I was listening to This American Life on NPR this morning as I was running and it got me thinking. The program featured several interesting stories about people who have power over others and the responsibilities that come from those situations.
During the program introduction, it was stated that people in powerful roles like teachers, bosses, therapists, judges and parents often do not give much thought to the people they have power over. The program then went on to feature situations where the person who had the upper hand in the power situation wasn’t being very responsible or aware.
These scenarios struck me as so odd and foreign to my own personal experience. I guess I am someone who sees being in a position of power as a huge responsiblity and has never taken the responsibility of power lightly.
In my work as a coach, I am mindful that my own choices, words and behavior need to provide a role model for my clients. I am also very careful that I don’t judge, criticize or make my clients feel small. I am there as a resource and someone who suggests ideas, but never dictates action. I realize it is a sacred trust that allows me to work with people and I am careful not to betray it.
As I looked back to other times in life that I have held power, again I see that I have been very conscious of the dynamics. As a boss and business manager in my last job running a medical practice I remember putting intention into being fair, diplomatic and an example for the others. If I was to enforce rules, I certainly followed them. I also worked hard to lead by example. I suppose the same could be said for my role as a parent. I have always maintained that my own behavior teaches my kids far more than lectures and punishments ever could.
It is certainly my hope that as a new generation of leaders takes the helm in business, government and as parents, responsible intentions will also be there to guide the action. Often we will find ourselves in a place where we can decide who we choose as our leaders and who we will entrust with power. Remember that responsibility matters, integrity is key and the best leaders inspire by example. I’ll be watching for that kind of leader.
Action Step: Pay attention to the power playing out in your life. What kind of role model would you choose to give your power to? Jot down a few characteristics of a responsibile leader. How could you incorporate those characteristics into your life this week? Have fun with this. We all have opportunities to lead.