When Tony Fernandes started AirAsia, he didn’t have any airline industry experience. He had never been an entrepreneur. In fact, for a moment there, he didn’t even think he “had the balls” to become one. No one gave him permission. People thought he was joking when he told them he was starting an airline.
So where did he get the balls to do it?
Well, he always had it in him. You have it. I have it. We all have this powerful force within us. And that’s where the real power lies.
In the world today, the word POWER has a subversive, almost dangerous, connotation. We read about Donald Trump and Jho Low, and we call them “power hungry”. We say that power corrupts, and that absolute power corrupts absolutely.
I think differently. Power lets us achieve our goals. Power gives us a sense of control. Power is a form of energy that helps us get the job done. How much can we achieve if we have no power?
I see two types of power: extrinsic power and intrinsic power.
Extrinsic power comes from outside. It is controlled and given to you by someone else. Money is a symbol of extrinsic power. If you are rich, you are seen as powerful. So are formal titles and positions. Companies have CEOs. Governments have Prime Ministers. People create structures and institutions, and entrust the power into the hands of a few. You have the authority to make decisions and others are expected to follow and execute your orders. You have the power to hire and fire.
With extrinsic power, the more tangible the better. That’s why universities issue degree certificates, police wear badges and CEOs have nice executive toilets with fancy gold taps. Extrinsic power can be intangible, too. Roger and I are always arguing who ‘wears the pants’ in the family. In organisations, there’s always the ‘blue-eyed boy’. (Side-note: Are you detecting a masculine vibe here?)
Extrinsic power is transferable. It can be acquired or lost, like the stock market or the general election. It can be bought or stolen.
Extrinsic power is a zero-sum game, one person’s gain is someone else’s loss. With the external power lens, the world is split between those who have power and those who don’t.
Intrinsic power comes from within. This is the stuff of dreams. It makes you think anything is possible. The Jedi calls it the Force. It brings you clarity, you have a breakthrough insight, that aha moment. It brings you energy, you become unstoppable. It doesn’t wait for permission, it compels you to act without you even realising it. Have you ever read something you’ve written and wondered if you actually wrote it? This is so goddamn good! Did I really write this??? When you have intrinsic power, people follow you. Not because they have to, but because they want to.
Intrinsic power cannot be bought, transferred or hoarded. It comes from the deepest core of your being. You already have it. It’s like a wonderful treasure waiting for you to discover it.
Unlike external power, intrinsic power is limitless. One person having power does not make another less powerful. Everyone’s powerful. No one can take it away from you. No one can touch you.
HOW DO I RECLAIM MY POWER?
The solution is so simple and so obvious that you may dismiss it…. like DUH….
In order to reclaim your power, you have to stop looking for answers externally, and start looking for the answers within. Don’t try to be someone else, but to just be yourself. Not follow someone else’s path but to create your own path to greatness. The path that only you can walk, in the way that only you can.
One small step you can take today is to answer this delightful question: What is the truth about me?
Get out some paper or your computer. Write. Draw. Explore it with a friend over a glass of wine. Just do it. Go crazy. Have fun. There are no model answers here. Just what’s right for you. And how will you know if it’s right? You’ll know… when you see it.
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About Sophia Chin, Leadership Coach & Co-founder of PERSONNA
Sophia helps people become more authentic leaders to drive transformational change for their organisations. Over the last 10 years, Sophia has coached hundreds of senior business leaders who have led transformational change in organisations like Apple and Grab.