Personal Power: The Superpower of Leadership

Your ability to build relationships effectively with other people is essential to everything that happens to you. 

Personal power is the superpower quality of leadership that allows you to excel in any organization or circumstance.

Cooperation with others and your ability to influence and build strong relationships with others is the key to finding personal power in your life in both professional settings and your personal life.

Find out what this superpower is and the five key principles all highly successful people use so that you can develop your own personal power.


What Is Personal Power?

Personal power is your ability to influence others with the intrinsic values you possess, such as confidence, attitude, self-awareness, talents, skills, and wisdom.

With personal power, you are able to impact other people and the environment around you through your interpersonal skills. You can stay grounded and focused amid scrutiny or challenge when you possess personal power.

Types of Personal Power

Personal power plays an essential role in all of your relationships with others. It is a positive kind of power, and developing personal power makes you a better human being. There are two main types of personal power, and you are most powerful when you develop a combination of both:

Referent Power

Someone with referent power is well-liked and respected because they uplift others and are able to connect with others in meaningful ways.

Expert Power

People listen to and follow others who can be trusted to give reliable information and solve problems based on their knowledge and skills. Expert power fosters trust and is the foundation of good leadership.

Types of Positional Power

Personal and positional power are quite different. Positional power derives from your job title or position of formal authority and is not as positive or effective on its own merits as personal power.

While personal power creates long-standing relationships and loyal followers, positional power loses its effect the instant you are demoted or change positions or circumstances change.

Knowing the types of positional power can help you avoid taking advantage of others, being manipulative, and having a false sense of power:

Reward Power

With reward power, people are motivated by the reward you offer, such as a potential promotion, bonus, or raise. When these rewards are not available, your power diminishes. Praise and gratitude, however, are positive forms of positional power.

Legitimate Power

People are motivated by the belief that you have a right to make demands, such as a boss or government figure.

Coercive Power

People are motivated by the fear of being demoted or punished.

Informational Power

Withholding information from people or having access to confidential information can give someone manipulative power over others.

The Law of Control and Your Personal Power

There is a “Law of Control” that says you feel positive about yourself to the degree to which you take control of your life. It also says that you feel negative about yourself to the degree to which you feel you are not in control of your life.

Psychologists call this “Locus of Control Theory.” They say that each person feels that their life and personal power are controlled by either internal or external factors. 

A person with an internal locus of control feels that they are in charge and is making the decisions that determine the direction of their life.

The person with an external locus of control, on the other hand, feels that others are in charge and that they are controlled by external factors and influences about which they can do very little. They feel that their boss, their bills, their childhood experiences, or their current marriage or relationship controls their life.

Building Relationships

In order to be happy and enjoy high levels of self-confidence, you have to organize your life in such a way that you feel very much in control of what happens to you. And nowhere is this more important than in your ability to get the things that you want through others.

You need the help of other people to accomplish almost anything. To accomplish anything worthwhile, you need the help of lots and lots of other people.

To achieve your full potential as a human being, you need to consciously structure your entire life so that you are surrounded by harmonious, cooperative relationships.

Your job is to be able to move you in the direction that you want to go.

You really have no choice but to become very good at your ability to deal effectively with others. This feeling of self-efficacy, being competent and successful with others, is essential to your feelings of self-esteem and personal power.

How to Influence People to Help You

You have a choice: You can either influence others or you can be influenced by them.

You can learn how to influence people to your way of thinking and help you, or you can simply let yourself be persuaded by others’ ways of thinking and help them.

This is the real difference between personal power and feeling powerless. Between being an active agent and being a victim. It is the difference between being a leader and a follower.

Learning how to positively influence others on a consistent basis makes you feel strong and effective. Every time you achieve a goal with the help and cooperation of one or more other people, you feel more competent and capable. You feel like a winner and they feel like a winner.

The men and women with the highest levels of self-confidence are those who, through hard work and experience, have reached the point where they have become very skilled in working effectively with different kinds of people to achieve their goals.

This is the key to personal power and building relationships.

My Personal Power Formula

The formula is: You x Your Relationships = Your Personal Power

In reality, everything in life revolves around building relationships. The quality and quantity of the relationships that you form and maintain will have more to do with what happens to you than any other single factor.

Your personal relationships will determine your success or failure and how fast you achieve your goals. They’ll determine your level of happiness, confidence, and self-esteem. 

Your ability to influence, persuade, and earn the cooperation of others is an indispensable part of everything you achieve in your life.

personal development plan template

Why Is Personal Power Important?

Personal power can…

  • Enrich your life and others’ lives.
  • Give you greater fulfillment and success.
  • Increase your satisfaction with your professional and personal life.
  • Create new and exciting opportunities for you.
  • Allow you to achieve greater success.
  • Encourage you to learn and develop to your fullest potential.
  • Make you a good listener and have excellent communication skills.

How to Cultivate Personal Power

Your personal development hinges on improving your personal power. With this in mind, I’d like to share five keys to personal power that highly successful people use to create real results in their lives.

These skills can be learned by anyone. And when you learn them, you’ll develop self-confidence to a level in which you’ll be unafraid to tackle anything.

Dream Big Dreams

In every study I’ve looked at of successful men and women, I find that they often go on about life for years and years and then they begin to dream. They actually start to fantasize. They begin to say, “Why not me?” or “If he or she can do it, I can too.”

A person changes their life when they begin to dream.

Your job is to become a dreamer. Don’t think that dreaming is just for kids.

When we were kids, we dreamed all the time. The most sophisticated, intelligent, knowledgeable, and successful men and women in our society dream all the time.

Make a Dream List With No Limitations

The starting point of learning how to dream is so simple. It is so powerful and practical, it will blow you away. It’s called a dream list.

Start making your dream list by asking yourself, “What would I dream of, if I had no limitations?”

Remember, the limitations you have—or that you think you have—are the greatest obstacles to your success. In reality, your limitations are mostly in your own mind. They don’t exist in reality. Limitations are things we impose on our own mind, from negative thinking.

Take a piece of paper and imagine that you have all the money and all the time, all the contacts, and all the resources. You have no limitations in terms of knowledge, skills, talents, and abilities.

Anything that you could be, have, or do is possible for you. If you had no limitations, what would you really want in your life?

Think about what you want today, tomorrow, next week, next year, in five years, and so on. Keep writing, writing, writing everything that you can imagine.

And remember, decide what you really want before you stop to analyze what is really possible.

If you are married, sit down with your spouse and take an afternoon or evening or even a trip to write down your dreams. 

What would you like to accomplish, be, have, and do with your relationship, children, family, future, intellect, body, home, lifestyle, work, and everything else?

Allow yourself to dream.

Dreaming Big Increases Your Self-Confidence

When you start to dream, your self-concept actually improves.

Your self-image gets better and you actually see yourself on better terms. 

This is because you are allowing yourself to think of yourself as the kind of person who can accomplish things by the very act of dreaming.

You also find that your self-esteem goes up. You like yourself better. You respect yourself more. You feel happier and more confident about yourself as you begin to dream and fantasize and just play with what is possible for you.

Back From the Future Thinking

Here’s a great technique for dreaming.

After you’ve written your dream list, stop and engage in what is called “back from the future thinking.”

This technique is used by the happiest, wealthiest, and most successful people in the world. They practice it all the time, even if they don’t give a name to it.

To start, visualize the dream you have, say five or ten years from now. Next, project yourself forward to that future time, as if you are on the top of a mountain, and then look back down to where you are today.

From the vantage point of looking at yourself after you have already achieved your dream, ask yourself what you would have to do to get from where you are now to your future self. What path will you need to follow?

By looking at the mountain from the top instead of the bottom, you will see things you cannot see from the mental vantage point of looking from the bottom up.

You will see that there is a path you have to follow and steps you need to take to get to your dream. And then your job is to take those steps one step at a time.

On a regular basis, project yourself forward to the top of the mountain–to your goal–as though it were already accomplished, and imagine what you have to do. You’ll be amazed at how much better you will get at every step that you’ll have to do.

You’ll be amazed at how much more competent you are at anticipating difficulties when you use back from the future thinking.

Blue Sky Thinking

Here is another technique you can use for dreaming big dreams and accomplishing your goals.

Blue sky thinking has been identified as a peak performance quality or characteristic.

With this activity, you allow yourself to float. Imagine that you have the whole blue sky above you, that you have no limitations, almost as if you are floating through space.

Imagine that anything is possible—like a dream list, but as if you are starting over. 

What would life be like if you had no previous constraints if you hadn’t committed yourself or your resources in a certain direction? If you could do anything now, what would you do?

Blue sky thinking is the basis of reinventing corporations, and it is very much the basis of reinventing your life.


Rip van Winkle EXERCISE

Another very effective technique is called the Rip van Winkle exercise.

As the story goes, Rip van Winkle fell asleep for 20 years, and when he woke up, he was astonished to see the changes that had occurred around him while he was sleeping.

Imagine you were to wave a magic wand and fall asleep for five years. While you’re sleeping, imagine that the whole world was to come together and conspire to create your world perfectly in every aspect.

When you wake up after five years, everything will be fabulous and just as you want it to be.

Now, imagine if your life were perfect in every way when you woke up:

  • Who would be there with you?
  • What would you be doing?
  • Where would you be working?
  • How much would you be earning?
  • What kind of house would you be living in?
  • What kind of physical health would you have?
  • What kind of relationships would you have with the important people in your life?

You may find that if everything were perfect in your life, it would be very different from the way your life is now.

Remember, the ability to fantasize, imagine, and play with ideas is the mark of a superior mind and a superior mentality. All of the great geniuses throughout history who have been studied have had the habit of letting their imagination go free, of playing with ideas to see what can happen.

When you begin to fantasize about fun or forward-thinking ideas, you start to move into the ranks of the best thought leaders in history.

You Need Clarity to Gain Personal Power

An essential element that I want to share with you in achieving your dreams and goals is clarity.

You need clarity with regard to your ideals, values, and goals. The more clarity you have about who you are, what you believe in, what you care about, and what is important to you, the more likely it is that you’ll move rapidly toward your accomplishments.

All great men and women seem to either have or develop a sense of destiny, which is a belief deep down inside that their life stands for something important. They believe they are here to do something really special with their lives. With everything they look at, they ask if it is part of their destiny—the unique and special reason they have been put on the earth.

Why are you here, what are you supposed to do, what is your dream?

Develop Your Unique Talents

The second key to personal power practiced by all high achievers is developing your own special talents.

You are unique, there is no one like you.

You and every person comes into the world so genetically complicated that the chances of there being someone else just like you are 50 billion to one. In other words, in all of human history, there will never be someone just like you.

You have abilities and talents that have been programmed into you way before you got here that will enable you to be, have, and do virtually anything you want.

So what do you want to do? What is your purpose in life?

One way to find out is to ask yourself some questions:

  • What do you enjoy?
  • What makes you happy?
  • What comes easy to you?
  • What do you consider a natural talent you have?
  • Why do people come to you for advice, help, or knowledge?
  • What activities give you your greatest feeling of importance?

Happiness is a natural indicator of what is right for us. The smartest men and women of all are those who listen to their inner voice, look at what it is they most enjoy doing, and organize their lives so that they do more and more of those things.

Your childhood is a good predictor of your life purpose. If you project yourself back to when you were between the ages of 7 and 14 and remember what you most enjoyed doing, this is likely what you were put on this earth to do and will most enjoy doing as an adult.

Ask your parents or others close to you during your formative years what you most preoccupied your time with, and then discover what you can do today that would be consistent with it. I promise you the very act of going through this exercise will start to make you happy and excited.

What comes easy to you? What do you have to put little to no effort into and are still naturally good it? These are likely your natural talents

Another great question to ask yourself is, “What would you do if you got a million dollars right now?” If you had to answer that question immediately in order to get the million dollars, and your first response was to quit your job, you just might be in the wrong profession and in danger of wasting your life.

The things you list that you would do more of, learn more about, or start doing are likely where your natural talents and abilities lie.

Do What You Love to Do

The third key to developing personal power is doing what you love to do. Most self-made millionaires, great stars, and successful entrepreneurs have not worked a day in their life–they have fun developing their professional lives because they love what they’re doing.

When you do what you love, you don’t need to worry about motivation, it comes naturally. Motivation requires motive, motive requires desire, and desire requires you to want to do something.

If you are doing your work because you hope that by doing your work you’ll be able to do something that you like, you are in danger of failing in life. All successful people do what they love to do so they can do more of the things they love to do.

Because all adults have responsibilities, the next question becomes, “What do I enjoy doing most, and how can I become really good at it and get paid really well for it?”

You will be happy, successful, and respected by doing what you love to do.

The final part of determining what you love to do is this formula:

Attention + Interest = Absorption

If you really doing what you love, it will hold your attention and you’ll want to be immersed in it. It will hold your interest, and you’ll want to learn more and more about it. And if you are doing what you are meant to do, you become so absorbed in it that time stands still, you may even forget to eat or sleep.

What is it that holds your attention and interest so much to the point of absorption?

Accept 100% Responsibility

Accepting 100% responsibility for your results is the fourth great key to developing your own personal power.

Every action begins with a thought, and you are responsible for the thoughts you have and the decisions you make.

I believe the most powerful success mottos developed is: If it’s to be, it’s up to me.

When you eliminate blaming and excuses, you take charge of your life and accelerate toward personal success.

Add this affirmation to your daily self-talk: I am responsible.

Develop the Habit of Concentration

The fifth and final way to develop personal power is to have single-minded concentration.

Single-minded concentration goes hand in hand with all great success. It is something that you absolutely must have to develop personal power and achieve success.

I would even say the ability to concentrate single-mindedly is probably the #1 quality of success. And the underlying characteristic of concentration is self-discipline.

Self-discipline is the ability to force yourself to do what you should do when you should do it, whether you feel like it or now.

Ask yourself continually, “What is the most valuable use of my time right now?” “What is the one thing that only I can do that, if done well, will make a real difference?”

Once you identify your most important task, concentrate on it single-mindedly until it is done. This habit leads to greater energy, and self-esteem. and confidence in your ability to achieve great things.

It will cause you to dream big dreams.

Cultivate Your Personal Power for Ultimate Success

Powerful people, from CEOs to world leaders excel in personal growth by developing personal power.

As you start cultivating yours, get a jump start on your progress by downloading my free Personal Development Plan Template to optimize your success in achieving your big dreams.


About Brian Tracy — Brian is recognized as the top sales training and personal success authority in the world today. He has authored more than 60 books and has produced more than 500 audio and video learning programs on sales, management, business success and personal development, including worldwide bestseller The Psychology of Achievement. Brian's goal is to help you achieve your personal and business goals faster and easier than you ever imagined. You can follow him on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Linkedin and Youtube.

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