Danger: Power Trip in Progress

Oct. 4, 2004
Over the past two weeks I have discussed the twin pillars of success. In case you missed my last two commentary columns: these discussed the twin virtues of patience and persistence.
Over the past two weeks I have discussed the twin pillars of success. In case you missed my last two commentary columns: these discussed the twin virtues of patience and persistence. Life is a journey of many steps my friends. As you move from Point A to the inevitable Point Z, you should be prepared to handle a wide range of peaks and valleys.

There will be moments of great success and satisfaction. There will be moments of abject sorrow and frustration. That is just the way it is. Let me also point out that life is not like a fast food restaurant. Trust me when I say that you do not always get it "your way."

Some folks never do learn to understand this. These are the people who lust after power. They want to be in positions of power, but they want to do it without taking the time to pay their dues. They want to be on top of the pyramid so badly that they can taste it. These people will do whatever is necessary to elbow everyone out of the way to reach their goal.

These folks have absolutely no consideration for the feelings of others. They believe that they have been ordained by the Lord Himself to rise to positions of great leadership. What these troops lack is the patience to pursue legitimate power in a studied, systematic manner.

There is a great deal of power available in the world. Some of it lies within you place of employment, after all someone has to be the boss. Some of it lies within the confines of voluntary organizations, such as your fire department. Some of it lies within the realm of government.

Power in and of itself is not a bad thing. Gibson, Ivancevich, and Donnelly (2000) define power as, "the ability to get someone to do something you want done or to make things happen the way you want them to happen." It sounds fairly innocuous doesn't it? But is it?

By its very nature, power infers control. It has been my experience that many people are offended by the concept of control in a free society. However, power is a necessary element in the maintenance of stability in an organization. Some people exercise power and others operate within the environment created by that use of power.

When properly employed, power brings people together in a harmonious union. When improperly gained and poorly exercised, power is like a cancer. It spreads out to cripple an organization.

Many among you have written to me about the problems your organizations are facing because of people who want power, but have no idea about what it is and how it should be properly exercised. They want, and they want, and they want some more power: but they do not want to pay their dues and learn their jobs. These same people also think that all they must do to get the job done is bark orders. These are the people who should like yipping and yapping dogs in the night. Lots of sound and fury are generated, but the results are poor.

Are you aware that there is a song which describes thought processes of these people? It is not a new song. In fact it comes from the 1939 movie hit The Wizard of Oz. This song has gained an added meaning for me this fall. I have been selected to perform a solo for one of my band organizations. The title of this classic piece may ring a bell for you: "If I Only Had a Brain."

I cannot tell you how many times I left the bosses' office in my former life as a big city chief humming this little ditty. Only the title had been altered to read,

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