On The Use of Power

Power…what is it? How do we use it? Should we use it?

These are some of the questions I ponder as I read chapter 12 in The Leadership Experience for my Strategic Foresight program with Jay Gary. This book has been quite helpful to me in surveying the Leadership field and finding my idiosyncratic place in it. Chapter 12 is all about power and the use of power in political application—potentially one of the most incendiary chapters from a Christian perspective, particularly from the “Servant Leadership” paradigm we’ve been referencing in my 601 Leadership class.

Insofar as I ever lead anything or anyone into our out of anything, I have thus far thought of myself as operating primarily from a Symbolic Frame (where everything has larger/spiritual meaning) and secondarily from a Human Resources frame (where people and relationships are of tantamount importance); however, upon reading the depictions of politicking in this chapter I somewhat ambivalently acknowledge that I do indeed employ a good deal of “politics” in my day-to-day life, whether lobbying for something with my wife, my house church community, spiritual networks or business clients.

So what do I do with this realization? I think it’s not to deny my Political side but to integrate it. (So sorry if I’m Capitalizing like a German; somebody help!) Franciscan spiritual teacher Richard Rohr delineates the stages of a man’s life as Heroic Journey (Ages 1-32), Crisis of Limitation (Ages 35-50), and then (if all is healthy) the Wisdom Journey marked by becoming a Holy Fool. The Heroic Journey is marked by an ascent to power. In my case at least mastery of leadership is a kind of ascent, with the Political Frame being the most overt example. It can be rightly considered the “shadow side” of leadership—potentially the most volatile and ripe for abuse.

And yet Rohr points out then men in particular need to master the right and healthy use of power, or we’ll quickly become unproductive tire-kickers and a drain on the whole. Pointing to Jesus’ enigmatic statement of “Agree with your adversary quickly,” Rohr suggests that we face and embrace our shadow-side as quickly as we can to integrate it into the whole of who we are. (See From Wild Man to Wise Man: Reflections on Male Spirituality and Illuman for more).

With God’s help, I will do just this as I continue on this journey of life and leadership.

One Response to On The Use of Power

  1. Frank December 4, 2007 at 7:56 am #

    Nice post, Mike!

    I particularly like your reference to integrating a holistic approach in relationship to different social change and leadership dynamics, rather than attempting to avoid them in order to invoke the “spiritual life.” Exclusion and denial are never healthy spiritual practices, and we need more people investigating the “clean” and productive side of these issues rather than simply seeing the “unclean” through fear and isolationism.

    I look forward to more of your leadership and foresight impressions as you delve deeper into your MSF program at Regent!

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