What Type of Power-Broker Are You?


What Type of Power-Broker Are You?

I can imagine that your first reaction to this is to think ‘I’m not a power-broker at all. Power-brokers are those shadowy people who hang around and make mischief at the edges of politics and business, like on the TV series, House of Cards.’

But we are all power-brokers in our own way. Everyone has an influence on those who interact with us, and not just in person. This is especially so for those of us who own and run businesses.

I recently came across a book that was released earlier this year that provides some excellent insights into how power is used, and importantly, how it is changing. The book is New Power: How Power Works In Our Hyper-Connected World – And How To Make It Work For You.

The book’s authors, distinguish between ‘Old Power’ and ‘New Power’. The authors are Jeremy Heimans (the Aussie who started GetUp!, now based in New York) and Henry Timms  (a Brit, also based in New York).

Defining these two types of power:

This is best done using examples.

Old Power – Think Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong-un. Old Power comes from the top, is closely controlled and jealously guarded by those who hold it.

New Power – This is exemplified by social movements. Think #BlackLivesMatter, #MeToo, and the students from the Florida (USA) school who suffered a horrific gun attack campaigning for gun control. Unlike Old Power, New Power is freely shared. In fact, that is the power of New Power. When it is channelled and hundreds, thousands or millions of people participate, magic happens.

What has New Power got to do with me?

Differentiating between different types of power is more than an interesting intellectual exercise. It really matters to us as business owners. No, that does not mean that we should turn the management of our companies over to the whims of a social media campaign.

What it does mean, however, is that we need to be perpetually aware of the fact that our companies are not empires unto themselves.

While a dose of Old Power is still required for us to run our businesses with order, we, in effect, have to share with the purveyors of New Power.

Walking bravely and defiantly into the face of community expectations is a sure-fire way to kill your business.

Similarly, New Power needs Old Power to be effective. An example used in the book is the New Power-wielding US school students mobilising for gun control. For their movement to have any lasting effect, they will need the Old Power political establishment to make legislative changes.

To me, the Old Power, New Power narrative is another way to look at topics that are discussed often here on Smallville. A successful business needs to have a purpose that others can identify and connect with (your ‘why’). It then needs to live up to that purpose and build trust (responsibility and ethics). Nicely-worded policies on the corporate website are not enough. That is merely surfing on the wake of New Power, and our audiences can sense that from miles away.

Now that we have been introduced to the concepts of Old Power and New Power, our challenges as business owners are to:

1. Figure out what type of power-broker we are.

2. Think through how we can best deploy both Old and New Power in our own businesses.

Jeremy Heimans and Henry Timms have helpfully provided a quiz to help with the first task.

For the second, my suggestion is to spend some time reading the excellent posts here on Smallville and investigate how you can:

  • Create content and stories that mean something to your audience.
  • Demonstrate that your brand is a ‘force for good’.
  • Build a community that includes all stakeholders, including the ones that you don’t touch directly.

I’d love to hear what type of power-broker you are.

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