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Change Leadership | Dr. Leighton Ford (Mentoring)

Position Doesn’t Equal Power (Leighton)

July 7, 2016


In his essay “Leadership and Power”, John Gardner defines power as “the capacity to ensure the outcomes one wishes and to prevent those one does not wish”.

The ability to bring about through others the consequences that we intend is power. In our complex modern world the sources of that power are widely varied.

Today we generally equate position with power. A delightful story illustrates positional power. A new factory owner went to lunch at a nearby restaurant which featured a “blue plate special” that allowed for no substitutions. When he asked for a second pat of butter the waitress refused. Irritated, he called for the manager, but she also refused him.

“Do you know who I am?” he asked indignantly. “I am the new owner of the factory across the street.” The woman smiled and said “Do you know who I am, sweetie? I am the person who decides whether or not you get a second pat of butter!”

Those who are called to be in Christ are called to look at all things, including power, in Christ. To see power as it was “in Christ” and to be able to use power righteously when we are “in Christ” acknowledges its creative or destructive potential and also admits the possibility that power itself can be redeemed for good.

The cross was the climax of a lifetime in which Jesus disarmed the powers. And how did he do it? He showed the greatness of the servant. He showed the power of the last place. He showed the triumph of the cross.


Adapted from Transforming Leadership by Leighton Ford (1991, InterVarsity Press)

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