You are wasting your power if you don’t adjust to others’ perspectives, says new research from Columbia’s School of Business.

The researchers conducted a study of the behaviors of working professionals, including MBA-types, and found that the traditional definition of power isn’t enough to influence change today. Here’s what they found:

– Applying position power makes you less likely to adjust to others’ perspectives,

and adjusting to others’ perspectives alone isn’t enough

– Applying position power + adjusting to others’ perspectives = powerful leadership

– People who see the world from someone else’s point of view produce better


The study also found that those who don’t take into account others’ perspectives diminish their influence and are far less effective in influencing others.

I’ve tested this idea in hundreds of coaching situations and found that those who don’t focus on others’ perspectives are blocking their own success.

Why do people–especially successful people–find greater power through focusing on others? Real power is rooted in connection to purpose, partnership, and the ability to inspire. In Spanish, the word for power is poder, which is also used as “to be able to”. Real power is about creating greater possibilities. Here’s what really powerful people do to lead every day:

Be calm in the storms –  Take time daily to ponder their purpose

In this constantly changing world, they’re able to be agile through it all. They don’t let chaos ruin their life, instead they let it recharge them by carving out time to get clarity, whether it’s time in the mountains, the beach, or just a quiet place where they won’t be interrupted. They find that place, and go there often. They don’t miss the cellphone, the tablet, or the laptop as they create quiet moments where they can connect with their heart about everything that matters most.

Be a deep listeners – Focus on what others are feeling in all their conversations

Really powerful people fight the urge to choose technology over people, and instead stay focused on listening with empathy. As they do, they recognize that no other practice is so perfectly designed to connect them emotionally with others. Listening matters on so many levels, and quickly converts acquaintances to life-long friends—which translates into partnerships and new opportunities in family, business, and everywhere in life.

Inspire others even when you don’t feel like it –  Share personal experiences

They know personal experiences are packaged to influence others to believe more, do more, and become more. They share times in their lives when they’ve faced their Goliaths head on and defeated them, and they openly share their biggest failures that have become some of their most invaluable learning experiences. As they do, they find that people are inspired,and follow them.

Be a source of strength to all, regardless of title –  Influence without fear

Really powerful people recognize that life is short, and that now is the day to make an impact, regardless of the past or where the majority stands. And they know they can change the world by serving those around them in new ways, adding value to their lives, and serving without seeking the credit. They know it’s all about becoming the kind of person everyone can lean on, and expanding their influence to become a force multiplier.

Be grateful – Thank everyone you can and appreciate them

They make gratitude a part of their life, recognizing that it builds deeper meaning and greater happiness into everything. It becomes their brand as they thank people regularly for everything. Everyone likes to be appreciated, and in today’s world, many are called leaders, but few choose to really lead in a meaningful, motivating way.

Be creative, even when it doesn’t come natural – Do something different

They know life is loaded with opportunities to show up differently, to change their fate, and to be spontaneous. And they see that creatively connected living is the key to the future.

Be persistent in making what you dream become reality – Bring dreams to life

Really powerful people focus on the outcome as well as the process, knowing that they’ll either find their path, or their path will find them–and they know that they’ll know it when they see it because they’ve dreamt it before.

I can’t say I’m surprised by the Columbia study’s findings. I coach leaders to connect to others in ways that matter to them. And the “golden rule” won’t suffice (do unto others as you would have them do unto you), only the “platinum rule” will–do unto others as they would have you do unto them. That makes for real power you can tap into every day.


  • Chris Deaver

    Influencer, Senior People Business Partner

    Influencing people with a limitless approach to empowering teams to be different together, creating the best work and making the world a better place.