Deborah Gruenfeld: You Are Far More Powerful Than You Believe

But according to long-time Stanford Business School leadership professor, Deborah Gruenfeld, while power makes human beings act on their best and worst instincts, research shows people are consistently rewarded when they use their power in the service of others.

In her new book, “Acting With Power: Why We Are More Powerful Than We Believe,” Gruenfeld says how we use power is really defined by the role we are playing at any given time. “To use power well,” she says, “we need to take each role seriously and choose how to play it. We must recognize that our roles change, and behaviors that make us successful in one role won’t necessarily be effective in a different role. Our default mode might actually make waves.”

And because the role of manager requires us to use power differently depending on the situations we’re in, some managers end up with a much smaller supply of arrows in their power quiver simply because they’re not yet comfortable performing as some moments require.

At Stanford, Gruenfeld teaches a highly popular class that draws on the craft of acting and the science of psychology to help students learn how to play all of their roles effectively. This course – along with twenty-five years of researching power – is the basis for her book. It’s also the focus of this highly provocative podcast discussion.

“In the theatre, [as in life] what it means to give a powerful performance is to accept and own the truth of what it means to be a human being: to be strong and weak, accomplished and fallible, powerful and powerless, all at once.” Listen in as Deborah Gruenfeld shares her profound wisdom on how to most effectively use the power you already have and to put it to its best use. 

By Mark C. Crowley

Mark C. Crowley is the author of Lead From The Heart: Transformational Leadership For The 21st Century which has been taught in 11 American universities. He is a global speaker, leadership consultant and thought leader on the topics of workplace culture and employee engagement.