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If You Want to be a Leader, Follow This One Rule!

A Class on Power [alt: A Power Class]

Power Team

At the Stanford Graduate School of Business, students cram into a small classroom to learn about power. The class is called “Acting with Power,” and it’s taught by professor Deb Gruendfeld and a team of experts with a background in both professional theater and executive training. I am fortunate to be one of those professionals.

Professor Gruendfeld starts right on time and students are rarely late. The students want to learn about their power – specifically, how to have more of it. They know the ability to have power in business meetings will be a large part of their success.

Different types of power

The students learn about the difference between:

  • Power (the control of resources and the administration of consequences)
  • Authority (A formal role that does not always come with power, for example a security guard may not have the power to prevent a breach)
  • Status (the degree to which others hold you in esteem; social or professional standing, for example)

We focus much of our attention on Status because it’s within our control. The way we conduct ourselves with others has a direct affect on the amount of status they give us.

Given, not Taken

Did you get that? It’s a key concept with Status. Status is not taken, it’s given. Status is a dynamic, so it’s dependent on the opinion of others. You can claim status but unless it is recognized, you don’t have it.

So what’s the one rule I mentioned in the headline? Here it is:

If you want status you must be of value to the group.

For politicians, it means you won’t get any support as a candidate unless you speak for a group of people. Their decision to support you makes you a candidate.

You can call yourself “the Leadership Team” in an organization, but you won’t have that status unless you are valuable to the people you lead.

From my notes

From my notes

How you can use this concept?

If you’re making a presentation, consider what value you bring to the audience. What are you doing for them? How can you speak for them?

If you’re speaking at a conference or a trade show, consider the same question. Identify the group you want to hold you in higher status.  Highlight their voice in both frustration (pain points) and solution.

Focus your talk on the value they receive from your product or solution.  Resist listing features, these come from your engineers.  Benefits trump features when you are making a case for value.

If you do these things, it’s much more likely your audience will hold you in higher esteem (status). This will lead to increased trust and increased influence with the group.  Doesn’t that sound good?

For more on power, stay tuned!

About: William Hall:
William Hall is an actor, trainer and improviser living in San Francisco, CA. He works with companies to engage and involve audiences at Trade Shows, Conferences and Training Sessions. He is a founder of BATS Improv and the author of The Playbook: Improv Games for Performers.

Reader Feedback

2 Responses to “If You Want to be a Leader, Follow This One Rule!”

  1. Martin Ganapoler says:

    As you have indicated, status is conferred, power is both self and externally realized. When we think of great leaders, we think of people who have a clear view of what benefits the team or participants (or voters) will receive if they follow the leader’s vision. This again reinforces status and makes the leader more effective (powerful). It is a cycle that begins in empathy for the other people and ends in receiving empathy from them.

  2. Calvin says:

    Perhaps the next step of realizing the power of giving status, which was briefly touched upon, is how to package the value you are bringing with your knowledge, your mission, or the company you are representing in the most clear and concise way. Presenting immediate value to an audience while giving them status seems to be the formula for successful leadership.

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