If Power is in Decline, then You Have, and You Have to Exercise, More Power over Yourself – Some Reflections on Moisés Naím’s The End of Power

End of PowerPower is the ability to direct or prevent the current or future actions of other groups and individuals.  Or, put differently, power is what we exercise over others that leads them to behave in ways they would not otherwise have behaved.
A world where players have enough power to block everyone’s initiatives but no one has the power to impose its preferred course of action is a world where decisions are not taken, taken too late, or watered down to the point of ineffectiveness.
Moisés Naím, The End of Power:  From Boardrooms to Battlefields and Churches to States, Why Being in Charge isn’t What It used To Be


We talk about, write about, admire, and complain about leaders and their exercise of “leadership.” We use different words to describe aspects of this very big issue:  “influence;” “leadership;” “power.” But it boils down to this: someone, somewhere, has to decide what will get done, by whom. If Person A can decide how Person B is going to spend the hours of his/her days, then Person A is the leader of Person B.

And, ultimately, even when we give people a lot of autonomy, and they get to decide more and more about how they will go about doing their work (how they will spend their hours), there is still this simple issue: what is the end result of the investing of your hours? If you are building widgets, then whoever tells you that your end result is X# of widgets per work day is your leader. And if the person giving the “directive” is yourself, then it is “self-leadership.”

Yes, there is more “freedom” for more and more people to invest their time as they wish. And, so, in that sense, the power of some people over others is in great decline — “the end of power.” And that is the point behind this book — power itself is in decline.

But, if the power of one person over another is in decline, then this means that we have to become much better at being the leader over ourselves. In other words, we have to exercise self-powerpower over self.  (Along with all that other “self stuff,” like self-discipline, self-mastery, self-improvement…).

And, I do like this new reality; I think this is good. It is definitely progress. But there are times when I almost wish someone would say to me “do this now, and that tomorrow, in this way.”

It’s a big responsibility to to be the master over your own life; your own hour-by-hour schedule…

Anyway, this is one set of thoughts prompted by reading this book…  I’m enjoying reading it — it’s a provocative read, in a good way.


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