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Forget knowledge:

POWER is power

Knowledge is truly not power. (If it were, librarians would rule the world.) Real power comes from using knowledge to your advantage. Think about the big cats of this world…literal or figurative big cats. They all know they differ from little cats in only one way: the big cats, especially those found in real jungles, can roar. (The lion’s roar can be heard five miles away.) The big cats include tigers, leopard, cheetahs, jaguars, cougars, and of course, the king of all beasts, the lion. In the wild, lions live about 12 years. Interestingly, their longevity is doubled when they are in captivity. They are the only ones of the big cats that live in groups, called “prides.”

Roars are based on unique talents–whether you are using your celebrate status to propel you into politics, or using natural traits to survive. To illustrate: While the cheetah is a solitary runner, it can claim to be the fastest mammal in the world, reaching speeds of 70 miles an hour. Another remarkable feat associated with a different big cat is the snow leopard’s ability to leap seven times its own body length in just one bound. The tiger is unique, not only for its stripes, but for the fact that no two tigers are alike in the pattern of their stripes.

HOW TO IMPROVE YOUR STATUS

Identify and optimize the ways in which you outperform.

Each of us has strengths and weaknesses. And, some weaknesses are not worth strengthening. It may be easier, for example, to hire someone with advanced computer skills than to take the time to gain such mastery yourself. Other weaknesses will need to be turned into strengths. If you are having troubling identifying which is which or if you are not sure how to go about the strengthening-process, you may have to hire a career coach. At the very least, find a mentor—inside or outside your organization—and get some expert help.

Explore misconceptions or counterintuitive ideas others may have about leadership.

For every leader who has ever assumed the leadership mantle, there is at least one person who believe he doesn’t deserve to wear that mantle. Assemble a panel and see if, within the appointed time, they can concur on the knowledge, skills, and abilities that leaders have in common.

Knowledge in and of itself is not power. It’s the willingness to apply knowledge to create results.

You’ve probably spent considerable time and money acquiring knowledge over the years.

And, you are probably not using all the knowledge you’ve acquired—if only because some of it is already obsolete. Think of ways to help your team keep up-to-date with their new knowledge. Also devise ways for team members to share how they are using their knowledge or improving upon it.

McCLELLAND: POWER IS NOT A BAD THING

The research from David McClelland, among others, indicates leadership and power go hand in hand. How comfortable are you with power? Do some self-exploration with this and other questions related to the use of power and roars.

How do you demonstrate your power?

When is it appropriate to “roar”?

How many people can you name—General Colin Powell, for example—who have

demonstrated the wise use of power?

How would you define “power”?

Have you grown more comfortable with power over your career?

How would you distinguish between leaders and heroes?

Do you suffer from a Superhero complex? Would your closest friend agree with

your answer?

WHILE INTROSPECTING, CONSIDER THESE INSIGHTS

We experience cognitive dissonance when we begin to think about an idea that may run contrary to what we have long believed. Read the following quotations, think about them, and then discuss the thrust of the assertions with someone you know who uses power well.

Daniel Defoe:

“It is better to have a lion at the head of an army of sheep than a sheep at the head of an army of lions.”

Max Lucado:

“A man who wants to lead the orchestra must turn his back on the crowd.”

Dwight Eisenhower:
“Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it.

Nolan Bushnell:

“Everyone who’s ever taken a shower has an idea. It’s the person who gets out of the shower, dries off, and does something about it who makes a difference.”

Warren Bennis:

“Leadership is the wise use of power. Power is the capacity to translate intention into reality and sustain it.”

APPLICATIONS

1) Decide which of the following cat-based approaches you would take in each real-life scenario below. Discuss your choice with those who have leadership experience.

APPROACHES

a. Depend on group strength.

b. Roar – or make a show of strength.

c. Establish yourself as a unique presence.

d. Strike quickly while the opportunity is before you.

SCENARIOS

1. A group of us had been tasked with an important project to complete. At our initial meeting, one of the other members, knowing I had such experience, asked if anyone had done this kind of thing before.

2. I’ve been asked to make a speech about our team’s successful completion of a task under my leadership.

3. A member of our crew has been abusing regulations. I am not the team leader, but I find her behavior troubling.

4. I am not at all comfortable in a leadership role. Despite having shared my discomfort with my boss, he has asked me to lead a project starting in the new year.

2) Based on your work experience, list four adjectives to describe the personality of

someone who tends to communicate positive, high expectations to those around her. And four adjectives for someone who doesn’t usually convey that sort of message. Then mix the adjectives up and ask someone you know will be honest to tell you which apply to you.

3) Roars, like many other utterances (or even silences) can be interpreted in more

than one way. Explore some of those ways a “roar” might be misunderstood. Briefly

discuss with your team the difference, for example, between a roar of approval and a roar of laughter; a roar of pain and a roar of enthusiasm (you’ll remember Dr. Howard Dean’s much-mocked roar) to ensure everyone on the team understands the importance of clear communication. Explain that people eager to execute a leadership project often undertake their assignment without checking to see that all team members have defined the problem in the same way.

To illustrate the likelihood of misunderstanding, tell your team you will give them a

simple problem–it has only two sentences. You will not repeat the problem. But you

want to determine that they understand what they are expected to do before you actually show them (on a chart or sheet of paper) what “Kangaroo Words” are. As soon as they have heard you state the two-sentence directions below, they are to write on a sheet of paper what they think they will be looking for when they look at the chart:

“Some words contain within themselves a smaller word, spelled with letters that

appear in the order they appeared in the first word. The second word will mean

the same as the first word.”

Collect their answers and ask for two or three volunteers to take the answers to a quiet

place–perhaps even in the corridor–and review them. They will return to the room in a few minutes and announce whether or not everyone understood what they were supposed to do: Ideally, everyone wrote they are supposed to look for a second word that could be made from the letters in the first word. The two words should be synonymous.

Discuss with them the difficulty that ensues when people only hear directions once

and the difficulty that ensues when an example is not provided. Stress the need for team members to ensure they have a common understanding before beginning to work on the task.

Then show the chart and have them work as a class to find the answers. If no one can

figure out a given answer within thirty seconds, tell them what the answer is.

EXAMPLES OF KANGAROO WORDS

Masculine (answer: male)

Appropriate (apt)

Acrid (acid) 

Aggravated (grated)

Amicable (amiable) 

Applauded (lauded)

Astound (stun) 

Charisma (charm)

FROM AFRICA TO YOU

An ancient African proverb asserts, “I would rather be a lion for a day than a lamb for 1000 days.” Putting aside the meek-shall-inherit-the-earth consideration, think of one way that you can make your special roar heard in the weeks and months ahead. And, if that roar improves your own small corner of the world, move beyond thinking to committing.

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