Power attracts. There is something about the psychology of people that makes it especially alluring.
Perhaps for this reason, ever since the dawn of civilization the struggle for power has been the great battle that has kept us endlessly at odds with one another.
Ultimately, power is a highly effective means of meeting the four basic emotional needs that drive us: the need for safety, fun, uniqueness and connection.
The model of emotional needs is the best explanatory model I have seen to explain the conduct of individuals and the intentions that move them. Hence, we will use it to gain a better understanding of power.
While we may like it to varying degrees, it is through these four requirements that we interpret and experience reality, which we often distort to justify what we want to do. We almost always do what we feel, and not until afterwards do we rationalize what we have done.
Returning to power: so that it does not corrupt or become a factor of social regression, we simultaneously need both a why and a how of added value.
We conceptualize added value from the point of view of the functionality of mid-term results and the effect on the human quality of the decision maker.
In the article “The Ecological Use of Power,” we addressed the hows: the levers of power and their ethical component.
Now let’s turn to the whys. These are the intentions behind the pursuit of power. These intentions vary greatly in their nature and ethical quality, and have very different effects.
For that we will revisit, and expand upon, the model of emotional needs. We previously discussed the four basic needs (safety, fun, uniqueness and connection), and now we add the two advanced needs: personal growth and helping others.
This gives us a total of six emotional needs and, consequently, six intentions with the potential to answer the question of “Power: what for?”
The basic desires are legitimate, but if they become dissociated from the advanced needs, they will ultimately be dysfunctional for both the individual and society. And that, which we call emotional “fast food,” is also what we do quite often, with the consequent risk of regression that goes along with it.
Power is emotional fast food when it becomes a means for other means, which in addition to a low ethical level, is used as an end
The problem lies in using power as a means to achieve other means (which become ends) such as to getting rich for being rich, being famous for being famous, enjoying pleasures for enjoying them, and having relationships for having them, etc.
The major ethical problem of power, in terms of the intentions, is to dissociate it from the desires for personal growth (which includes kindness, self-control, intelligence, etc.) and helping others (service, solidarity, social entrepreneurship, etc.).
With bad nutrition comes bad health. The same is true with power. When someone exercises power with intentions that are ultimately no more than emotional fast food, it is no surprise that they become corrupt. The opposite occurs with those who associate the exercise of power with the more noble human desires of personal growth and service.
When companies are managed by executives who are powerful and have integrity, a deep interconnection and a profound purpose, they get transformed and reveal their full potential.
Power, when associated with the desire to serve and the spirit of working for the common good, allows this “miracle” of transformation and economic progress.