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Leadership: So you want to be Powerful?

In a recent post on LinkedIn an Influencer wrote that she had been asked the question 'Who is the most powerful person you ever met?'  The question was posed by a 17 year old and the author guessed t...

In a recent post on LinkedIn an Influencer wrote that she had been asked the question 'Who is the most powerful person you ever met?

The question was posed by a 17 year old and the author guessed that the answer being sought was the name of some sort of X-Factor figure, This strikes a cord with me. Throughout my life, in both business and personal spheres I have found that individuals seeking answers invariably look for 'silver bullet' solutions. This applies to all generations, 'Boomer, X-Gen and Millennial, it applies to individuals of all levels of intelligence, and to individuals at all levels of authority. 

The desire for someone to appear, like a genie from a lamp, with either 'the answer' to a problem, or 'the power' to solve the problem, or even a whole raft of problems, is universal.  

This is why people buy lottery tickets or do the football pools. The hope of winning and becoming empowered by all that money is, for many, irresistible. 

Is power then the ability to achieve something that others cannot?  

If so, then winning the lottery is empowering simply because money can be used to buy solutions. Power is also held by those in authority, those who can force constraint or conformity on others. Employers hold this kind of power over individuals, but such power is limited when those controlled have enough wealth, or knowledge, to step outside of the sphere of influence, as when a person leaves an employment which no longer satisfies them.  

Power is also knowledge and learning then. Knowledge grants the ability to see solutions where others do not and to take paths that other cannot. 

In 300 BC, and for centuries after, seekers of knowledge could travel across the globe to the Great Library of Alexandria in order to study there and gain knowledge and empowerment. Such journeys in ancient times were perilous and time consuming. 

Now, we don't need to travel, the Internet holds all the knowledge that any individual is likely to ever need. Sure, it also holds more rubbish pertaining to any given subject than truths about the subject, so the seeker of knowledge has to learn to sort wheat from chaff. But, that's not so hard, and it sure is a lot less dangerous than it was to cross the world in historical times. 

Yet, still we hunger for the easy solution, the one that cost less in terms of time and money. 

I guess that the continual search for the quick fix is part of the human condition. So much a part, that often we miss the truth that working around, or working with, an issue can lead to a better understanding of the root causes of the issue. Buying in a solution, or an expert to provide a solution, may seem to be the fastest way to move a logjam, but too often it brings with it a whole raft of associated requirements in support of the solution.  

What appears to be a genius software application, may require training for the users, annual support charges, licence fees and upgrade costs. These are likely to continue for the lifetime of the product.  

It may seem to be a smart move to bring in an efficiency expert to streamline staff levels and the personnel reductions may save thousands in year one. But, this could turn out to be pretty dumb if you discover in year three that many of the staff long since gone were doing essential back office work that provided data for future sales.  

No staff = no data = no sales = no income = no business. 

No software salesman, or software developer, or efficiency expert can know a business as well as the business owners. So, what leads people to believe that these experts have for sale the 'Silver Bullet' solution they haven't found themselves? 

Why are they so willing to believe the sales line for the solution that they fail to do a full and proper risk assessment? 

I can understand that modesty pushes us towards the purchased fix when the solution sales line intimates that the vendor has more expertise than those running a business can possibly possess. Once he has a foot in the door the salesman may also illustrate the success of the solution by reference to others who have bought, and may even intimate that the way the potential buyers business is run is a long way from the right way. The line being ' it this way and our solution will do x, y, z and all your issues will go away...' 

Hmmm. If the forgoing is true then the managers need to take a deeper look at the way the business is run as a single solution is unlikely to fix the underlying issues. 

In short, there rarely is a 'silver bullet' solution. 

Those who have built a business, know the business. While managers must always take on board leads on how to change approach and methods, these changes need to come from within, rather than a buy-in from external sources. If knowledge is lacking, the managers must go out and seek knowledge, but the business direction must always be understood. 

If management haven't the time to learn the detail of a solution they, at least, should know why a solution is needed, what the available options are, the risks, benefits and costs of each alternative. Plus, they should also know the fallback plan, in detail. 

Take this on board and when looking for the most powerful person you ever metFeature Articles, just look in the mirror. 

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Chris has a lifetime experience of management and IT.

More insights may be found on his websites

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