The Flaws in Power


I’m currently listening to an Audible Original called Power Moves: Lessons from DAVOS. I’ll spare you my description of the audio book and let you read the synopsis from Good Reads:

Navigating the new landscape of power with Mary Barra (GM), Stewart Butterfield (Slack), Satya Nadella (Microsoft), Sheryl Sandberg (Facebook), Eric Schmidt (Google/Alphabet), David Solomon (Goldman Sachs), Ellen Stofan (NASA), and two dozen other leaders, thinkers, and luminaries.

Power is changing. Private corner offices and management by decree are out, as is unquestioned trust in the government and media. These former pillars of traditional power have been replaced by networks of informed citizens who collectively wield more power over their personal lives, employers, and worlds than ever before.

So how do you navigate this new landscape and come out on top?

Adam Grant, Wharton organizational psychologist and New York Times best-selling author of Give and Take, Originals, and Option B, went to the World Economic Forum in Davos, the epicenter of power, and sat down with thought leaders from around the world, to find out.

In interviews with two dozen leaders and thinkers - from top executives at Google, GM, Slack, and Goldman Sachs, to the CEO of the Gates Foundation and NASA’s former chief scientist - Grant shares hard-earned insight on how to succeed in this new era of hyper-linked power. He also explores how it’s reshaping everything from how employees work to how employers manage their workers, from how women rise in the office to how scientists influence policy.

The combination of captivating interviews, compelling data, and Grant’s unmistakably incisive and actionable analysis results in an inspiring crash course from the frontlines on the changing nature of power today.

While listening there was a short but impactful statement when discussing how you’re representing yourself in a position of power. I’ve never been one to think of myself in a position of power, namely because it makes me wildly uncomfortable. The thought of “being in charge” is and probably will always be somewhat foreign. We operate under a pretty open book policy, willing to answer pretty much anything pertaining to the business if you ask. The idea being that we try daily to express humility and making sure to put ourselves on a pedestal.

So this idea of myself, Mark or the other trainers being in a position of power for whatever reason seemed odd. We view ourselves as just another member of the community and collectively we are all in power in some sense. If the gym thinks our best option is adding a lunch class, then we assess and add a lunch class. If we all think we should have Sunday dinners together then we’ll get it rolling.

Anyways, to the meat and potatoes. I hear this clip pertaining to your personal demeanor and how you’re projecting yourself into the world and I have caught myself on multiple occasions since being a poor person in power. Now this isn’t a pity party post. It’s a small part of a long and arduous journey of sucking less at being a business owner, husband and overall person. I tend to stare at my feet when I’m talking to others, I have plenty of things to say after the conversation is over because I cannot process what’s being said during the conversation and I tend to interrupt others before they finish speaking. I don’t speak up for myself when being put down, I’m sure it’s some residual childhood experience that has subconsciously affected how I communicate with others.

The good news? These are all fixable problems. They will take time and a concerted effort but like fitness, I need to exercise solutions to these issues that hold me back from being a better leader and person in power. The first step is to recognize what type of person I am.

We tend to fall into three categories as humans. Givers, matchers and takers. Each one possesses upsides and downsides to their personality types. Most fall into the matchers category but the gist is that givers will you guessed it, give. To both their success and detriment. They tend to both be terrible and excellent performers at work. Think of it this way, they will sacrifice themselves to help others succeed but develop high quality relationships that will eventually help them get where they want to go. Takers, well they take. They put themselves first and will succeed early on but will fall off as they burn bridges that got them where they are today. Matchers are a little of both, they tend to think “If you take from me, I’ll take from you. If you give to me, I’ll give to you.”

So why bring all this up? Understanding yourself is a huge benefit to how you shape your relationships at the office, home or in just about every context of your life. If you find that you’re always putting others first and feel you’re constantly walked on because of your kindness, you might be giving too much. Our first mentor quoted “protect your brand at all cost”. You are your brand, if others are attacking it, whether is your character or personally, you must defend yourself. You are not a doormat.

If you find others are cold towards you because they may feel slighted from a bad meeting where you took credit for something others put hard work into or your friend helps you with a project at home and you do not reciprocate a thank you for kind words in return. You may be a taker. Try giving a little. It will feel good and you might rekindle a once exhausted relationship.

Don’t know what you are? No worries. Check out this short questionnaire from

Are you a giver, taker, or matcher? Here are a few more questions from Adam Grant’s Give and Take quiz to help you find out.

  1. You and a stranger will both receive some money. You have three choices about what you and the stranger receive, and you’ll never see or meet the stranger. Which option would you choose? a) I get $8, and the stranger gets $4 b) I get $5, and the stranger gets $7 c) I get $5, and the stranger gets $5
  2. In 2006, after the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina, a US bank executive led a team of employees on a trip to help rebuild New Orleans. Why do you think he did this? a) He wanted to make headlines for being a generous, giving organization b) He felt compassion for the victims and wanted to do whatever he could to help c) He wanted to show his support for bank employees who had family members in New Orleans
  3. You’re applying for a job as a manager, and a former boss writes you a glowing recommendation letter. What would you be most likely to do? a) Go out of my way to make a good impression on my new boss, so I can line up another strong recommendation for the future b) Offer to write a recommendation letter for one of my own former employees, so I can pay it forward c) Look for ways to help my former boss, so I can pay it back
  4. You’re working on a project with two colleagues, and there are three tasks that need to get done. As you discuss how to divide tasks, it becomes clear that all three of you are extremely interested in two of the tasks, but view the third as quite boring. What would you do? a) Try to convince one of my colleagues to do the boring task b) Volunteer for the boring task without asking for anything in return c) Volunteer for the boring task and ask my colleagues for a favor later
  5. A few years ago, you helped an acquaintance named Jamie find a job. You’ve been out of touch since then. All of a sudden, Jamie sends an email introducing you to a potential business partner. What’s the most likely motivation behind Jamie’s email? a) Jamie wants to ask for help again b) Jamie genuinely wants to help me c) Jamie wants to pay me back If you answered mostly A’s, you’re a taker. If you answered mostly B’s, you’re a giver. If you answered mostly C’s, you’re a matcher. 🙂
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