by Lorraine Bosse-Smith
In an era of power suits, power meetings and power plays, one wonders what constitutes power and how it is really acquired.
Some suggest that power is found in confidence, body language, communication skills, negotiation abilities or other success tactics. Although these are essential elements for professionalism and do contribute immensely to one’s overall level of power, the single most important attribute a businessperson needs to truly be in a position of power is integrity. The words “power” and “integrity” are seldom spoken together in the same sentence, yet they have a unique cause and effect relationship worth investigating.
First, let’s review each word independently. Power, in its purest form, means “possession of control, authority or influence over others“(Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary). Placed in the context of the business world, the word simply refers to a position of authority and the ability to achieve one’s goals and objectives. This usually involves the assistance of others and is acquired by motivation and leadership. In other words, a manager speaks and his employees listen. A presenter steps up on stage and immediately commands the respect and attention of the audience. A salesman calls on an account and is received with appreciation and gratitude.
Power isn’t control; that’s micro-management. It is networking at its finest. Henry Ford had power. One day, a man asked him a question that he didn’t know. The man was quite taken aback that a man of such astute business skills did not have that information. Henry Ford’s reply, “Why should I fill my brain with information I can easily contact an expert for?” Mr. Ford then picked up the telephone and got the answer he was seeking.
Power isn’t authoritative; that’s dictatorship, which can work temporarily but will end up destroyed — guaranteed. A classic case in point: Adolph Hitler.
Power is having rapport with people from all walks of life. From Joe the garbage man to Susie the grocery clerk to Dr. Mitchell to Linda the CEO, mutual respect should exist within a symbiotic relationship built on trust. Such power can only be achieved when one lives a life of high integrity. Bluntly speaking, it means walking one’s own talk. A perfect example is Jesus Christ.
Integrity is conducting oneself at a higher standard, even when no one is around to see or hold us accountable, What is right is done for the sake of doing what is right. Period. An act is not performed to impress peers, please friends or build one’s self up. As Henry Drummond said, “I will pass through this world but once. Any good thing therefore that I can do, or any kindness that I can show to any human being, let me do it now. Let me not defer it or neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again” (Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary defines integrity more precisely as “soundness; firm adherence to a code of moral or artistic values: incorruptibility. “ Integrity is one of those great assets that increases in value daily as long as one invests in it. The moment a withdrawal is made, however, the entire account can go bust. And, building the account back up isn’t always easy and may never reach prior levels.
Integrity follows individuals wherever they go. In fact, it spreads and grows when given the proper attention. Eventually, integrity becomes such an integral part of one’s character that it cannot be separated from his/her personality, and it is at this point that one obtains great power.
Integrity cannot be faked or forced. One’s acts must be sincerely genuine. One’s motivation must not be to become all powerful (only one holds that title) but to live a life of integrity. This in turn causes one’s area of influence to increase, and therefore to experience more power to impact the world.
The initial investment is expensive and steep but the payoff is enormous. Why settle for the imitation when you can have the real thing?
Lorraine Bossé-Smith is President of Concept One, Inc., a corporate training, professional consulting and executive coaching company, serving clients across the country. She is a certified Human Behavior Consultant and the author of seven published books. She can be reached at www.conceptoneonline.com.