How to understand and improve your reactions to power

The way we wield and respond to power is not dictated by logic; our instincts stem from how we were conditioned in the first system we experienced in life, our family system, according to Maggie Craddock in her book Power Genes: Understanding Your Power Persona – and How to Wield It at Work. A better understanding of your own automatic reactions and what causes them can help you deal more effectively with difficult people  and situations in the workplace.

Although the book is entitled “Power Genes”, it is really about instincts and attitudes which arise from nurture, rather than genetics. There are four identified power personality types:

  • the Pleaser seeks to make others feel good about themselves, but has a need for gaining the approval of others
  • the Charmer is skilled at getting his or her own way, but tends not to be a team player
  • the Commander takes charge decisively, but is anxious about the possibility of losing control
  • the Inspirer finds a sense of meaning through supporting a great cause, but can overlook imminent tactical dangers.

I am not a major exponent of personality profiling, as I am uncomfortable with the idea that people can be neatly categorised, classified and pigeon-holed. In the case of the present book, people might find themselves aligning with elements from each of the four power personality types rather than particularly with one of the four, and the author recognises that in the way she describes how an individual might identify his or her power type. Nevertheless, the book does provide a number of useful strategies for understanding why others behave the way they do, and how we can identify and modify our own instinctive behaviours in ways which produce significantly better outcomes.

This book definitely deals with the “soft” side of business leadership – interpersonal dynamics – rather than the types of things most business leaders like to focus on, such as strategy and results. Nonetheless, one of the most important factors in business success is the level of employee engagement, and that depends on emotions, perceptions, and many of the factors discussed by the author. I found the book easy to read and full of helpful information.

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