“Power” is a word that comes up quite a bit in my daily discussions with clients.  When we talk about conveying a more confident and powerful presence, I often ask:

“Are you powerful?”

What I find fascinating is that when I ask leaders that question, I rarely get “yes” for an answer, but instead get a vivid reaction to the word.  As a mini-experiment, I posed that question to 38 leaders in development discussions, coaching sessions, or workshops.  Almost all of these leaders are what I would call “powerhouses”—high-flying leaders with tremendous leadership capability, relationship skills, and remarkable amounts of personal drive, competence, and integrity. Only five of the 38 readily acknowledged that they considered themselves powerful.

Here are some of the typical verbatim responses I got to the question:

“Powerful?  Now, that’s a pretty strong word, isn’t it?”

“I don’t consider myself powerful—that just sounds so harsh.”

“Just because I am a vice-president doesn’t mean I have to dominate others.”

“Powerful sounds like “arrogant” to me…I don’t like that word.”

“Powerful?  Wow, no, I don’t consider myself powerful.”


So is there something about the word itself that connotes this discomfort?

Let’s take a look at the dictionary definition of the word “power”:

  1. The ability to act or produce an effect;
  2. A source or means of supplying energy;
  3. Possession of control, authority, or influence over others

Power is in essence, directed action energy.  It is what fuels our cars, our bodies, and everything around us.  It is the life force all of us possess and direct to create anything in this world.

In the native Hawaiian tradition, the word used for power is “mana”.  “Mana” is the life force that flows through all things.  One possesses great “mana” or real power when that life force flows freely and is directed towards service and good.  The person with great “mana” is able to influence others, lead change, and create events to serve the greater good and be the catalyst for real results and change.

Isn’t that essentially what leaders do?

Is it time to reframe your thinking about the connotation of the word “powerful” and plug more fully into owning and honing your “mana-ful” presence?

Here are four behaviors to stop right away that minimize your “power ”:

1.    Using qualifiers when speaking

“I know this might sound dumb…”

“I’m not an expert, but…”

“This may not be relevant, but…”

(And so on—you get the picture.)

This type of qualifying language minimizes your impact and dilutes your ability to influence.  The words connote an underlying sense of self-doubt and lack of confidence.  Skip the qualifiers and believe that your contribution is warranted and valuable.

2.    Constantly seeking outside approval and validation

Waiting for others to tell you how smart you are and how great your contribution or presentation was in order to continue to act is self-defeating.  Feedback is indeed important, and you should seek it.  However, waiting to be validated in order to move forward is deadly.  Your self-validation should not be dependent on continuous approval from the outside.  You may be waiting a long time before you ever do anything if it does.

3.    Not having a point-of-view

Not being in touch with who you are, what you value, what is important to you, and what your vision is makes you subject to what I call the “jellyfish” syndrome.  We all have experienced the person that agrees with what everyone says all the time and has no point-of-view on anything.  There is no footing to stand and be grounded in and no spine to hold him/her up.  Instead, he/she just floats. Flexibility is one thing and is indeed important. You can still be flexible but have a point-of-view to offer.

4.    Being defensive

We all know our own motivations and intentions more than anyone else can.  It is natural to defend our actions when they are not understood or don’t have the impact we intend.  Defensiveness puts you in a mode of reactivity—essentially of self-protection or attempt to control.  It diminishes your power tremendously because you are suddenly in a victim role defending against attack.  Try creating proactive solutions instead of defending your position.


Perhaps it is time to reframe and look at power as the native Hawaiians did.  To see it as our “mana”–the positive life force that flows through all things and is directed towards influencing positive change.  This subtle shift may enable you to acknowledge your own “mana” and allow you to plug into it more readily.

You are already “mana-ful”.

Isn’t it time to acknowledge and step into your full ability to influence and drive positive change wherever you are?


(PS:  Now you know where The Mana Group name comes from…)