In the workplace power is not only part of the game; in many ways it is the game. Thriving in the workplace, then, is often about discovering who has the power and then using that knowledge wisely, learning not to fight the powerful—unless you have the clout to defeat them and find it necessary to do so.

In other words, your objective in relationship to power should be to find where it resides and then to live there in concert with it. The productive idea is to work with power: to flow with it as it comes, or sidestep it in graceful avoidance when you see it gathering focus against you. The alternative, fighting with others or holding contentions and complaints against those in power, serves only to retard your progress.

This doesn’t mean that you should seek out those who are powerful and hang onto them, however. It means, simply, that you should learn to remain balanced in your outlook regardless of the machinations of the power politics that constantly swirl around you. How? By being content with yourself and your personal power, without need for anything else.

Plato, the I Ching, and others like them counsel that to gain the power that we all intrinsically seek, we should focus on becoming stronger within, because the power we are looking for does not lie in the ability to hire and fire, or to be noticed or praised; it lies in the ability to no longer care about either your own position in relation to that of others or even what they think.

How do you get this healthier outlook on life and the opinions of others? Most likely you are quite familiar with what you believe is your weakness and your concerns about your image. But to find the power within yourself to not care about what you can’t control, you will need to become reacquainted with your own strength.

Once you welcome its return, or better said, your return to it, it will allow you to question your anxieties and brush aside your convictions of personal frailty. As you become free of such debilitating barriers to certainty, you will begin to see yourself in a more kindly light and wonder how you ever let the darkness of doubt have its way with you for so long.

Now let’s consider a different scenario: what if you are the one in your organization who has the power? Or what if you become one of the powerful? Then you must learn something else: to become wise enough to use the power you are granted appropriately; that is, you must learn not to abuse it, despite the ever-present temptations to do so.

For all those who abuse power will sooner or later pay dearly. Why? Because power follows the rule of physics that says for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction; that is, the usage of power always has a reaction on the user. Simply put, power, when misused, weakens and corrupts. Or, at the least, its abuse leaves you feeling guilty and anxious, and here I speak from long experience, like many, having made numerous mistakes in the misuse of power both at work and at home.

In a nutshell, gaining the power you really want—power accompanied by a quiet certainty—lies in remembering your ability to remain at peace, regardless of externals. Keeping the power you have—that same quiet kind—lies in respecting it enough not to abuse it, this, above all, making a difficult life worth living.

Author's Bio: 

Robert E. Draper, went from growing up in a tough, impoverished Bronx neighborhood to the position of CEO of an NYSE company by the age of 35. His new book, The Other Side of Success … And All its Empty Promises, provides essential advice for businesspeople and anyone else looking to find true contentment in the face of life’s many ups and downs.

The Other Side of Success is available online at Amazon and Barnes and Noble, or by order from your local book retailer.

© 2009 Robert E. Draper. This article may be reproduced only in its entirety.