Relationships at Work - Leadership Skills Guide to Create a Company Culture We Love

How Leadership Can Define The Ways To Pursue Power at Work with Dr. Stephen Barden

July 18, 2023 Russel Lolacher Episode 80
Relationships at Work - Leadership Skills Guide to Create a Company Culture We Love
How Leadership Can Define The Ways To Pursue Power at Work with Dr. Stephen Barden
Show Notes Transcript

In this episode of Relationships at Work, Russel chats with author and leadership coach-mentor  Dr. Stephen Barden on how we can learn to balance power to improve the workplace and the dangers of its misuse.

Stephen shares his thoughts, stories and experience with...

  • The definition of power.
  • How authority and influence play a role in power.
  • Why "leading from the front" is nonsense.
  • How power can prevent an organization from innovating.
  • Why understanding power balance is key to improving the organization.
  • The vital role of continuous learning.
  • Where to start in obtaining power and influence at work.

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For more, go to relationshipsatwork.ca 

And connect with me for more great content!

Russel Lolacher
And on the show today we have Dr. Steven Barden. And here is why he is awesome. He’s a board advisor, strategic advisor and leadership coach mentor through his consultancy Steven Barden Coaching Limited It’s a good thing he’s in charge of that because it’s got his name on the door. He’s been a member of the C-suite as CEO, and COO at various media organizations for decades before that. his doctorate was awarded on his research into how top organizational leaders can learn to use power and authority, pretty handy for the conversation we’re about to have. And he’s the author of the book, How Successful Leaders Do Business With Their World — The Navigational Stance, and hey, he’s a podcaster, too. He’s the host of the Power of Balance. Hello to you, Stephen. I almost was able to do that in one breath.

Stephen Barden
In fact, you did do it in one breath. Hi, Russel. Good to be and thank you.

Russel Lolacher
So we have to kick off the show like we always kick off the show, Stephen, which is asking the question, what’s your best or worst employee experience, sir?

Stephen Barden
Or worse?

Russel Lolacher
Or.

Stephen Barden
Okay, oh, well, funnily enough, it my worst one probably was, was I was a 20 year old kid and I and I went into, I was appointed to what was then my dream job, which was what was called an announcer producer on radio, in South Africa, where I lived in those days. And my direct boss, who’s, who died some years later, but my direct boss used to hit on me quite a lot. I mean, literally, which would end and when I sort of, refused to, to put out then tried to block me in a number of in number of ways, so I couldn’t get, I couldn’t get the stuff that I need. I knew I knew I needed to do like, I wanted to direct plays, I was blocked, etc, etc. So that was the bad part. The good part of it is, is a I learned to my own my own power. In that could say no. And I learned more that I could actually go round him. I could go around him. So there was somebody, yeah, trying to abuse. And in many ways using, but I learned to go round, I learned to be around him, I learned to be water, rather than a battering ram.

Russel Lolacher
A little Bruce Lee, semi-quote there. I like that. Just flow like water around instead of

Stephen Barden
Go through the holes in the wall.

Russel Lolacher
How did you realize you had power to be able to make that choice or make that the move around?

Stephen Barden
I think without going too deeply on it, I think that, that what drove me was my own love for the job, I really wanted to, to make documentaries and direct plays. And I really love that job. And I mean, you know, it was it was a time when I used to, I used to literally run to work at seven in the morning. And we had to be dragged away. So it was that love, that was a real passion on it. On the one hand, and also I suppose if I follow the thesis of my of my book, it’s something that you learn as, as a kid, while you’re exploring your own space, you know, as a kid watching what you learn to assume that yeah, I can do certain things, I can do certain things. Because power is what you assume you have, as well as you know, what you actually have. So I think part of it was what I learned as a kid, and part of it is I was really driven by this huge passion to, to do the to do a good job to do that job. Nobody was going to stop me put it this way. That was what I was going.

Russel Lolacher
Yeah. And it’s, it’s hard for a lot of people because they don’t have that confidence. Or they feel the term of the career limiting move, as it would if they do anything that sort of rocks the boat, or changes the status quo, status quo, or just truth to power. People immediately get that fear that it’s going to have repercussions if they don’t Yeah, so let’s dive into the term of power. How because I’m thinking of a lot of TV shows succession and so forth around the idea of what power looks like because it has such negative connotations generally to it. Nowadays, maybe it didn’t always. So what is your definition of power as it pertains to the workplace?

Stephen Barden
Well power for me is I stripped it down what I did when I when I because that’s exactly what I did in the book, by the way, just stripped it down syndrome. So what is that what actually is part? And if you strip it down to its basic, Russel, it’s the ability to be able to do to act in a in a context right? So that’s what you that’s the thing The more scope you have to do that, the more power we’re set to have, right? But power, sustainable power is always in relationship. I don’t think anybody can be can that can talk about having absolute power. Even, you know, even if you’ve been marooned or shipwrecked on an island, you don’t have absolute power. If you think you have absolute power, you know, remember that the scorpion that tell that to the scope and bites you as your as your die. And, and even I was listening to a great podcast on slavery this this morning. And those people who were who were transatlantic slaves who were taken from Africa, and were hugely traumatized, and hugely, you know, in that survival rate was was so low, yet, they could stand up, and they did stand up frequently in, in uprisings in rebellions too. So even there, you know, there is no absolute power that can them. So, power is a couple of things. Power is always in relationship. And I think when people when they’re thinking about the power that their bosses have over them, just let them remember that that power is always in relationship without that you could only do in relation to what other doers and doings are doing. I think I’ve got three days of them, but never power is fear is in a particularly in a knowledge based economy. Now you can you can, you could argue that it was it can be effective in a in a drilled economy, but in a knowledge based economy, it’s just bad for business Russell, it takes reduces the power to think it reduces the power to take initiatives and bring risks, it does all that. So power with fear, if somebody’s trying to make sure that you do things through fear, know that they are actually be extremely bad leaders, and they’re bad for the for the organization, let alone for you.

Russel Lolacher
You will you’re very specific in the term power. And I’m curious why you didn’t how is it different than words like authority or influence where others would probably think that’s what we’re talking about?

Stephen Barden
Okay. Power includes influence. Power doesn’t have to include authority. Because I can have power, or you can have power, we can have power in the ability to do things, say we’re running a company together we can have, as partners, we can have power to the ability to do things with each other for that company without necessarily having authority. Right? I can also have power, if I have, if I’m a leader of one myself in an organization, if I can help to influence if I can influence the organization to get towards its goals. Authority is is the is the office. It’s the office that I’ve been given. And the office is vested with an assumption of power, if you’d like it’s the that’s authority. So if I’m, if I’m the chief executive, even if I’m, you know, a complete, complete nothing if you’re like, Oh, whatever. I have the authority, I’m given the authority. So that authority imbues me with an assumed ability to do things, right. Prime Ministership, apparently, not so much more in this country, but Prime Ministership…

Russel Lolacher
I’m sorry, this interviews been five minutes long, you must have a new PM by now.

Stephen Barden
What do you mean A new PM. There’s probably three waiting in the corner.

Russel Lolacher
You’ve touched on their different types of power, though we’ve got relationship power, we’ve got positional power, are there any other types?

Stephen Barden
Well, I’m saying all power is relation, right? Number one, whatever happens, there is an it’s all to do with the ability to act. It’s all to do with the ability to act out you use your power in different ways. It’s we’ve we’ve imbued power and leadership with a myth. And the myth is that leaders lead from the front quote, unquote, that leaders have to be there on the white horse. And it’s nonsense in the sense that you cannot have in a modern organization, all power all leadership centered around one person. Because even in even if you’re just leading a team of four, and you’re saying I’m the leader, I’ll decide you know, you bring all your troubles to me I don’t even have to be autocratic, but you know, give it all to me and I will take it all on You don’t have to, I won’t ask you for help. I’ll do it all by myself, you’re reducing that team to the size of your head. And you’ve seen, we’ve both seen CEOs, a massive corporations, reducing their corporations to the size of their heads. People, you know, CEOs who’ve written great, lovely books telling us about their success. But of course, it only lost that cooperation. And the last while that while they’re there. So those myths of leading from the front of all centering around the leader is it is a sort of is a is a myth that that probably, in reality died somewhere in a crusade in an unsuccessful crusade in the 12th century. So that’s where I differ in terms of I’m saying, let’s demystify the terms. Power is what you’re able to do. And the more you’re able to do, the more you’re able to persuade your mind. The more you’re able to act on behalf of your organization, the more power you have.

Russel Lolacher
Reminds me of a story I heard out of I think it was Australia, where the pm out of there only hired people that were very much on the Yes, yes, I’ll do whatever you want. Yes, yes, yes. Not thinking anything more than they were doers. They were there to hear to be influenced by the power of the top to go do a thing. Well, in politics, the leader, the top tends to change every couple of years. So when the new person came in and was trying to lead, they’re surrounded by a theme of Yes, yes, yes, people, not innovators. And then that new PM was like you people aren’t original thinkers, you people aren’t innovators, because they weren’t hired to be. So that power at the beginning was very power, but it wasn’t leadership, because that couldn’t survive past the power of the previous, previous role. So I find that really interesting of seeing that difference between leadership and power, power.

Stephen Barden
Interesting. While you were saying that, of course, they gave power to that previous Prime Minister, because they basically said, What do I need to be able to stay here? I need to be able to say yes to this man. So they gave power? Probably in return, they think they were getting some sort of power, but they gave power away. They gave it completely away. Do you think?

Russel Lolacher
Well, they were hired to, right?

Stephen Barden
Yeah, that’s exactly right.

Russel Lolacher
That particular person wasn’t looking for innovative people he was looking for “I know everything. I’m the innovator go do the thing that I want you to go do. I’m looking for YES Men, for lack of a better term, like, YES Men and Women. So of course, they fit the model of the culture in which they were building, not for longevity. But for in that case, political will.

Stephen Barden
Yeah, yeah. And I think that’s, you know, I think that’s, that’s absolutely right. I was thinking as well that, you know, my first story that I told you about being in South Africa, I used to work for this organization called the South African Broadcasting Corporation, which I left sort of after five years. But it was basically the instrument in when it came to the news, not in anything else. But when it came to the news and stuff like it was the instrument of the apartheid government. So when the apartheid government fell, there was a great deal of of nervousness that this SABC, this is this propaganda instrument would resist the new ANC movement, the new government, of Mandela, guess what it did? It became the perfect instrument of the new government. Because that’s what they were hired to do.

Russel Lolacher
Yeah, that leads me to my next question, which is really about that relationship with power, as someone enters into an organization as they move up in an organization, the relationship people have with power, how do you feel it changes?

Stephen Barden
It all depends on what you assume. Once you’ve learned to assume and continue to learn to assume about the use of power. I think if if your focus is on taking the if, if your assumption when you came out of your childhood was that power, you know, I am, I am in conflict with my world. So my power then I’m going to use my power to defend myself against the world. And that’s another conversation. I think the basically the assumption but I’d call the navigational stance is that is that the children emerge with this, this foundation assumption that either the world they are, they are in a imbalance with the world. In other words, the world is not a friendly place, and it will try and stop them. So they need to actually defend themselves against the world. Or as in some cases, people in power we both know right now, they feel they are so superior to the world that they that the world is simply there as their chattel. And the best leaders, I’m saying that the finest leaders are the ones who have a power balance, they have an assumption of a power balance the world is the world and I are in a in a reasonably balanced power. And we can do business with it, and hence the title of the week, you know, we can do business week, we’ll deal with it, you know, there’s no, we don’t get the world when we when we fall and stub our toe is not because the world is against us. Because we fell in subject, you know, we get fired, it’s not because the world is in. So. So that’s basically it. So it depends how your what how you feel as you get get more and more power. Now I have seen, we all seen people who get more and more part, we get more and more dictatorial because they get more and more defensive. And therefore they’re taking some sort of vengeance on the world, if you like, that’s the simplicity. But then you get others who are really much more balanced, who as they get more power, think how can I do more for this organization? How can I take this organization forward? And those are the people that, you know, that’s those are the people that I try to? And I think Judging from your work as well, that’s something that’s key to you. I tried to get leaders to think more and more about about what is success in leadership, if you are somebody who, who is trying to constantly trying to prove their power or disprove their lack of power, you’re going to work for your interests all the time, it doesn’t matter, you won’t care what the organization is doing. However, if you are if you do care about the organization, you are always going to try and think of things like how do I take this entire organization forward? Or this entire team forward? How do I make sure that there is a reasonable balance of interests of the stakeholders, because I understand, if I am somebody with a reasonable balance of power with the world, I understand that, that if if I neglect to look after the interests of some members of my team, it’s going to make life difficult for me next time. But number one, number two, we’re not all going to learn. We’re not all going to learn and what did we learn to do, we need to learn to do things better next time. Whether it is whether it is better for the overall company, or better than the overall do, we need to learn to do things better next time. We learn if we and and if I am one of the stakeholders who’s been neglected, I’m going to be reluctant to use my learning for the benefit of the team. So we need to take them take them all forward. And I think we talked about that. A really my research found that the people who who were the most successful as leaders, and really at the top level, because my research was done for the book and for the thesis and the book was at the very top level. So we’re talking about three and four star generals. We’re talking about really global leaders and things like that. They worked in this partnering way. They worked, they partnered with their stakeholders, so that they they would reach out and ask for people they were surrounded themselves with immensely intelligent people. And they always tapped in they you know, even when they were really right at the top of the tree. They used to do what what one of them said, I always listened to the buzzing in the woodwork, they would always find out what was the mood? What was the morale? What’s going on in the organization. They’re really good at that. And they would, you know, one, one guy said to me, you know, what I do is I touchy says I touch and I taste what’s going on in the organization all the time, and he was really dipping in and finding out what was going on. So there there’s there’s this extremely alert attitude, as people sort of went up further and further into into power to what was going on in the organization. The organization for them was an ecosystem in which they had to make sure that everyone’s interests were they were at least highly alert to that highly alert to that. There were times when they would clearly have to I mean, one of the one of the general sentiment that at one stage. He knew that as they were sort of advancing the The operations at the back the the logistics at the back, we’re getting we’re getting logged jammed. But he knew he had enough supplies enough weaponry and food and whatever. So it didn’t matter whether it was John Janda. So he had to bid for the sake of speed, he had to ignore what was going on back in the spotlight. So sometimes you have to ignore it. Sometimes you even have to ignore, you know, tiredness and morale and people because you know, you have to drive it to, but you are aware of it, and you make up for it next time.

Russel Lolacher
I’m glad you brought up navigational stats, because that obviously is is paramount to the book. And the part that I like and to briefly summarize it on a very highest of levels, how leaders experience their learning their assumptions, and how it impacts their ideas around power. What’s learning’s role in this? You touched on it a little bit in there. And as you work through an organization, what is what is the learning relationship? What is the relationship to learning when it comes to people’s relationship with power?

Stephen Barden
I listened to your podcast, I think it’s it’s your latest one about continuous development, continuous learning. And for me, that is that is that is a must I mean, and learning is it’s this curiosity. And I think all leaders need to have this massive risk curious. And it’s the curiosity of how can I do this better? How can I do this better? Where do I need to learn to do this better. So it’s, it’s always for me context and text. So when people say, your I can’t, I can’t learn, I can’t read. I can’t do this stuff. Because I’m too busy doing my job, I’ve just arrived in this job. Well, actually, you can, and you must, because when you’re doing the job, you’re doing a very narrow part of it. You don’t know, you’ve got to know what it is to do the job better tomorrow, you’ve got to know what it is about this organization that is different from other organizations, because you may come in as a specialist from Company A, which is a completely different kind of culture from Company B. So you have to learn. So it’s, it’s not just learning about the actual job. It’s learning about the context of the job, it’s learning about the relationship from the job, it’s learning about what’s going on in the world about, you know, in terms of similar sorts of jobs. So you’ve keep on, keep on going for me learning. And particularly, the appetite that learning has to continue on that. It’s almost relentless. It’s not, it’s not all consuming. You’ve also got to learn by the way, that if I carry on being obsessed about the job, I’m also not going to do it very well. So I’ve got to learn something about myself all the time. So I’m going to learn that mostly, I need some sleep, I need some rest. I need to get away from this desk, all the way from this focus in order to think innovatively. So this learning and the more appetite you have for the learning, the more successful you become. And the higher you get. If that is too much. I’m not sure how much it you know how much is going to work? I had I had a chief executive the other day who said to me that she never read, never read. I said, What do you mean, you never read? I haven’t got time to read. And I can understand part of it. Because when you’re under pressure, there is a panic, oh, God, I’m reading. I’m really why am I taking this extra crit? You know, that poor little soul is saying, and poor little cells have all kinds of saying I don’t have time for this. This is an intelligent, you do you have to make sure that you know you’re doing a job in a in a variety of contexts. And you better know more and more and more about that those contexts as you’re going along. Does that make sense?

Russel Lolacher
It does. But it also brings up the notion of power. So there’s a lot of executives that from the outside looking in look like they have tons of power. But they’re also the ones that have no control over their calendar are in millions of meetings every day, because they don’t have that time that you’re talking about to even read much less lead because they’re in these meetings. So do they really have a lot of power? Because really, they’re they’re just going with what’s expected of them rather than leading because the you know, the clock tells them they got to be at the next meeting. Hope they got 13 seconds, they better go to the next zoom call or whatever. So that relationship to power and time seems really irrelevant.

Stephen Barden
Yeah, and it’s power and fear. It’s fear. And the number of people I found, who do Lead, they’re not there. Rather than leaders. They’re drivers. So they drive themselves and they drive their organization, they drive they just drive through. And of course, it is this fear that if I don’t drive, it will all stop, I will fail, the organization will fail. So they don’t stop to think. Let’s take a look, what is my what is what are the what is my strategy? How am I going to how am I going to make sure that their strategic goals are fulfilled? What do I need to do? So a thoughtful way of doing things, leadership does need to be thoughtful, people who the people you’re describing, are people in my view, who are driven by fear and therefore drive their organizations and themselves and they’d have no time because they are, you know, there is fear biting at them all the time. I remember, I remember a global action, executive who divisional executive in a very large company whose, whose specialized is Sasha, the subtle speciality of leading was roaring and screaming at a beam, I mean, really, to the point and you’re down a phone, face to face, you know, whatever it screams sharp, you do this, you do this, you know, and the abuse. The fear, as I got to know about this person, more and more and more, I realized how terrified this person was, he was terrified, they died a traumatic sort of experience of or failure, what they thought was a traumatic experience or failure some years ago. And it just drove him completely, it was fear, total fear. And, of course, by his fear, then in still he was he was instilling his fear into others, and the organization just was shrinking and shrinking and shrinking and shrinking in its ability to, to be innovative. So yeah, that and people who don’t read and people who are who bounced off the walls who have an assistant or whatever it was saying, you know, you got to go from one meeting to another, the most difficult thing I find in Coach Steve executives, is saying to the couple of things, don’t go from one meeting into another For heaven’s sake, you’re a commodity if you do that debt. So to get them to take a 1015 minute break, so they can prepare for the next meeting. incredibly difficult. That’s, that makes that incredibly difficult. The other thing is to get them to sit down and think about their organizations. There are some brilliant edit. But the type of person that you’re talking about that, you know, that driving person, very rarely do they think about the organization, they jump in, they use words like gut instinct and things like that, which, you know, if I, if I run a company on my digestive system, I have a problem.

Russel Lolacher
Now, navigational stance is key to your work and your research. And, and springing from that is the navigational compass. Can you explain that a little bit, because I do really enjoy the idea of these tendencies. When it comes to power,

Stephen Barden
The navigational compass, the stance, so I think we’ve we’ve covered two settings. The compass was that well, after I’d finished all this research, I found that as I was doing the research, there was there was some themes that came through and they had these, I think it was 10 tendencies that they all had in common. Now they weren’t 10 traits or habits or anything. They were 10 assumptions in many ways. There were a few things that weren’t there. One of them was this thing called navigation. That’s what was called the navigation. So these guys would look at it at a at a target. And they’d say, right, how do I get there, and they would be able to do two things they would be able to, they certainly would steer towards the target, but they would also make sure that if the the route, the planned route, they were they were going on, if that wasn’t available anymore, or was creating obstacles, they were quite prepared to tack at 90 degrees. So they weren’t like almost like yachtsman, you know, when you tack it 90 degrees could be and everybody thinks you’re going the wrong way. But actually, they would they would take it at they would take it 90 degrees. They did not. They weren’t fanatics for being for hitting targets, you know, this thing about you’ve got to hit that target. You know, they they knew that as long as they their company went into a particular direction move towards its progress that was more important to them than anything else. They all of them, some of them with resentment, but they ordered them really made sure that they had what I called a triangular critique. So they would, they would challenge themselves, they would challenge others. And they would structure into their organizations challenge from others. And they would go and seek out challenges. Because they knew it would be fatal. If they went into their bubble into their inner circle. A lot of them succumbed to this inner circle later on, because it’s just really tiring to go looking for looking for challenges. So, you know, and by challenges, they would, they would have forums in which they’d say, tell me what’s wrong, tell me what we’re doing wrong here. Tell me if this works. Tell me keep on. And they would reward people for doing that, for doing that well, because we both know that, you know, it’s all very, very well leader saying, my doors always open. And you know, I will always you could always come and talk to me, and you can always tell me if I’m doing something wrong, the chances that you’re gonna tell your boss, you know what I was thinking about it, you’re doing a crap job. It’s it’s. So this one they incentivize. And, you know, I think people like, you know, Ray Dalio and Bridgewater, did that very well. Where it was, you will never attack the person, you never criticize the person, you criticize the idea, you brought forward ideas, and they were tested for robustness. They were massively they were tested for the robustness. And, you know, at the end of the day, the thought was that if we will test the robustness of your idea, by the time we leave this room, it will be much more robust than when it came in. They all had mentors at some stage. Now, they didn’t have mentors that they hang on to. And they wasn’t it wasn’t a really sort of sentiment wasn’t even a sentimental relationship. But it was the mentor as a disrupter. So throughout their lives, they you could point out to having people who would disrupt their lives in some way they would, they would, as one, one of the leaders said to me, you know, I had one who used to kick me up the ocelot to, literally to disrupt, stop, stop thinking like that move on into different way. They were all. And I think that we touched on this, they all saw their organizations, as an ecosystem holistically. So they saw the linkages. So it was they were very aware of text and context, they knew that if they, if they outsourced their, the manufacturer of their shoes, or whatever it was, to Vietnam, they’ve got to keep an eye on what’s going on in Vietnam, because it nevermind what happens if something goes up in that factory, even if it’s outsourced, even if it’s somebody else’s responsibility, they’re gonna get the blame. So they were always aware of the linkages, they knew what affected everything else. So there were these 10 compass points that governed the way they thought. And it all came down at the end of their work, they always looked, they very rarely isolated themselves, they would, for example, they call it the unit socializing the file, where one on one talks about the ability to be able to, before you do anything before you decide on anything, or before you enact it, take it to people and say, What do you think, tell me about this because and there’s a couple of reasons, a maybe the it tests, it tests the decision, but more important, even if you’re determined to put it forward. By socializing the file beforehand, you’re making sure that those people who are going to execute your decision, understand what you’re doing, even if they disagree with they will understand what you’re doing. So the chances that they were executed more effectively, a much greater than that. And they all had this stuff that ended up if you like, encapsulated in what I call the partnering stance, they will work in partnership with the world all the time, all the time.

Russel Lolacher
See, someone is growing into organization, they’re getting to that point where they’re just getting that influence in their organization, their or their power for for better sake, but they don’t know what to do. What would be your first recommendation, have better understand your organization better understand the ecosystem like that, that jumps out at me huge as a way of really embracing that power and understanding that power. What else would you recommend for those people?

Stephen Barden
I’d also recommend, go and find somebody who knows the organization very well. And say to them, tell me something about how what would happen what what does this organization need? What is this? What is it that that would would add value to this organization? What can I do that nobody that other people can’t do? So find somebody who can act as a mentor to you in terms of that. But there’s certainly particularly if you’re, if you’re, you’ve just gone into the organization. Make sure in it when they talk about integration programs like that you talked about as one of your guests earlier on, when they’re talking about this, there’s, there’s first integration programs, I used to do quite a lot of those. When I when I was as part of my coaching practice, what I would say is, don’t just know get to know what your job is, and your job description go and find out what is expected of you unspoken. Because you may there is be head of technology, what is actually what do they really want. And that will tell you part of what the organization needs, and it will give you your direction. Go and find out don’t just find out who’s in the in the hierarchy go and find out who is the who are the influences in the organization, go and find out from them what this organization needs and what is acceptable. Because I remember once when taking over an organization as a CEO, and I went in full of full of, you know, wind matcher thinking, Well, you know, I’ve got to I’ve got to cut down this is stupid, Abby, etcetera, you know, the old thing. And I was about to, to to make one person redundant. And a woman I remember sidled up to me, and she said, Steven, don’t do that. I said, I said, why not? That’d be soft, whatnot, said, Don’t do that. He is your memory officer. He knows what’s what in this organization. He knows exactly where all the bodies are buried, etc. You need to keep him so that you can learn. The people we’re talking about need to go and find out people like that, go and find out all the hidden stuff, if you like all the the unspoken stuff that you need to know. And that’ll give you direction of what the organization needs. And therefore what you need to be able to do to exercise that power.

Russel Lolacher
My favorite question to ask when anybody’s asking me, What should I do? How should I do it? I always ask the question, what does success look like? What does success look like? Because you may be twisted a bit here? Because when I think what does success look like? I’m thinking what does success look like to that leader to that person? But really, what does success look like to the organization? What does success look like to the ecosystem? Because what you think success is, might be very different than what your boss thinks success is. If you’re hired to do a job, and you want to show your power influence, it has to fit within the model of the organization, not just what you’re barreling in and going off to do.

Stephen Barden
Yeah, success, it’s again, you know, that the, when I was doing the book, I had to find I had to find out and define what success was right. So success. In order to be successful, as a leader, you need to be able to take the entire constituency. So objectively, let’s take a look at success for an organization is when that organization is brought closer to its strategic goals. Right. And it’s and its purpose, because there’s, you know, there’s a, there’s a meta goal as well, it needs to be taken closer to that, number one, it needs to be able to learn from its from each wave. Right? So it needs to be able to sustain itself going forward. And success needs to be where the organization’s stakeholders are, again, as I think said before, that their interests are reasonably balanced and looked after because an organization where, where it only looks after its shareholders, and may be massively successful, is not a successful organization. And I do believe that history in a way shows that it may be very good for the for the shareholder, but it’s not going to be long lived, it’s going to it’s going to go at some stage. So I don’t believe that’s an organization that doesn’t learn. doesn’t learn to do things better nice. Next time, by definition is not going to be is not going to be a successful organization. And an organization that does not take into account its its stakeholders. in a balanced way, be those stakeholders, by the way in suppliers, purchases, customers, whatever. You’ve got to give some sort of balance to them because you know, if you don’t, your supplies will go somewhere else. Your supplies will up your costs when they release the three you’ve got to keep them going So it’s it’s, it’s those three things is getting closer to your goals, it’s making sure that you are you are moving the whole learning that the organization learns how to do it better. And it’s making sure that you are reasonably balanced at all the interests of the stakeholders. That’s success.

Russel Lolacher
We’re talking a lot about our power, like a person’s power.

Stephen Barden
Yeah.

Russel Lolacher
How is a leader who has already maybe figured out their level of power, their level of influence… How can they help others figure out their power, find their success in an organization?

Stephen Barden
Good question. I think the best way that leader can do is to find out is to ensure that their mentee, their protege, whatever you want to call them, gets to understand for themselves, what are their assumptions about their limitations of power? What what are their assumptions about their, their relationship with the world, that it sounds, it sounds, it sounds fluffy, but it isn’t, it’s, you know, because if I know what my attitude is towards my world, and I know, then I have an idea of what I can do with or for the world. So they need to underpin us to become not just self aware, there’s no such thing as self aware, they’re self aware in the world, aware of how they position themselves. So that’s number one, they need to get to know themselves. Number one, and the leader can help them do that. And then the leader is able to be able to say somebody with power say, Well, what are you going to use this car for? What do you want to do? How are you going to do it, what is the best way to exercise that, so, one is getting to know themselves. And one is and the second one is understanding the context the purpose for which that power is going to be used. And by the way, they also need to understand that power and exercise of power in in one organization or one one is not going to be the same in the next one, I made a fatal mistake of, of assuming because I came out of the media business, which was very hierarchical in those days, when I moved to another kind of company, and I was I thought I was being very nice. So it has been quite normal. Because you know it as you were if you were an editor or a managing editor in a media organization, and you said, you know, jump, they don’t know because because they knew the time factor was was was short, you say that to a tech not technology organization use a jump they go way. Give me one good reason. So context is really important. leader needs to be able to, to therefore make sure that the person becomes aware of self aware in the world. Number one, also how they’re going to the methods of using power methods of bringing people in understanding and helping them to to remove the myths of leading from the front, you lead from the middle, and an end and understanding the value of partnerships. And, and finally, understanding that different context, different exercise about different ways of using different ways of communicating.

Russel Lolacher
My last question on power is, should people even be should people seek it? Because to be honest, there’s a lot of people that will be in organizations and you’re like, I’m fine. I’m good. I like my silo. I like where I work. I don’t want to have anybody reporting to me, I’m perfectly happy where I am. So their relationship to power is an other. It is what other people do not what they do. Should they still explore power?

Stephen Barden
If those people want to expand their scope to do in other words, I’m just thinking of my own example earlier on when I was you know, when I was a very young man, when I was doing that stuff in radio written making plays in writing and directing plays and things like that. Did I want to become the Head of Drama? No, I didn’t. So that would have been that was fine. Now the way I will seek power however, if I wanted to control or to a Okay, let me give you an example. One of the people I knew who I greatly admire is great educator who came out of Jamaica and was was was an immigrant into it. To into Britain. And he basically wanted to make sure that the way people that the way education was being taught to immigrant and refugee children was changed because it was just not working. So after, I don’t know, four years or something, as a teacher, he decided that not good enough. So he applied to become a deputy head teacher. And he applied 49 times, so 49 times, and finally got one because he was black. And he was in that state, very racist, Britain. And he got it. And I said, Why did you do that? He said, Because I needed to be further up the food chain to influence the decision makers. So why did he choose BA in order to do more to be more creative? And I think if you don’t want to do that, if you’re seeking power to beat for power over, don’t do it. You’re seeking power for power, don’t do it. If you’re seeking power, so that you can be more creative. Do more things be further up the food chain so that there is no more scope for your your innovation, etc, innovativeness etc. That’s when you do it. Don’t seek power for powers sake, it doesn’t work. Don’t seek money for money’s sake, it doesn’t work.

Russel Lolacher
So Stephen, I have to finish the show. Thank you so much with the last question, which is what’s one simple action people can do right now to improve their relationships at work?

Stephen Barden
Don’t compete with your colleagues. It’s a complete waste of time.

Russel Lolacher
Short and sweet. That is Dr. Stephen Barden. He is a board advisor, strategic advisor and leadership coach mentor. He’s also the author of How Successful Leaders Do Business With Their World — The Navigational Stance. Thanks so much for your time, Steven.

Stephen Barden
Thank you. So that was great fun. Thank you very much. Cheers.