Barking Up the Wrong Tree

Social power is the capacity to influence the behavior of others. Explicit power is given by rigidly defined social heirarchies like President or CEO, while implicit power is influence gained by other means, sometimes taken by force but usually earned.

Many people with explicit power think that their power reaches farther than it does. Such distortion is caused by repetition; if they work all of most days and leverage their power to facilitate work, of course that mentality of influence will at some point become second nature.

I think this blending in the mind between explicit and implicit power is why people in powerful positions tend to be seen as jerks. It’s a stereotype to see a rich fart weaving in and out of traffic with his BMW or yelling at a McDonald’s worker because her fries aren’t done in time. They try to leverage their power to influence the behavior of other people or get away with actions that hurt others, but because that power isn’t given explicitly, it’s interpreted as an imposition by those beneath their tirade. We don’t see the thousands of times that they leverage that power to get real work done.

The the positive aspects of power don’t excuse borderline-sociopathic behavior. I suppose I haven’t had enough power to really see a solution. However, just as a pedestrian doesn’t need to be an engineer to point out that a house shouldn’t be leaning, I don’t need to know the solution to see that it’s a problem.

Categorized as Tech