The idea of power for the average Joe insights fear, anxiety, and maybe a little bit of excitement. For many, power makes people think of tyranny, authority, or dominance, which, in our “woke” society are things people are running from.
In a recent episode of Negotiations Ninja, I spoke with Robert Greene, author of six books, including The 48 Laws of Power, The Art of Seduction, and The 33 Strategies of War. Robert and I talked about many different sides of power, but something that stuck with me was the idea of power and morality. Can power be exerted with morality, or does power have to remain amoral?
Morality is defined as “Principles concerning the distinction between right and wrong or good and bad behavior.” Is there a place for the discussion of good and bad or right and wrong in the pursuit of power?
People often think that those in power lack morality, or that to achieve power, there was immorality that had to take place to get you to that position. Robert believes the phenomenon of power is amoral.
Being amoral shouldn’t be confused with being immoral, and as Robert said in our discussion, “it just lacks the scope of morality.” Power isn’t about morality, especially when strategy comes into play.
“Once you get into the level of strategy, you enter the level of a power game, and you have to leave morality behind,” Robert said.
In the pursuit of power, the ideas of right and wrong are taken off the table. In many people’s minds, that means it’s automatically going to be “wrong,” which isn’t right, it just isn’t in question.
Morality can often be the place where people lose their power, which isn’t to say that it would take immorality to keep it, but sometimes morality stops you from using your power. For example, specific social justice causes find it more relevant to take the higher road, to prove themselves, to yell louder than others, or come off as saints; but oftentimes, it’s strategy that is needed to get them to where they want to be, and the high road might actually be a roadblock.
For example, in the world of global warming, those trying to insight change need to understand how to use politics, they need to understand what they are up against and how to manipulate those things, and they need to understand strategy. They will need to attack this problem with more than warm feelings, heartstrings, and righteousness.
Kindness is a word that is being used throughout society, rightfully, regarding the general way people treat one another. When it comes to negotiations, however, kindness is not the key and may hinder the power you are walking in with. That’s not to say you should be unkind; the idea of kindness should be left out of it, just like morality.
There is a tendency to be too nice. People tend to want to all get along, and when emotions are involved, they get in the way and stop you from exerting your power.
Morality, kindness, emotion – you can have them, but don’t let them be the driving force behind a negotiation or the exertion or obtaining of power.
For more with Robert Greene and his many ideas on power, subscribe to Negotiations Ninja podcast or head over to my LinkedIn.