Using and Abusing Power

Utilizing power appropriately is among the most challenging human conditions to master. One of the great benefits that can be derived from power is not having to use it. My colleague General Colin Powell said, “Of all manifestations of power, restraint impresses people the most.”

For over 20 years, I have participated in an accountability group. We have a conference call every other Sunday night, and we answer a list of predetermined questions dealing with our personal and professional lives and the goals we are pursuing. One of the most poignant questions I answer every two weeks is, “Have you abused your power?” Power is a tool that can be used for good or bad. Ideally, power comes with a check and balance system that can keep it from spiraling out of control.

My late, great friend and colleague Brian Klemmer wrote an influential book entitled The Compassionate Samurai. He hosted an international conference several times each year until his passing, and the conference continues as a significant part of his legacy. Brian’s theory was that there are two kinds of people in the world: compassionate individuals who have great hearts, and powerful people he called samurai who have a lot of control and influence. He felt that when you can combine compassion and power, you can change the world for the better.

Twice each year, I continue to travel to a small island in Mission Bay near San Diego where both powerful and compassionate people from around the world gather to explore how to maximize their gifts. I have given over 40 speeches to this organization and believe my work with these unique people to be among the most fruitful of my career.

The appropriate utilizations of power generally involve a stimulus or trigger. The manifestation of power is best used as an effect and not a cause. President Teddy Roosevelt’s admonition to “walk softly and carry a big stick” illustrates this well because if people know you have power but will only use it for good or to thwart evil, they come to respect but not fear your power.

I have gotten to visit the aircraft carrier named after President Roosevelt. The sailors that serve on that amazing vessel call it the “Big Stick.” It is among the most powerful war machines ever known but can be an immense tool for peace and stability around the world. We all have power over others in our daily lives including friends, family, and coworkers. Power is best recognized and rarely used. Great power comes with great responsibility.

As you go through your day today, strive to use your power and never abuse it.

Today’s the day!

Jim Stovall is the president of Narrative Television Network, as well as a published author of many books including The Ultimate Gift. He is also a columnist and motivational speaker. He may be reached by email at; on Facebook at; or follow Jim on Twitter @StovallAuthor.

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