Be Very Careful With Power and Influence

Have you changed as your power and influence has grown?


Our power can breach our core as leaders. If we're not careful, we start to self-focus to the point of cutting off the very feedback and input we need from others. Dr. Tim Irwin, a widely respected business consultant and speaker, uses the example of Steve Reinemund, former CEO of Pepsico, to illustrate the importance of self-regulation when it comes to the power and influence with which leaders have been entrusted.

Learn more about the qualities of accountability, self-awareness and discipline in leaders who understand and practice self-regulation.

One of the leaders that I have particularly admired over the years is Steve Reinemund. Steve became the chairman and CEO of PepsiCo, a Fortune 25 company, and was a tremendously effective leader. Steve told me that one of the first things he did when he became CEO, was he called his general counsel and his director of public affairs into his office, and he said, "Guys, I want you to know that I am making myself accountable to you." And they said, "Well, what do you mean?" He said, "Well, look, if I'm about to make a decision that you disagree with, or you don't think is right, and you tell me, I will voluntarily submit myself and won't make that decision."

And I said, "Well, Steve, that's great, but did that ever happen?” And he said, "It happened all the time.” He said, “I would often try and talk them into my position, but if they still disagreed, I would voluntarily agree not to take that initiative."

Now that was incredibly insightful on Steve's part, because I think he realized that unregulated power can be incredibly dangerous. Power, influence, fame, wealth, all of these things can have an incredibly corrosive effect on our character. Just look at some of the entertainers or corporate leaders. People in the sports world. The amazing effect that fame and power and wealth have on their character.

Our power can breach our core and it makes us arrogant and dismissive of others. As a result, we become truth-starved. We cut off the very feedback that we need in order to lead effectively. And so that's why it's so important, I think, to regulate the power that we have.

We’ve all known the guy that got a job and over time he advanced and he made more money. He got a bigger job, bigger title, bigger office. And somewhere along the way he changed. He started out as a perfectly nice person but somewhere along the line he changed. He began to be arrogant. He began to see the people around him were there to serve him not him there to serve others. And that's the kind of effect that power can have.

Derailment very often follows arrogance because arrogance is the mother of all derailers. But I would also say that humility is the mother of all safeguards.

Dr. Tim Irwin

Dr. Tim Irwin has consulted with a number of America’s most well-known and respected companies including SunTrust Banks, Chick-fil-A, Bank of America, Corning, Inc., IBM, The Coca Cola Company, Hoechst-Celanese, Gerber Products Compan...

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