The freedom to make my own mistakes was all I ever wanted.

Mance Rayder

In light of Game of Thrones ending, let’s discuss… what is POWER.

“Power resides where men believe it resides. It’s a trick. A shadow on the wall. And a very small man can cast a very large shadow.”


This quote resonates because we know, deep down, the power that comes from a job title is limited and temporary. Real power can’t be measured or described precisely, yet we know it when we feel it. So, how do we get some of that?


Power, much like office politics, happens regardless if we personally like it or not. In other words, these terms may carry a negative reaction and we want to believe, “I don’t seek out power nor participate in office politics.”

I used to say, “you don’t have to play politics, but you need to be aware of it.”

Now, I don’t think there is a difference. How you choose to use your power or how you engage in office culture is up to you, and that’s where you can make a positive change. 

How to get more Power in the workplace

Chaos isn’t a pit. Chaos is a ladder. Many who try to climb it fail, and never get to try again.

Petyr Baelish

Been conducting employee performance evaluations, and I gave an employee the feedback that I trust him to make the decision and to feel more empowered to make decisions. His response was, “but you’re the boss and I’m not. I don’t have the authority.”

Is this you? Or do you know someone like this?

Professor Erwin H. Schell at the MIT Sloan School of Management states there are three sources of power:

  • Role Based – Your job title gives you legitimacy, which comes with the ability to reward, ability to coerce
  • Personal – Your IQ, intelligence, expertise, persistence, charisma
  • Structural – Who do you know (social capital), what do you know (knowledge of network), and how do you leverage that

Which one do you lean on the most? I’d argue the worst of the three is Role Based, and should be used as minimally as possible. 


Power is Perceived 

Any man who must say ‘I am the King’ is no true King.

Tywin Lannister

I love this example I read recently. Let’s say you enter a meeting and you know everybody’s job title – CEO, Chief Finance Officer, Dept Heads, experts, and a newly hired employee. Upon entering, you see the CEO and the newly hired employee chatting and laughing. Then you see the new employee take a seat at the meeting table right next to the CEO and they whisper to each other some during the meeting. Where does power reside?

Remember that power can come from your position, your personality, and your knowledge of the organization and networks. If you want to increase your perceived power, you need to maximize all three areas, and then learn how to leverage them in balance to effect the change you want to make. 

Professor Roger Fisher gives us a few more ways to get specific power:

  • Power of skill and knowledge
  • Power of a good relationship
  • Power of a good alternative to negotiating
  • Power of an elegant solution
  • Power of commitment

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