Power and Control

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We humans are really interesting beings.

As life continues, it brings new things along with it. For instance, look at how our mobility increases naturally throughout our early years, from infancy to childhood, from childhood to puberty, and from puberty to adulthood. We gain the ability to make decisions about our own lives and enjoy more financial independence. Of course, responsibility comes with all these things. In the same way, life also takes things away from us over time, such as our unrealistic expectations of life.

Control mostly manifests itself while you’re trying to progress in your career. You try to predetermine the results of your actions and the goings on in your field of expertise. You do your best to guarantee that things will happen the way you want them to happen… When you become an adolescent and an adult, as well as when you start earning more money as a manager, you make the mistake of thinking you can control the outcomes. However, it’s generally the opposite that happens. Suddenly, the things we are responsible for depend on various circumstances, people, and situations that are out of our control. We lose sight of what will make us happy and peaceful while we chase after control, and we don’t even realize it.

Most professionals who rise to executive positions in companies are deluded into thinking that their powerful positions enable them to control everything. They start by announcing their rational, well-intentioned, and well-thought-out visions and strategies to address the company’s obvious deficiencies. They then expect these strategies to be applied perfectly. After a while, they notice that nothing has changed. They try to apply their visions and strategies again, maybe once or maybe twice, but when they see how they still don’t work, they feel extremely disappointed. They can’t control everything, despite their positions, so they reflect their disappointment onto others and accuse them of being useless or resistant to change, just like kids do when their wishes don’t come true. After this, they start trying to control everything, even micro-managing the entire system themselves to make sure that all their planned changes take place. They try to prove to themselves that they are in control. The more they do this, however, the more control they lose. Their desires and efforts to control everything dominate all their actions and thoughts. Even though they are actually genuine people, they then start acting oddly.

So, what was their mistake? It’s actually a very basic mistake that we all make. We all underestimate the effort required to explain a thought, an idea, a vision, or a strategy to someone else. We think people will accept our beliefs just because we tell them to or because it’s such an obviously brilliant idea. In a way, we act like two-year-old kids. We then get annoyed and feel disappointed when things don’t turn out the way we wanted them. After this, we try to control the actions in the entire system, making it even worse by interfering with it. While doing so, we ignore our natural power to organize things, which is actually the only way we can have a lasting and positive effect on ourselves, the people we lead, and the institution we work for.

Power, it’s something we all want very much, but we generally confuse power with control because we are so scared of it. Most of us tend to criticize power because we don’t know how to deal with it ourselves. Maybe we are scared to face the anger that will result from our unsuccessful attempts to control things. We see how many successful people fall into this trap, and we worry that we’ll do the same. The dilemma therefore is feeling a desire for power while also fearing it, and this pushes us toward becoming control freaks.

And yet there is no other way to eliminate this conflict. We are extremely confused when it comes to power and control. What we don’t realize is that chasing control takes away all our power. If we embrace our power instead, this ridiculous desire to control everything will automatically disappear.

As many of my clients who fell into this trap have realized, the first step is to confront the most basic existential fact: The higher the position you climb to, the less control you’ll have. You’ll be responsible for increasingly complicated systems with more variables that you can’t directly control. You therefore need to gain power to influence and guide these systems, people, and circumstances. If you insist on controlling everything, you’ll never have this power, and you’ll even lose what little you have already. Next, you need to understand what power really means. To have a permanent effect on a system, you need to evaluate yourself, your surroundings, and the people with you, as well as your own circumstances, such as the type of corporate/social system you exist in. You also need to develop a realistic perception of how change takes place. Only with such an awareness and a long-term, step-by-step strategy to change things can you succeed in leading yourself, your people, and your workplace to something resembling your visions and dreams.

Therefore, you first need to wake up from your dream, namely the dogma of focusing on results and control, because this prevents you from seeing other things clearly. Wake up and look around yourself. Understand where you are. Understand whom you are with. Understand what you really want to achieve. Observe your actions. See where your actions and choices take you. You’ll probably arrive where you’re heading to. Wake up.

However, there is a mistake in this definition. In this way, your management, your leadership, and even your life will turn into an exercise where you learn from your actions rather than one where you try to reach certain predefined targets and results. You then have to accept that it’s not possible to control everything every single minute. If you stop trying to control things (i.e., forget your unrealistic wishes) you will see real life rather than illusions. If you have the courage to confront the obvious facts about actions and results and therefore liberate yourself, you’ll gain a power that will affect your life and your surroundings. Maybe in the end, you will become the master of yourself, your actions, and your destiny.

Even though we are aware of it, we all continue to abandon power and pursue control.

As I said at the start, we humans are really interesting beings.

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