Are You a Powerful Person?


By J.P. Reynolds

I recently gave a workshop on leadership over at UCLA to a diverse group of managers and directors. I kicked things off by asking the participants to identify someone who they think is a powerful person. I also asked them to consider if that person’s power is unique to their personality or if it’s something any one of us can develop.

Answers ranged from Clooney to Zuckerberg toClinton(both) to Ron Paul and included unheralded parents and teachers. But then Lyn, a woman who can claim a measure of power as she’s a partner in several influentialL.A.restaurants, offered that she recently encountered a powerful woman in a CVS drug store — a matronly clerk at the cash register!

Although it was early afternoon, it was the only open register and Lyn was in a line of five people ahead of her. Throughout, the clerk remained calm and efficient, answering the usual inane questions that people ask when there’s a long line, and being patient even as customers fumbled for cash or credit cards.

Marveling at her composure, Lyn complimented the woman and asked her how she did it. Surprised, the woman laughed and said, “What else can I do? Yell?  What good would that do me?”

As Lyn said to the class, “Now that was power!”

That clerk will never rise to the ranks of CEO of CVS, but indeed she is a woman of power. Why? Well, every powerful person has several key attributes and one of them is this: A powerful person is not a victim.

Playing the role of victim doesn’t give you genuine power. It might give you attention, but not respect — from yourself or others. The simple truth is that each one of us is responsible for what we are doing and feeling.

This clerk easily could have played the victim and vented her frustration with management on hapless customers. Instead, she took charge of the situation and decided how she wanted to handle things. She was neither insulted nor intimidated by impatient customers. She chose to be gracious, personable, and as efficient as her resources allowed her to be.

People and events only have as much power as we give to them. You control your thinking and your actions flowing from that thinking.

The clerk chose not to feel helpless and in so choosing she felt energized and that energy was contagious. By the time each disgruntled customer got up to her, they were no match for her positive energy.

Lyn assured us she plans on imitating this woman’s power with her own staffs and customers.

Powerful people are influential. Even a drugstore clerk. What about you? Where do you have power?

Please send your communication questions to me at:

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