The pursuit of power is a strong motivator for many people. Not so much because they want to be autocratic, power-crazed demons but because something about being able to wield significant influence and/or control seems to provide them with a greater sense of self-esteem or self-confidence. This is, of course, largely accessed through positional power.
But if you ever have the privilege of seeing truly powerful people wield their power it seems to be done with a deep sense of humility and grace even in the face of their positional power. However, finding these role models in the public eye is increasingly hard to do. We have the handful that often come to mind – Mandela, Luther-King, Queen Elizabeth, King Arthur and perhaps more recent examples such as Jacinda Ardern and Greta Thunberg.
The very word ‘power’ often seems to take us off down the wrong path.
Immediately we tend to associate it with macho, muscle laden heroes able to use their power to defend or control depending on which side of ‘good or evil’ they are on. Or perhaps we think of the wily fox, manipulating others through their use of power. Secondly, it typically brings a basketful of negative, judgemental connotations. No-one wants to admit to having power or being powerful in case we are seen as lacking in humility or attempting to take over the world. We often think of the worst kind of politician in this context.
So the word power doesn’t get a great rap and the models we do see often support these stereotypes…at least in our mind. And yet in our world, there is a yawning gap where people with graceful power need to be. So what is this graceful power?
Essentially it is inner power, the kind that immediately connects us with the humility and grace of those who have accessed and express it. The kind of humility that is not falsely self-effacing, but which is honest, benign and generous and a grace that is inclusive, reassuring and warming.
In fact, the more we explore the truth of power it is the antithesis of the often depicted models of it, relying as it does on an inner quality that gets things done not through threat, fear or force but by quietly inviting others into the search for a better world – by being stronger together.
Excellent article, Lorriane! When I think about graceful power a few people come to mind. Martin Luther King jr. was a role model as he fought injustice wherever it was found. His commitment to effecting change in the areas of civil rights, ending the Vietnam War amongst other causes through non-violent protest was leadership at its finest. I also think back to how graceful and uniting President Bush was during the aftermath of 09/11 as he kept our country together. I am sure there were others but these three men (I guess you can add former New York City Mayor Rudy, Guiliani to this list as well for keeping our city united while trying to promote healing) stick out in my mind.
Thank you Joel – generous as always with your comments. I’m struck by the descriptors you use – ‘non-violent’, ‘uniting’, ‘healing’…all powerful words and for me very apt for graceful leaders…thank you. Lorraine Flower
You are welcome, Lorraine