Work Traits

Need for Power and Control

Need for power and control means you thrive in positions where you get to take charge, such as leading a business, project, or a team.
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What is a need for power and control?

Need for power and control means you’ve probably never been described as a follower. Instead, you’re comfortable stepping up and spearheading new initiatives and solving problems. You’re passionate about taking ownership and rallying people around your vision. 

You’re highly disciplined and you never shy away when it’s time to make a decision. You’re willing to make an unpopular choice provided you know it’s critical for the business.

On a team, you place a lot of importance on hierarchy and often ask others about their unique positions, responsibilities and decision-making powers. You want to know where you rank.

We call it: Power

Your desire to be the person in charge and in a position to influence and have control of resources, people, and things.

The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.

Alice Walker

Leaders who have a need for power and control

Michael Jordan

Michael Jordan

Michael Jordan earned his place in history as one of the best basketball players—perhaps even one of the best athletes—of all time. However, he was known for his competitive streak and his high standards and expectations for his fellow team members. 

“Once you joined the team, you lived at a certain standard that I played the game,” said Jordan in a documentary about his legendary career. “And I wasn't going to take anything less."

While Jordan’s desire to exercise control and dole out directions to fellow team members has given him a bit of a harsh reputation in the world of sports, he’s claimed that’s the price you pay when you assume a powerful leadership position on a team.

Margaret Thatcher

As the first woman to become British prime minister, Margaret Thatcher earned the nickname the “Iron Lady”  because of her unwavering commitment to her values and her approach to leadership.

Like many leaders, she was polarizing. While collaborative leadership was more the norm at the time, that wasn’t a system that Thatcher was willing to accommodate.

Today, she’s remembered not only for her politics, but also her strong leadership style.

Margaret Thatcher
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Abraham Lincoln

Believe it or not, Abraham Lincoln is actually credited with expanding the powers of the United States presidency. During the civil war, he defied the chief justice of the United States and invoked his “war power,” a concept that didn’t actually exist at the time.

In doing so, he set a precedent that has been utilized by presidents long after Lincoln’s time, proving that he was competent at taking charge.

“Nearly all men can stand adversity,” he was quoted as saying. “But if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.”

The benefits of a need for power and control

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Your drive to be the one calling all of the shots makes you a natural leader, and that kind of confidence inspires your team.

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With great power comes great responsibility, and your motivation toward power means you’re highly ambitious and achievement-oriented.

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Needing to gather a bunch of perspectives and opinions can be time-consuming. When you secure total power, you can operate more efficiently.

The blind spots of a need for power and control

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Particularly in environments that value collaboration, people with a high need for power can be viewed as overly competitive and dominant.

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While there’s nothing wrong with power, seeking to maintain it at all costs can mean you miss out on valuable insights and viewpoints of others.

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Holding all of the power and influence is a lot of stress and pressure, because everyone will look to you when things run off course.

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How to build your need for power and control

1) Beef up your skills.

Trying to gain more power at work can feel daunting, but you’ll feel a lot more self-assured if you hone some valuable skills first.

Continue to refine your work, ask for feedback, and improve your approaches. That not only strengthens your reputation, but it also builds a solid foundation for when you do secure a more powerful position.

2) Understand the big picture.

If you seek to gain power, you need to understand all of the aspects you’ll have control over. That means you need to get outside of your immediate circle and familiarize yourself with other teams, tasks, and strategies.

Volunteer to participate in a cross-functional project or schedule a chat with someone from a totally different department. That exposure to other areas of the business will serve you well.

3) Speak up.

Having power and control means not being afraid to voice your opinion—even when it might be unpopular.

If speaking up feels natural and uncomfortable to you, it’s time to flex that muscle. Fortunately, you can start small. Take a deep breath and chime in with your insights in a team meeting or in a one-on-one with a colleague or a boss. Slowly but surely, you’ll gain more confidence in your own perspective.

4) Take ownership of something.

Even if you aren’t a business leader on the org chart, that doesn’t mean that you can’t get a little more power.

Volunteer to spearhead a challenging project or put your name next to an ambitious quarterly goal for your department. That gives you an opportunity to assume control over something and practice being in a more authoritative position.

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