How to Lose Your Power

How you handle your power is going to be the biggest judge of your long-term success. 

I was once advised, “If you want to find out about people, give them a little power. It will reveal everything.”

Do you know powerful people who have fallen from grace?  If not, you have certainly read about some.  When you look deeply into their situation, they all lose their power for the same reason:   ego.

Before you lose your power, try this:
(It is from my favorite leadership quote by Confucius.)

“All things come to the person who is modest and kind in a high position.”

I’ve always felt that the following story could have been prevented with leadership training.  Gerhardt’s story:  Everyone wanted Gerhardt to go. Not long before, people were clamoring to be close to him. Gerhardt used to be on top of the world. He was charismatic. His reputation was widespread. At the same time, he was cocky, bored by routine, and strutted around like he was God’s gift to humanity.  

With his medical education and commanding physique, Gerhardt appeared perfect for the part when the Board of Directors selected him as the Executive Director of a non-profit that provided health care to needy children. When Gerhardt arrived, the organization had volunteers and employees who were highly educated and generous people.  

Gerhardt won the appointment over several long-term staff members, accomplished people who had built the organization, written grants, and developed donations. He walked into a welloiled machine…and sucked it dry. 

At first, he concentrated on ingratiating himself to the large donors and people of influence. Back at the office, he was crushing his employees. Monique had been in charge during the interim. As head of human resources, she had hired most of the staff and worked well with them.  

Despite his credentials, Gerhardt had no leadership experience. He sensed Monique’s lack of confidence in him, which compounded his anxieties. He didn’t trust her, but he kept pushing more work on her while hovering around, expecting the worst. This made her feel demeaned. It undermined her abilities. One day he lost his temper and told Monique that she was a cancer on the organization. Monique quit.  

Now, most of the staff wished he would quit. Still, Gerhardt remained proud and unaware that he was dragging the organization down because he stayed isolated behind a wall of sycophants. He was hypersensitive to criticism. Even helpful suggestions he took as slights. He turned against those that complained. He retaliated and was punitive. He never listened. He pretended to, sometimes even said that he agreed, and then did exactly as he pleased, persisting in futile efforts. Eventually he alienated the largest donor. 

Finally, the Board woke up to the cost of hiring a man with a doctor’s title but who had no people skills. When Gerhardt lost his job, not one person tried to defend him.