How to wield power by Victor Cheng

Below is what Victor Cheng wrote on tips on wielding power.

At Stanford, I took a class called Power and Politics. My professor said: “If you put two people in a room together, there is politics.”

As much as I disliked the answer at the time, I have come to appreciate that it is true.

Politics occurs when different people with conflicting needs try to each get what they want.

It occurs in governments, companies, and families. Power comes from multiple sources.

Traditionally, power consists of possessing decision-making authority such as hiring/firing authority, control of resources such as a spending budget, or unique assets such as a well-connected professional network.

However, there is another form of power that is often more powerful than traditional forms of power and much easier to get. It’s the power of influence.

One way to be influential is to borrow power possessed by others.

Here is a simple example. Let’s say you are trying to convince your chief executive officer (CEO) to do something but lack any formal authority or power to assist you. You can borrow the CEOs power by quoting his or her own words back to him as justification for your proposal.

If the CEO stated: “Our top three priorities are 1) growing sales by 20 percent; 2) improving gross margins by two percent; and 3) improving customer satisfaction ratings by 10 percent,” you can “borrow” power by using these priorities as justification for your proposals.

Perhaps you need funding for an employee training programme. Figure out if the programme you have in mind would contribute to one of these three areas.

When you propose the idea, don’t say, “I want funding for an employee training programme.” Instead say, “I would like to get your approval for a project to help improve gross margins.”

The trick is to borrow the CEOs (or your boss’s) words and use them as justification for your own projects. Of course, what you propose does need to be in alignment with the CEOs words.

However, you frame the opportunity not in terms of what you want, but in terms of what someone with more power wants.

If you want to get a coffee station for your floor, don’t say, “I want a coffee machine.” Say, “The CEO wants 20 percent sales growth, and a more energised salesforce that is not fatigued at 3pm in the afternoon will sell more effectively.”

In other words, don’t say “I want,” say, “The CEO/boss/boss’s boss wants” and link what you want to what someone more powerful than you wants.

This is one of several aspects of borrowing power and being politically savvy.

Learning how to acquire, borrow and use power is one of 10 modules in my programme on how to excel as a rising star in industry. This programme is geared towards those who want an accelerated career path working in a corporate environment. 


-Victor Cheng


If you can adopt the above technique in the work environment, many of the initiatives and projects that were failing will now get the funding and support of all stakeholders.

It’s all down to aligning with the senior people’s vision and priorities. It is about articulating their game plan. It is about how you package your intentions. It is about ‘removing yourself’ from your plans. Hide your real intentions. Be tactical.

You do not have to tell the whole story exactly as it is. You need to be smart about it. Remember that we operate in a political environment.

Even in the work place, we operate in a highly political environment and therefore, we need to be tactical all the time. Good luck as you rise and shine with this new novel approach to wielding power in the work place. Good luck!

The post How to wield power by Victor Cheng appeared first on The Nation Online.