“I have learned that success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has had to overcome while trying to succeed.” ~ Booker T. Washington

Have you ever wondered why some people in authority inspire and others manipulate, threaten and coerce to get what they want?

Is the authority that comes from title or position power, or is it force?

This week, I sat down with Best-Selling Author and an Award-Winning public administrator, Natasha Hampton. We explored why understanding the dynamics of power and privilege is essential for anyone to become an effective leader. We also shared why unchecked positional power can abuse, exclude, harm, and deny access to those individuals a leader once committed to serving and protecting.

You Will Be Faced With Choices On How To Use Your Power. 


Power is the one attribute that all leaders have. However, to be an effective leader, it is critical to understand power dynamics. Power is neither good nor bad as it is the wielder that determines if power serves or undermines. If used effectively, the use of power will gain you respect and influence. If misused, power can lead to harm. 

You’re probably familiar with the quote from Lord Acton, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Unfortunately, there is much truth in his quote. One only has to look at the news headlines for the latest example of a leader who has misused power for his/her gain.

The truth is power accompanies leadership, and no matter your title or role, from a CEO to a parent, you will be faced with choices on how to use your power. I learned that an effective leader has to be comfortable with the power of their position.  To do so, they must understand power dynamics. A leader’s perception of power can create an environment that is positive, inspiring, and healthy, or abusive, competitive and unhealthy.

To step into transformational leadership, one must clearly understand power dynamics.  Let’s look at two sources of power.

Positional Power

Positional power is external and often granted through position, title or rank. This type of power gives a perception of effective leadership; however, one’s ability to get people to act is often due to a perceived potential of loss or reward. Leaders who rely heavily on positional power tend to lead by using threats, force and coercion. Compliance with a request is often due to fear. Morale in these environments is often low.

Internal Power

In my opinion, internal power is actual power and the source of outstanding leadership. Access to inner power comes from an understanding and a willingness to take responsibility for what one has influence over. Events, circumstances or positions do not dictate this power. Instead, it comes from the confidence and the esteem one acquires from creating successful outcomes and overcoming challenges. Decisions are not to seek approval or prove one’s worth. Decisions and the use of power are guided by clear principles and values rather than by events and emotions.  These leaders understand that another leader’s power cannot deplete nor diminish their power.  Leaders who move from a primary space of internal power know that a desire to control external circumstances does not determine their value or effectiveness of the leader. Instead, power is how each leader chooses to respond to the circumstances they face. The power we cultivate within us is the one form of power no one can take away. 

Your ability to influence and inspire is proportional to how boldly you lead yourself.

Developing internal power can transform a good leader into an outstanding one.  It is to become increasingly aware of how your beliefs, biases, stereotypes, personal judgments, and fears can color decisions.  It is to be mindful of how your leadership position provides you access to resources, special treatment and advantages. 

It is to be present to the privilege that access provides. The reward of doing this work is the unparalleled sense of self-assurance and confidence that can only come from the ever-expanding internal power.  Simply put, you develop an unstoppable mindset.

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