Power and Uncertainty
Power flows to the
people who control uncertainty. That was the wisdom of French
sociologist Michel Cozier a generation ago. It is a
fascinating and powerful maxim, which anyone can study and
adapt as a cornerstone of success.
In exploring the
meaning of that comment, the first question that comes up is
what does "power" really mean, especially in a local
government? In the HR Doctors view, it means some combination
of being able to get things done, being able to develop a
vision of what could be, and being able to share that vision
articulately with others. It also means being able to enlist
other people to help make the vision a reality. In addition,
power is about the formal status or rank structure in an
organization. Finally, power refers to charisma or
These are the
qualities that cause others to look to the leader for hope and
the expression of ideas that others cannot express as well.
All of these ingredients, when combined in one person, create
the person we want to vote for, work for, or seek out for
support and help.
Which came first,
the power or the rank? The answer may depend on whether you
operate a farm that produces eggs or raises chickens for
The idea of power
manifesting itself as the ability to control uncertainty for
people is a very important concept. It is one which transcends
political power or whether a person is an elected or appointed
official. It goes to relationships inside a community, in
private businesses, inside a family or in one-to-one
interaction with a spouse, a child, a neighbor or a workplace
Every one of us
shares a common need to know how we stand in an increasingly
complicated world. Every one of us must ask, "How am I doing?"
"Am I OK?" Answering those questions is a very fundamental
role for a person who supervises other people, a parent in
relation to a child, or an elected or an appointed official in
terms of organizational leadership.
leaders job is to continue to answer that question for others
in a way which compels action on the part of that other
person. Its no different as a public administrator than it is
as a medical doctor. You visit a doctor seeking answers. The
training, experience, and charisma of the physician helps
provide answers. This assumes, of course, that you can get a
referral from your HMO!
The HR Doctors
experience is that leaders are not test tube creations with
genetic predispositions to be in charge. Rather, leaders in
the making can learn and grow in their ability to control
uncertainty for others and discharge the other
responsibilities that come with leadership described earlier
in this article. Learning to be a leader begins with some
basic principles for success. Here are several of the
waypoints on the leadership roadmap.
First, seek out
others as mentors and teachers to help you learn new things,
develop new ideas, and broaden your viewpoint about other
people and the world around us. Second, practice the skills of
a communicator: writing clearly and concisely, and speaking
with confidence, passion and humor. These are essential
ingredients in the concept of charisma.
These are also
required skills for a person who is nervous about speaking in
front of others. This person can overcome the public-exposure
reticence by various techniques associated with, for example,
public speaking groups like "Toastmasters." Involvement with
civic groups such as Rotary, Lions, Soroptomists, or Kiwanis
can provide opportunities to engage and network with others.
This, in turn, can help overcome the effects of "severe acute
rhetoric syndrome" (SARS).
Practice the art
of saying thank you to people, of recognizing their
contributions and of appreciating their helpfulness. Make that
an everyday occurrence at home and at work. Surprise others in
pleasant ways by exceeding their expectations.
Harness the power
of the 80/20 principle as a key approach to better organizing
your own life and of focusing on activities more likely to
bring success. See the HR Doctor article called "Applying the
Pareto Principle" at http://www.hrdr.net/.
ingredient to a "success soufflé" was the subject of the HR
Doctor article "Public Enemy No. 2." Deliberate
attention to overcoming the effects in our lives of Isaac
Newtons principle of inertia is a very important key to
unlocking the leadership potential in all of us. This is
especially true for the young future leaders of the society
who, perhaps, are more susceptible to infection by the inertia
There are more
fundamental principles perhaps the subject of a
future HR Doctor article. However, in the meantime, do your
homework and practice some of the aspects of leadership every
single day, beginning at home as well as in the community, and
the government office building.
The HR Doctor
hopes you enjoy the challenge of creating your own success
soufflé, but also the joy and the contribution which results
when you taste its sweet richness.
The HR Doctor