct, motivate, manipulate, or influence the will of others. There is an inherent factor of failure in any of these leadership formulas because they tend to create negative instead of positive energy, which is destructive instead of constructive in the long run.

Eventually, those affected by force either rebel or lose their spirit, creating fear, anger, or submissiveness in our employees, children, and even in our partners and friends. Few people like it when we attempt to manipulate or influence them to do what we think is right.

THE SOLUTION: On the other hand, if leaders lead with Power—by choosing to be someone others admire and want to emulate–they move people forward aided by life-force energy. There have been many models of power in history in those who inspired others to rise up, filling their spirit with passion for the greater good. Leaders such as Gandhi and Nelson Mandela collapsed empires by selflessly standing for man’s right to self-determination. Churchill unified the will of his people by standing for freedom, reason, and love for country, defeating Hitler’s force. Gorbachev toppled communism without a weapon. When the two meet, Force is no match for Power. John F. Kennedy said that what people will remember about us is how we contribute to the human spirit. His words still enliven the spirit in people today.

Force consumes. Power energizes. Force drains energy. Power feeds it. The need to control others shows the lack of power. Force uses judgment, making people feel badly about themselves. Power uses acceptance, helping people feel positively about themselves. Victories from Force bring temporary satisfaction. Power begets long-lasting joy.

BRAIN TIP: So how do leaders become powerful?

1. Self-awareness. First, they must FEEL the difference between force and power within themselves. When we inspire with power, we don’t feel the need to push, we look for how we can clear the way for people to risk, create, and excel. To access power, leaders work step-by-step and stretch-by-stretch, shedding their personal needs and desires until all that is left is the love for their work and the people around them. Charisma is the outer manifestation of the grace of inner power.

2. Courage to accept and let go. Powerful leaders have the courage to accept their own foibles, which gives rise to forgiveness and compassion for others. Leaders must also give up knowing the answers, to risk being wrong, and to allow the vulnerability of looking inadequate. Having all the answers stops possibility. Powerful people believe that there is always more to see and know.

3. Live in integrity and simplicity. Finally, leaders must live by the principles they speak, which is integrity. In the end, powerful leaders know that the more they give up being a Great Leader and surrender to the simplicity and beauty of just existing, the more extraordinary will be the results. It is the leader whose ego is practically invisible, at least in the moment of choice, who frees the spirit of those around him or her to rise.

Yes, there will be conflicts and difficult decisions to make. Yet leaders who handle these challenges by not taking things personally, and choosing to stay calm and thoughtful, can learn to make choices without struggle. The leader who is accessible, accepting, affirming, encouraging, and invigorating by words and nature becomes a formidable victor without lifting a finger of force. In the presence of these leaders, we too lose ourselves to the pleasure of existence.
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