Social Power vs. Personal Power

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Each one of us needs power to feel better, perform better and be better. We all have a very complex relationship with power. Before we get into that debate, lets just hold our definition of power for a second and just discuss the two types of power described by Amy Cuddy in her book Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges. Amy describes the two types of power as social and personal.

Social Power is typically the type of power that you find outside with other people. This can come in the form of hierarchy, influence, and many other forms. There are two issues with social power: There are limited amounts of it available but second and most importantly, you get this power at the expense of others, most of the time at diminishing others.

Personal Power, in contrast, is the type of power that comes from within. It is based on your values, mindset, skills, attributes, spirit. It is basically endless. And that is the beauty of it. You can access this power source at any given time and use as much as you want or need. There are no limit or restriction for this one.

As I was reading this chapter, I couldn’t contain myself to stop and reflect about this. There have been so many times that I’ve been trying to access the wrong type of power and by trying to do so I have exhausted myself (due to the low amount available) and also hurt others in the process of getting it. It really hit me how we are constantly playing this social power game. We end up hurting great human beings, people we love and care about. All just for a couple of drops of social power. This can also be an unintentional action. I wonder how many times have I obtained social power without thinking of who did I hurt or diminished. Yeez, this is not cool.

Amy also mentioned another concept that makes sense: If we focus our energy in acquiring personal power, you will acquire social power as a by-product. And you can get it in a harmless way to you and others. It is not by diminishing others, it is given by others. Powerful stuff cooking in here.

The source content of this analysis comes from Chapter 5 of the book Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges by Amy Cuddy

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