Power is the capacity to do, to create effects. Power-over is power to control. Power-with is generated by collaboration. Power-from-within is spirit, character, discipline, focus. Power-from-among arises from collective interaction. Power-through is wise use of resources. They are all powerful, so empower and synergize them all.
Related: 14 Context Awareness, 29 Generative Interactions, 32 Integrity and Authenticity, 48 Prudent Use of Power-Over, 62 Universal Intelligence, 64 Using Diversity and Disturbance Creatively, 66 Well-Utilized Life Energy
Going Deeper …
This is an edited version of the video on this page.
The generic definition of power is the capacity to create effects. If you are powerful you can create a lot of effects, lots of things. If you are not powerful you can’t. That is the basic underlying definition, and there are different modes of doing that.
There are phrases to distinguish different kinds of power. Some people use the term “power-to” to refer to the basic capacity to do. I just leave it as power, because it is so basic. And if you exercise power by controlling things, that’s “power-over” and that can get into domination and manipulation. There is a funny way in which power-over leads into “power-with”, which is generated by collaboration.
Most people think, “we are working together”, and that’s all nice and that’s definitely a big and positive part of what’s going on with “power-with”. But there’s also another aspect when people are being controlled, that they are cooperating with that control. That is one of Gandhi’s gifts of insight, which is that the people in India were basically cooperating with their oppressors and Gandhi was saying, “Hey, just stop cooperating and the oppression will basically be disempowered.”
He did it strategically and it was very powerful. He developed a power over the British colonial oppressors because they could not effectively use their efforts to control. Putting people in jail and clubbing them over their heads didn’t produce the results that those actions were designed for. So this gives us an insight about the power of withdrawing our cooperative power in order to stop collaborating with whatever domination we’re experiencing.
But most of all power-with refers to people working together – barn-raising, teamwork, that sort of collaborative activity.
Power-from-within refers to something else. There’s a sense that somebody can be more powerful than somebody else simply because they have Presence! – they generate a sense of “they’re really there!” – they know what they’re about, they know what they’re doing. They have strong purpose, they’re focused, they’re disciplined, there is a sense of this laser quality to their being.
People can be guided by or called to a vocation. They actually feel like they have been called to do something. I was called to work on this co-intelligence project. It’s like there’s a power that comes from within or through me to work on all these ideas and visions. I get some clarity, and all the work I put in looks like discipline from the outside, but it is just focus, it is a drive from inside. That’s another example of power-from-within.
The group can have that too. The group has a strong purpose, and is willing to do whatever it takes to fulfill their purpose. That’s power-from-within, which is very powerful compared to a group sort of flailing.
Power-from-among is another phenomenon altogether. This is people talking together, people interacting well, supporting each other, and the ability of a group or community to generate new energies and new ways of doing things by the way they interact together. A lot of conversational modalities support power-from-among. It is similar to power-from-within at a group level, but power-from-within doesn’t have to have conversation. You can have some powerful leader that inspires everybody and everybody is aligned to go in one direction, that’s the group’s power-from-within. It can be generated by the leader – a form of power-over and/or power-with – or it can be generated by quality conversation among the members of the group, in which case the power-from-within arises from power-from-among.
So these overlap. For example, power-from-within and power-from-among can help you have power-over a situation. Power-with can also be collaborative, you’re collaborating with nature, you’re collaborating with the forces that are there in the situation. The Aikido master is using power-with, collaborating with the energies of his opponent, flowing with them, defeating the opponent by flowing with their energies rather fighting against them. There’s lots of dimensions to these.
Power-through is wise use of resources – power-through money, power-through information, etc. This is a less commonly articulated form of power, but you have power because you have these resources and you use them well. And if you use them wastefully or sloppily you don’t have as much power-through.
Many people who support co-intelligence or think in terms of collaborative approaches think we should get rid of power-over, we should replace power-over with power-with. But that is too narrow a view. If you want to lift a spoon, you’re going to be using power-over with the spoon. There is a place for power-over, and there are precautions which are covered in other patterns to minimize the toxicity that can often accompany power-over.
You basically want to optimize all of these powers and synergize them all, to have them all woven into one coherent form of power – applied variously depending on the circumstances – which I call multimodal power, which is extremely powerful, but has few toxic impacts.