( By Editor : Carol Huss )

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Section I : Power

Power is the ability to bring about the intended effect:

  • - on self = personal power
  • - on others = interpersonal power
  • - on groups or a community = social power

These three kinds of power notg only co-exist, but alsoco-determine one another. Power is not only inevitable, but also essential to a personís psychic health and growth as well as for social organizationand development.
Alfred Adler first highlighted the fundamental need for power forpsychological development. He saw it as a striving for perfection. The motivation for power and mastery are the unifying life force at the root of allhuman interactions. Adler said the best fform of overcoming inferiroity and of acquiring power is by social interest. Real power is not dominance over others, but the ability to serve to perfect society. Karen Horney and Erik Eriksons alsoworekd out a psychology with power as one of its central elements.
One of the five basic dimensions of Holistic Health is Self-Resposibility. This means taking back all my power to be responsible for all my thoughts, words, deeds, and feelings. Power is inherent in all social and political relationships. The dictionary says power is possession of control, authority, or influence over others; the ability to act or produce an effect on people or events. Each person has the ability to make a choice about how they will use their power - destructively or constructively. Power is energy that can bring hope to our world or if we spiral it downward into helpleness and hopelessness, depression, it can be destructive for ourselves and our world, see figure 1.

Figure 1: Power can be yused negatively or Positively


  Negative Use
Positive Use  
Exploitative : to enslave others Nutritive:
toempower others  
Manipulative : Dominating Integrative
Competitive Synergic/Cooperative
lead to qleads to  
Violence : which can be Non Violent Action for
  social justice, peace,
  solidarity, sharing,
  overcoming poverty and
  alienation. People work
- Institutionalised:
- Building a truly
  the organization comes
  humanizing future,
  before people
  vocationl power
- Communal : based on
- Power of self-assertion
  caste, Religion, etc.
- General : Wars, etc.
- Shaping history
positively, proactively.  
Awareness of God as  
love and power.  


Powerlessness is psychologically damaging. But the opposite is equally damaging. Superordinate Power leads the powerholder to regard himself as a superior being - above the common code of behaviour.
Our world is all too familiar with thenegative use of poer which leads to a feeling of hoplessness and helplessness and passive behaviour.

Figure 2 : Negative use of Power Leads to a Defensive Climate :

Negative Use of Powser

Directing   Conforming  
Evaluating Resenting    
Controlling Dependency    
Persuading Lowered Perception    
Punishing   Lowered Initiative  

As set out in Figure 2, we see the results of the negative power in the world all around us - therea re mainly four Passive Behaviours.

  1. Doing nothing: the masses respond mainly by this form of passivity.
  2. Agitation: this is expending energy to harm self and produce nothing worthwhile - may take toalcohol, drugs, constant work, chain smoking, etc.
  3. Overadaptation: this is very common, people try to please the powers that be, by conforming to the rulers, becoming more and more enslaved and lacking in initiative.
  4. . Incapacitation/Violence: We see much of both these expressions of passive behaviour in the world around us.

A. Incapacitation: People just giving up and going to bed with allkinds of physical sicknesses, or going mad - releasingtheir highest faculty, the mind, when they canít see a way out, or spiritual enuii: they lose all sense of meaning and purpose in their life and commit suicide.

B. Violence ; this is gaining inforce and horror all over the world and is as destrutive as the nuclear threat to the future of man.

Many people learn from personal growth how to keep their power and grow, and others say, "It didnít help me at all - I am just the same!". Many become exicted with the realization that they can bloom where they are planted - they donít need a change of place, or different companions, or a new job. Why do some peoplekeep their power to grow and help others grow, and others lose or give away power and slow down the growth of self and others ? To answer these questions, let us study the favourite ways people choose is give away their power, and not take responsibility for their lives. Some put the blame for their behaviour on their genes. Certgainly a personís genes determine chemically some patterns from which they cannot deviate, genes also set the limit for an individualís aspirations, e.g. can they be, and how good a one: a musician, a hockey player, a researcher, or a doctor. Yet, we find that within our chemical limitation, whatever they are, we still have the power to determine our own fate. Rather than genes, it is often psychological barriers we set up ourselves which keep us from achieving our full potential. There are some common ways in which people give away their power.
Giving away power is discounting the ability to use our strength constructively. These discounts, however, must be distinguished from real experiences of powerlessness in such conditions as loss, catastrophe, accidents, serious illness, etc.

Five favourite ways by which people give away their power :

  1. Make Feel - this is the power I give to others when I let them hurt me,or make me feel bad. For example, "You make me feel ...". Power loss is to inappropriate expression of anger, depression, fear, anxiety, confusion, sadness, guilt, feeling stupid, lonely, inferior, etc.
  2. Fate - this is the power I give asway when I believe that fate has willed certain things in my life, or my horoscope determined it, or God did it. E.G. "It was willed by God, fate, the stars, you name it.". Itís this job, or this neighbourhood, or living in this century, I am the victim of events and circumstances".
  3. Subconscious - this is power I give away by thinking I just do things suddently, over which I have no control. E.G. "It suddenly got hold of me and I could do nothing".
  4. Gene - this is power that is not mobilized becaause I think I was made like this, so I canít change. e.G. "Our family always.... I was born confused, like my Dad. I am a Dalit and can never come up". "My caste/community are to blame for my being like this.
  5. You-Owe-me - this is my power I look up in others saying Iíd be all right if only theyíd change. E.G. "If only youíd change".

Keeping all my power emans I take full responsibility for myself, my behaviour, my thoughts, words, actions and feelings. This is the power I use to grow and develop, and tohelp others to grow and develop. Each of us is responsible for our life and has sufficient power to carry out that responsibility. You can measure the power you keep/give away on the powergram, See Figure 3.

Steps to use the Powergram :

  1. Reflect for a moment on your life and how you accept responsibility for yourself. Think of your total energy and how much you keep and how much you give away. Then take an average of the last few months and draw it on the graph. Add all the columns, they should total 100.
  2. Look at what you drew, think about it, does it satsfy you that you are growing and helping others grow from this type of behaviour - just how do you want to be?
  3. Write the contracts for change you will make, and plot in green the results on the powergram. Be specific about what you will do to make your decision a reality.

Like all techniques, the Powergram is useful only if you put it to work. For example - To dispell the "Make Feel" theory, point out that if someone knocks at your door and wants to dump a big tin of stinking rubbish in your house, you would throw them out bodily in no uncertain terms! Yes when people want to dump verbal rubbish onyou, you take it in, feel mortally wounded, and never speak to that person again. If you can deal with physical rubbish, why not throw out the verbal rubbish also, and keep you power to grow !
Keeping 100% of power does not mean you are a sponge or a doormat! You may be momentarily depowered by things that happen. But quick awareness and recovery of Power within a few minutes means full responsibility for self and keeping 100% of power.

In additionto using the Powergram for personal growth, it can also be used to confront and change oppressive institutions, communities, and social system. Often people derive power from outside, in a leadership function, touse it for selfish means and ego building. Large groups and organizations tend to be controlled and dominated by a few, who impose their will on others. This requires confrontation from the group which gave away their power. Wrong use of power has to be challenged by positive use of power. The powergram can be used to measure power distribution between leader and group, or group and group, etc. If a leader wants to measure how much power keep and how much they give away negatively to the group and collectively assess, as follows in Figure 4.

Make Feel : Heís so powerful he makes us feel wreak.

Fate : We were born in this village as Harijans, so we cannot change it.

Gene : Our family was always like this, helpless.

You Owe Me : If the leader would change and be kind and helpful, we could change.

So we see the need for the leader to develop ways to help people accept social responsibility, stressing the spiritual and ethical dimension in the struggule tobridge the gap between the haves and have-nots. Issues such as coercion, power, and conflict require special attention in communities. In Growth Groups and Community Building, people experience an upsurge of power and strength to bcome agents of change in their world.
What we need today is for everyone to reclaim their power and use it to build up the earth in collective leadership. See Figure 5 on how todevelopan accepting climate.

Figure 5 : Positive Use of Power

Input ------ Leads to ---------------- Output

Listening Understanding

Understanding Experimentation

Sharing Creativity

Trusting Heightened


Positive power flows from an inner centre, a mysterious sanctuary more secure than money, name or achievement. It leads tosocial transformastion following a chain reaction of personal change. Appropriate power is used in the service to life, not to glorify the ego.
Today we need more imaginative and rewarding sources of powfer for social transformation of our world. The power of the person, self knowledge, is inherent in the transformative process. Other forms of power include :

  1. The power of knowledge and information.
  2. The power of paying attention- to what works, and why.
  3. The power of flexibility: being more like a reed that bends and sways with life, rather than an oak tree which can be uprooted in the strong storm winds, as it cannot bend.
  4. The power of communication - really listening and understanding the other.
  5. The power of communication - really listeningand understanding the other.
  6. The power of uncertainty that pushes people totake risk and innovate and experiment.
  7. The power of the alternative lies in recognizing new possibilities - thereís never only one way todo a thing.
  8. The poer of intuition - going beyond what can be proven.
  9. The power of vocation - a kind of collective sense of destiny, to shape history positively.
  10. The power of withdrawal from harmful decisionthrough ingenious boycotts, protests, etc.
  11. The power of networking - linking with like minded people tobring change all over the globe.
  12. The power of women, courage to be equal tomen in all spheres.
  13. The power of confidence, and courage to act on awareness and safeguarding or rights.
  14. The power of letting go, forgiving and foretting.
  15. The power of evoking the best in others.

Power is essential and wonderful when exercised with proper ethics which recognize theintrinsic dignity of persons, their inviolability, and the need for selfless community oriented goals.

For too long ourworld has suffered froma wrong view of power. Often the views of the nature of power as applied togovernment is seen as a dichotomy:

Enslaving/Retrograde Progressive or Liberating
We are dependent on the good will, the decision, the support of our government. The government or system is dependent on the peopleís goodwill, decisions.
Power is in the hands of the few who stand at the pinnacle of command Power is continually arising from many parts ofthe society.
Power is seen as self - prepetuaring, long-standing Power is seen as fragile, always dependent for its strength and existance upon replacement of its sources by the cooperation of multitue of institutions & people.
Leaders keep all the power, they do not consider the talents, ideas of the people. Resources and talents of the people taped - more power is released.
Political Violence

is based on this view:

1. People depend on Governments.

2. Political power is monolithic.

3. It comes from a few persons.

4. It is self-prepetuating and not easily controlled. Power is seen as a relatively fixed quantum, in the role or position.

5. Wrong can be overcome only by overwhelming physical might.

Nuclear weapons are the extreme development of this approach.

Non Violent Action

is based on this view :

1. Governments depend on people.

2. Power is pluralistic.

3. Political power is fragile and depends on many groups for reinforcement of its power sources.

4. Non Violent Action is based on the view that political power can most efficiently be controlled at its sources.

5. Power comes from the society (community) they govern, it is not intrinsic to the rulers.

Gene Sharp in his writings on Power and Struggle, says there are six sources of power of a leader : (See Figure 6).

  1. Authority: the right to command and idrect, to be heard or obeyed by others.
  2. Human resources: the greater the number of people who obey the leader, the greater is his power.
  3. Skills and knowedge: and the relation to his needs to further the group goals.
  4. Intangible factors: Psychological and ideological factors, such as habits and attitudes towards obedience and submission, and the presence or absence of a common faith, ideology, or sense of mission.
  5. Material resources: the degree towhich theruler controls property, natural resources, financial resources, the economic system, means of communication and transportation.
  6. Sanctions (or threat of punishments): the type and extent at his disposal.

We can list inner sources of power:

  1. Love, acceptance and security.
  2. Experience of success and esteem by others.

There are six major sociological bases of power: information, coercion, reward, reference, expertise, and legitimacy.

These sources vary from dayt o day and depend totally on obedience for effect. In the old way of viewing power, we have assumed obedience. Today we know that the leaderís power depends intimately on obedience and cooperation of the group. The authority of the leader depends on the goodwill of the people. The sources of the leaderís power and the obedience of the group are on an almost mathematical basis of equality. Obedience is at the heart of political power. Political power is always a two-sided relationship between the leader and the followers, but an inescapable third is the situation - and all three are subject to mutual influence and change. The main reasons for obedience are :


This is a Continual Process which increases or decreases the Rulerís Power capacity. This process ends only when that power is distintegrated.

1. Habit

2. Fear of sanctions

3. Moral obligation:

(a) The common good of society

(b) Suprahuman factors

(c) Legitimacy of the command/expertise

(d) Conformity or commands toaccepted norms.

4. Self interest

5. Psychological identification with the leader.

6. Zones of indifferences within which each individual accepts orders without consciously questing their authority.

7. Absence of self-confidence among followers:

Every leader uses the obedience and cooperation he receives from part of the society torule the whole. Fear of sacntions is less important among the functionaries and agents than among the general populace. Obedience is not inevitable. the most powerful leader receives no more than the habitual obedience of the bulk of the group. Obedience is essentially voluntary. A distinction must bemade between obedience and coercion by direct physical violation. Obedience exists only when one has complied with or submitted tothe command. the choice to obey is always possible.

A law that has no respect for human life and rights has no force. The leader and group must decide when to go against a law or percept or moralgrounds. The leader who organizes communities must instill in them the legitimacy of responsible disobedience which follows these rules:

  1. Responsible disobedience rests on sound spirituality that develops empathy for the poor, oppressed, and those who suffer violence. It involves continual reflection on oneís own life-style and motivations.
  2. Respect for law and authority must not be undermined - when they are just and for the common good.
  3. Responsible disobedience is deliberately and reluctantly enacted, never the result of outbursts of passion or blind ventings of fury. Responsible disobedience is done with trnquality, forethought and ultimate respect for authority.
  4. Standard means of redress must have been tried. Responsible disobedince is always a final resort.
  5. Otherwise the person is conscientious in fulfilling responsibilities to the community and its authority. In responsible disobedience, the person pursues his protest in a way that inflicts no direct or serious harm to anyone.
  6. Before opting for responsible disobedience he sees if it furthers his genuine ends or not.

Responsible disobedience may be within your rights, but if it provokes greater evil, or is poorly timed, or not well designed - then justice is not effected.
The previous two sections on obedience and responsible disobedience highlight that power is a delicate balance between the sources, the group and the leader. Whereas previously it was thought that the leader had all the power, it can be seen from the above, that when the group withdraws its allegiance, the leader is, in fact, powerless. Therefore, all leading is based upon consent or Ďblindí obedience. Three of the most important factors in determining to what degree a leaderís power willbe controlled or uncontrolled, therefore are : (1) the relative desire of the populace to control her/his power, (2) the relative strength of the peopleís independent organiaations and institutions; and (3) the peoplesí relative ability to withhold their consent and assistance.
Ultimately, therefore, freedom is not something which a leader "gives" his group. Instead , the extent and intensity of the leaderíspower will be set by the strength of the people and the condition of the whole society. The leaderís power needs the indirect and direct cooperation of theentire community. So tyranny has flourished only where the people through ignornace, or disorganization, or by actual connivance and complicity, aid the tyrant and keep him in power by allowing themselves to be the instruments of his coercion.
Another important points is that consent can be withdrawn, if the people no longer approve of the policies and decisions of the leader. Gandhi said that disobeidence needed training (1) a psychological change away from passive submission to self-respect and courage (2) recognition by the persons that her/his assistance makes the regime possible; and (3) the building of a determination to withdraw cooperation and obeidence. No leader or government can funcion longwithout a certain necessary minimum of popular support and cooperation or indifference and resigned tolerance.

John Woodroffe called the Indian religion the religion of power referring to the realm of Sakti. Every Hindu believes in Sakti as Godís power through the nature of the universe created by it may vary in each tradition. The word Sakti denotes power in a comprehensive way - God as Mother and the universe as originating from her womb.
In India, wisdom is considred power, to the extent that it permeates, transofrms, controls, and molds thewhole of personality. The higher oneís realization of it, the greater will be the power. Truth is a power celebrated in numerous stories and legends in India. The power of truth, satyagraha, ahimsa lifted the great saints and yogis out of the range of normal behaviour. In the Bhagavadgita we see the Lord dwells ine very being and becoming - without Him nothing exists. Power is basically Godís gift to the earth that holds our universe together. This power is meant for thegold of all - to maintain harmony and consmic welfare. The Lordís power is dynamically present for the preservation of all beings.
The Lord works to protect the good, to destory evil, and to establish righteousness. Lord Krishna sets Himself as a model for others to work for cosmic welfare - service and good of all beings. What liberates man is is right perspective of the reality in and around him: namely, that everything is interconnected and that he has a part to play in the cosmic scene and the Lordís power is wrhat gives coherence, unity and harmony. When this truth is realized, aware of the power that is at work, he gets a clear vision of what he is and what he should do. It is such an orientation that is needed for his freedom of mind and heart. Only then will he be an integrated person - within himself, with the society, and the whole universe. This leads to a total transformation of a person who is ready to be at the disposal of the Lord. This we can see in the life of Mahatma Gandhi who had a vision of a liberated society based on a spiritual communion. "God is present in all of us. For my part, every moment I experience the trugh that, though many, we are all one. "So he could wsork for the "Welfare of all" (Sarvodaya). In other words Gandhi offers us a way of living the mystery of Godís indewelling by discovering its existential dimension. Gandhi went through personal transformation to the social dimension and finally thecosmic dimension.

Jesus and Power: Jesus challenged the power structure of human society. The antipower stance of Jesus is rather a subversion of the very nature of power. The Saviour becomes a sfervant. Power is no longer domination but service. He uses authority to liberate, to heal, to teach, to guide, to forgive.
Power sharing is communionthat leads to freedom. Freedom like power is a gift of the spirt. Therefore, the exercise of power at all levels should be directed tofree people and help them mature. This leads us to the next section of this chapter - how power in leadership can be to empower all to live out their call to become the image and likeness of God.
Now we will move more deeply to the important aspect of how power influences the success or failure of leadership.

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