In my previous posts In Egypt, Are we hypocrites? and From Good to Great, what makes outstanding performances I have highlighted how I have seen vulnerability as a source of inspiration, progress and beauty.
Furthermore, I have integrated that in a lot of aspects in my life, recently, I was invited to deliver a session to members of a student organization called SYS, they introduced me as former President of Cairo ToastMasters Club, da, da, daaah! and while everyone is waiting, this guy in sportswear to drop public speaking bombs, I told them the best way to make a great speech, is to embrace vulnerability.
A girl told me she has a problem with the Arabic letter R, it sounds funny and they ask her to avoid it. Well, I told her even to stress on it, to be proud of it. I guess, after my session, some of the attendees doubted that I had any qualifications to make this session or if they should take my 2 cents seriously!
I have also fully embraced vulnerability in my startup life, with my team, with my surrounding, I share myself openly and do everything possible to avoid power games.
Though, being sharp, open and transparent fires back I remember a Facebook chat with a friend of mine, who told me that naivety and failure to understand power games was the reason that I’m still being hit and back-stabbed right and left.
For the few years in business I had been trying to understand the hows and whys of that, I have read The Art of War for Sun Tzu and The 48 Laws of Power for Robert Green, and more of which actually made a lot of sense to me, I would bite my lips while relating some of the ideas in these books with some real-life situations in which I was used and taken advantage of.
In this interview with Robert Green, author of 48 Laws of Power he makes it clear starting minute 41 that the world has changed and that consistent practice of these principles is the only guarantee for Mastery, he makes a valid point that most of those who shine for a while and then disappear experience that because of failure to turn it into a craft.
Which very strongly supports the argument that Power is what matters most and that the conscious practice of power is what sustains and grows whatever you are doing.
With these two conflicting paradigms about living life and interacting with my surrounding, I think I was suffering from an intellectual dispute, or social psychologists call it, dissonance, should we interface with our society with the beauty and energy of vulnerability, or should we control or seek to control, predict and direct as much as we can.
In my quest to answer that, I finished 2 courses on Coursera Inspiring Leadership through Emotional Intelligence by Dr. Richard Boyatzis and Social Psychology by Scott Plous, I have also became a member of the social psychology network to keep myself posted with all knowledge and news in the topic.
Social Psychology as an experimental science didn’t provide a direct answer to my question, though learning about principles like Obedience, Conformity, and Deindividuation provided the basis to better understand authority, power and influence.
Obedience shows that human beings have the likelihood of blindly following anything that looks like an authority. They even ran an experiment on marrying strangers as below:
Milgrams Obedience experiment even makes this clearer, people would take it to extremes and even feel they haven’t done anything wrong as they were following what they thought is an authority who takes the responsibility.
Furthermore, principles of conformity and group biases have shown that people are more likely to agree and join who they think is more powerful and who based on their judgment is more likely to win in any situation, disregarding whether they are right or wrong, good or bad, its a fact that people want to place their bids with the winner, no matter what.
In another experiment on Dissonance, it was found that students who were paid a good amount of money in exchange for a lie, didn’t really feel dissonance or guilt, they felt that it was worth the lie. Those, who were not paid well felt strong dissonance and guilt, comparably, not for the wrong they have done the lie but for what they have got in exchange.
Thanks Prof @RBoyatzis for @courseras leadership through emotional intelligence. Great putting experimental science on top of pep talks.
— Abdelrahman Magdy (@AbdoME) October 3, 2014
Though, Inspiring Leadership through Emotional Intelligence had been a fabulous resource in putting all the leadership lip service to the test, as I proceeded curiously with the course, I was stopped at the Sacrifice Syndrome and everything started to make sense.
The Sacrifice Syndrome assumes that leadership is not just a skill or a gift, its also energy, that fades away and gets exhausted if you don’t initiate regular Renewal Cycles. Its regardless of how much of a great leader you are or you can be, if you run out of energy out of providing everyone around you with what they need and more, youll reach the point in which you’ll not be able to provide them with the minimum they deserve from your attention and compassion and everything you invested in, will eventually collapse.
As I take notes of the number of times, I dropped myself off on a bean bag without getting home, and invested more time on refining or often redoing everyone else’s tasks, I wouldn’t have space and focus to do my own as well as it should be.
And I guessed that’s why I have probably asked this question to start with, the consistent practice of inspiring leadership while allowing renewal cycles to get more fresh energy wouldn’t make the practice of power and authority any necessary, though, people would continue being inspired by the vulnerability of the goals and dreams they are executing against.
But does this mean that understanding power is not needed or not important and that the understanding and practice of these principles wouldn’t defend boost and maintain our focus and energy on our goals?
Well, I guess Im still experimenting so Im not sure, but what I became more sure of from this exercise is what I shared with the kids of SYS in my public speaking session, Is that vulnerability by far, is the most brilliant practice of power.
Here, tell these people something they dont know about me!
P.S. The 48 Laws of Power can be looked at as evil and hostile, I did look at it like that for years, though, watching the interview above will educate you with what the author meant by highlighting these ideas and the video at the end might help you understand how they can be ethically used in business, watch this video from here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ons-MA2PMGg
Also published on Medium.