Powerful people don’t become powerful by chance. They aren’t born leaders, they don’t get randomly selected, and they aren’t handed power on a silver platter. Instead, power comes to them as a result of their behaviors, their actions, and their habits. Because of this, it’s possible for anyone to rise to a position of power, whether that’s in the formal political sense or just in the context of your own office—all it takes is the right combination of habits, and the right mentality.
If you’re seeking more power or influence in your own life, or you just want to model your lifestyle on the powerful leaders that came before you, take inspiration from these seven habits:
1. They Never Speak Too Much
Abraham Lincoln was once quoted as saying that it’s “better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.” Certainly, some of the most powerful people in the world have established their reputation by speaking clearly, eloquently, and often, but even in those cases, you’ll find that the speaker always says as little as possible. The effect is two-fold; first, in accordance with Abe Lincoln’s wise quote, the less you say, the less you will betray about yourself. Quiet people are often seen as more intelligent and influential simply because they have fewer opportunities to say things they regret. Second, the more concisely you speak, the more authoritative you will appear. Strive for conversational minimalism.
2. They’re Flexible
Rather than coming up with an idea or strategy and adhering to it rigidly, powerful people tend to be adaptable. This doesn’t mean always compromising when you encounter opposition to your idea, but it does mean being willing to find an alternative way around a given obstacle; perhaps if your boss can’t be persuaded, you can seek approval elsewhere within the company. The world is unpredictable and full of unexpected challenges, so the most adaptable people tend to be the ones who solve the most problems, and are therefore seen as the most powerful.
3. They Don’t Argue
Arguments can be functional, though in most cases, they waste energy that could better be spent proving your case through an action. If you voice your opinion only to be met with dissent, don’t waste time further arguing your points or trying to convince someone who has in all likelihood already made up their mind. Instead, get to work on your plan and actively demonstrate that your side of the argument is the correct one. It’s easy to argue against an idea, but it’s nearly impossible to argue against results. Powerful people aren’t worried about winning through an argument; they simply want the best possible results, and won’t waste time bickering to get there.
4. They Stay Active in the Community
This works on multiple levels; powerful people engage with their families, engage with their colleagues, and engage with their friends and community members. They never isolate themselves or try to gain power alone. In isolation, it’s easy to develop problems of perspective, and it’s hard to stay tuned to what’s going on around you. Powerful people are appreciated because they’re socially involved with the people around them, and they are respected because they stay up to date. You can’t do either of these things if you remove yourself from your people.
5. They Think Several Moves Ahead
In chess, as in life, the people who plan furthest ahead tend to come out on top. Powerful people tend to forgo rewards of the moment for greater rewards of the future, and are willing to make temporary sacrifices if that’s what it takes to achieve victory.
For example, most successful entrepreneurs first must go through a period of fiscal uncertainty and psychologically demanding work—a sacrifice that most people simply aren’t willing to make. They know that they’ll face several months of risk and hardship, but if they plan carefully and work hard, eventually the payouts are enormous.
6. They Time Things Carefully
In many cases, what you do doesn’t matter nearly as much as when you do it. Think about a simple scenario in which you must break some bad news to your boss. Is it better to do it when your boss is flustered and annoyed, between meetings? Or better to do it during a period of calm, when he or she is in a relatively good mood? Think carefully before committing to any action, whether it’s as fleeting as a social greeting or as monumental as the launch of your company’s debut product.
7. They Distinguish Themselves
Powerful leaders don’t emerge unless they somehow distinguish themselves from the group in some way. If you spend your life going along with the flow, following the actions of those around you, and adhering to societal norms, it’s going to be virtually impossible for you to develop a powerful, influencing personality. Instead, make the effort to work harder than others, or speak louder than others, or think differently from others. It’s the only way to stand out.
Power is very much a product of environment. If you conduct yourself with a powerful mindset and powerful habits to go along with it, eventually people will come to respect you as a powerful person, and your influence will grow. Just remember, habits are only habits if you stick to them consistently—so put these into place and adhere to them strictly if you want to see their fullest potential.
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