Leaders must ask if they are mere titleholders or real power brokers

Friday May 27 2022

In November 2016, though the two US candidates stood a chance to lead, more women were said to have voted Donald Trump rather than Hillary Clinton as his message resonated with majority of the masses. PHOTO | AFP


Remember the unforgettable scene in Game of Thrones where Littlefinger told Cersei Lannister that knowledge is power? Hers was one of the most classic responses ever. She told her guards to grab him and cut off his head. As they moved to obey her order, she ordered them to cease because she had changed her mind and then she laughed as she walked up to him and told Littlefinger: “Power Is Power”.

Such a profound statement and universal truth. People gravitate towards power whose presence everyone acknowledges. A lack of understanding of power has left many naive people in the cold room of stagnation.

No one was made to be weak. In the battle between the lion and the shark, the terrain determines the outcome. Should the shark encounter a lion in the sea, the canine becomes a victim just because it is in the wrong place. Similarly, in a chance encounter on terra firma, the shark will appear weak because it is at the wrong place. People only appear weak when wrongly placed.

Realm of revolutionaries

Power is the ability to influence outcomes. History has shown that the most powerful people are those who are able to influence people emotionally.

Emotional Power overthrows kingdoms and causes revolutions and stems from ideological positions. It is wielded by those able to connect with people at an emotional level.


When Donald Trump campaigned, he displayed emotional power at its best. He would stand against the backdrop of his jet and still managed to convince the poor he was one of their kind and they believed him. Now that’s a gift. Emotional Power at its best.

Such power comes from resonance. It is a function of how demeanour, words and behaviour resonate with people. Why would women vote for Trump rather than one of their own gender — Hillary Clinton? She was awash with facts, data and sophistication but Trump owned their hearts and minds because his message resonated with the people.

Leadership without resonance will give you titles but never the power needed to drive things.

The power magnate is skilled in making things happen through other people — the ability to control people through their emotions. There is a ceiling through, which even the best of academic brains cannot pierce. A barrier over which no technocrat can rise.

Many brilliant people get to this point and stagnate while people the less brilliant progress. The role of technocrats can be outsourced but not that of the power broker. You may possess knowledge and titles, but it is those persons able to influence outcomes and best resonate with people who will keep rising.

Academics or technical experts rarely rise to real power. The lower and middle ranks in many organisations are the resting places of technical experts who will be bypassed in promotions for those people that know how to wield true power and influence actions.

Each organisation has title holders and power brokers. Those holding titles but fail to resonate with those they lead on an emotional level, remain just figureheads.

In some companies, the true power holders have no title such as the nondescript receptionist who has worked there for years or even the boss’s driver. Are you a title-holder or a power broker?

… To be continued

Wale Akinyemi is the convenor of the Street University and chief transformation officer, PowerTalks; [email protected]