The Problem of Power


Image of one of our grandsons.

The more powerful you are the more serious your expression. I call it the Rule of the Serious Face.

Powerful people don’t smile.

Some organizations coach top leaders not to smile. It’s true!

The “un” of powerful leaders:

  1. Unconnected.
  2. Unavailable.
  3. Unhelpful.
  4. Unfeeling.
  5. Unhappy. (Or at least, unsmiling.)

The higher you go in some organizations
the more “Un” you become.

Worst “Un”:

“Un” leaders, sadly, are unaligned with behaviors expected of others.

When mid-level and front-line employees behave like top brass, everyone wonders what’s bothering them. “What’s wrong with Bob, he hasn’t smiled all day?” “What’s bothering Brenda, she seems so guarded?”

Curing “un” leadership:

Behave like you expect others to behave. How simple is that?

This isn’t the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you’d have them do unto you. This is the “I’m no better than you” Rule:

Do as you expect others to do.

If you expect others to smile, smile. How hard is that?

Stop telling; start modeling. Stop granting yourself exemptions.

Put your feet on the ground;
pull your nose out of the air.

OK, leadership is serious. Unguarded words, for example, may cause turmoil and tension. Serious expressions reflect position and power. You’re important. I get it.


Could you:

  1. Amp up pleasantness and remain connected with problems?
  2. Move toward others rather than away?
  3. Express emotion without becoming emotional?


  1. Patting someone on the shoulder and smiling?
  2. Bringing snacks to the department on the first floor?
  3. Writing a thank you note?
  4. Having just a little fun?

Leaders who are full of themselves
don’t have room for others.

Organizations reflect their leaders. Unhappy leaders build unhappy organization.

Bonus material: “7 Powerful Ways to Enhance Your Power

What “Un” could be added to the “Un” of top leaders?

How can leaders remain human?

Join me on March 27 for a conversation with a leader who retained his humanity even as he rose to the top of Campbell Soup Co.

Conference call with Doug Conant