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Are you empowering your people or just exerting your power?

By | David Klaasen | Helping You Create Clarity, Inspire Your People & Drive Performance | Retain your best people | Changing Management Mindsets and Behaviour | Practical Behaviour Analytics

There is a lot of talk these days about empowerment yet very few managers actually do it because they seem to be more concerned with exerting their own power. This is understandable because power can be addictive and it takes courage, faith and belief to let go and truly empower others. How effectively are you empowering your team?

You are probably familiar with the ancient proverb “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely”; it is interesting to note how the latest research into neuroscience has discovered why. When an animal has won a few fights against weaker opponents it develops the ability to win fights against stronger opponents. This is called the “Winner effect” and it affects the structure of the brain. Numerous studies now show that when we feel more powerful we increase our levels of Testosterone making us more assertive, better at focusing on relevant information and seeing hidden patterns. Feeling powerful also reduces our Cortisol levels making us less stressed and more willing to take risks.

Power poses

Amy Cuddy, Associate Professor at Harvard Business School did some very interesting experiments to demonstrate that a change in our posture can have a significant effect on our thinking and behaviour, especially in relation to power. She got two groups of students to strike a number of poses. One group was asked to stand and sit in a number of ‘Power Poses’, for example: standing with an upright body, feet shoulder-width apart and hands on hips; standing in front of a table with palms flat on the table surface and leaning forward; sitting back with feet up on the table; or with legs crossed with one foot resting on the other knee and arms up with hands clasped behind the head, or leaning on the back of the next chair.

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