Power is a tricky topic. Fortunately there are some great leadership books to help us navigate the pitfalls. Here are three contemporary authors who deliver.
Learning to wield power is an early leadership skill we need to master
There’s no getting away from how delicious power feels. It is incredibly energising. It gives us a sense of strength and status. It allows us privileges and perks. It’s no wonder we see so many leaders fall under its spell. From Julius Caesar to Genghis Khan, from despotic politician to narcissistic business leader, power is a galvanising force. With it we can conquer lands and squash competition.
Power wielded as a sword causes human collateral. Eventually dictators fall, some more quickly than others. Though our civilisations have moved farther away from oppressive power hungry regimes, some remain.
In our workplaces, we still see the burgeoning beast of power. As thoughtful, reflective leaders, it is our moral imperative to know power, and wield it wisely.
Power wielded as a torch lights the way for humanity. Let’s do that.
As I research more about power in leadership, I see its use and abuse everywhere. The following books share different perspectives on power, from the easy read through to the more complex nuanced views. Take your pick.
Understanding power is essential for a healthy leadership mindset
Recommendation 1. Easy read / Listen: John Birmingham’s End of Days Series
I’ve been listening to some amazing Audible original series. These three audiobooks: Zero Day Code, Fail State, and American Kill Switch give us a fascinating look at human societies if we lose our internet capabilities. Birmingham writes a dystopian near future where a cyber attack destroys all communications and food distribution networks. Chaos and survivalism ensues. A fascinating look at how we come together, or don’t, when crisis hits, who emerges as leaders and how they wield power. A brilliant narration by Rupert Degas. The characterisation and dialogue is top notch. #authorcrush
Recommendation 2. Medium hard read: The Four Stages of Psychological Safety – Defining the Path to Inclusion and Innovation by Timothy Clark
A fabulous short handbook on how to ramp up and extend psychological safety in the workplace and work towards shared power and collaboration. The four stages include: Inclusion Safety, Learner Safety, Contributor Safety, and Challenger Safety. Complete with excellent reflection questions and chapter key points, this is a practical handbook for leaders who want a stepped approach to learning how to help others share power and grow under their leadership banner.
Recommendation 3: Difficult read: The Nordic Ideology – A metamodern guide to politics – Book Two by Hanzi Freinacht
It’s long, it’s hard, it’s complex. And very rewarding. Hanzi outlines the developmental path for us as a civilisation while pulling no punches. There is no utopia waiting for us, only what he calls ‘relative utopia’. He suggests that our current civilisations are relatively better than what we’ve had before (world wars, slavery) but they still have a new set of problems we need to lean in to and address (failing ecosystems, widened inequality, and alienation and stress.) If you’re interested in the larger patterns at play in human societies, then this book is for you. It also comes with a playbook of sorts on how to encourage one’s own development as well as nurture the development of others, essential for a successful metamodern society that is equipped to handle the challenges a modern and postmodern society have created.
Essential leadership skills include advanced emotional intelligence, perspective taking, mapping complexity. Phew. We’re on the right track.