In Acting with Power, we find out what power really is and how to use it effectively regardless of where we are.
Aside from offering acting techniques, this book also explains how to deal with being nervous or unprepared for powerful roles, or when we desire more power than we’ve been given.
You may be wondering if you should read the book. This book summary will tell you what important lessons you can learn from this book so you can decide if it is worth your time.
At the end of this book summary, I’ll also tell you the best way to get rich by reading and writing.
Without further ado, let’s get started.
Acting With Power Book Summary
Lesson 1: Focus on the team’s goals and your supporting tasks.
What comes to mind when you think of a career as an actor? It’s not just you if you always have the lead role in theatrical productions. Everyone strives to be the center of attention, to be the one who has the most impact.
But no one can lead, just as there is no office manager. We do not have a system of leading actors and supporting actors, but a system of managers and employees.
The success of these relationships depends on the participation of everyone involved, including the supporting actors. When it comes to supporting roles, getting them right is critical if you want to make an impact.
Regardless of the type of organization or group, everyone is working toward a common goal. Each role plays a part in achieving that goal.
However, many people see lower level jobs as stepping stones to greater opportunities. Unfortunately, this is wrong. The goal of any role you take on should be to help the team succeed.
With such an attitude, you will earn the respect of your peers and superiors, which could open doors for you in the future. Positions with significant potential for change are easier to identify when the focus is not on the job title, but on the overall mission of the company.
Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook COO learned this the hard way when she almost turned down a job offer from Google because the company offered her a position that was “too small.” She challenged us not to doubt ourselves by asking ourselves what place we should take in the rocket ship.
It is impossible to gain people’s trust if you are not fully focused on the mission and make their needs your top priority. The fact that you care more about helping others than being noticed is highlighted here.
If you are willing to invest time and effort to finish your project ahead of schedule, you are really doing something for your team. The more you listen to the needs of your group and give up things that are important to you in order to meet them, the more respect you will earn.
Lesson 2: When you step into an important role, it is important to prepare thoroughly, work on your physical well-being, and not focus on your own performance.
Many people want to take on an authoritative role in their community, household or workplace. On the other hand, stepping into such a role can be downright scary.
People find it difficult to use their power effectively because they often doubt their own abilities and fear being judged. They may be reluctant to make difficult decisions because they are afraid of the consequences, for example. They may make poor decisions if they put this need above all others.
Although actors often suffer from performance anxiety, there are techniques to help them overcome it. Actors can also use their skills in more mundane roles.
What is the fastest and easiest way to get into Carnegie Hall? Practice extensively, extensively, extensively! Although this is an outdated joke, actors will still do it in many rehearsals.
If you do something frequently, it will become second nature to you. You can make the dramatic gestures and dramatic pauses required for a leadership role come naturally with enough practice. Your confidence in your abilities as a leader will grow as a result.
But there’s more to practicing than just learning your lines. Providing as much information as possible will increase your effectiveness. To give a presentation, a writer might put on a costume, gather a few props, and take the stage. This causes her to become completely absorbed in what she is doing.
Even if you have prepared thoroughly and are still anxious before a meeting or other situation where you need to exude authority, some exercise can help. A few stretches, walks, or deep breathing exercises to warm up can help you get rid of excess nervous energy. Not only will they help you relax, but they will also distract your mind from anxious thoughts that are floating around.
This is another distraction technique actors use to calm their nerves before going on stage.
It’s hard to get into character when you are too busy with your own thoughts and feelings. So actors divert their attention to something else, such as their colleagues. The author uses this method to tune into the moods of the people around her, but it could just as easily be used to tune into the sounds or objects around you.
Lesson 3: When tyrants manage to influence us, we can fight back and rewrite our history.
Abuse of power by those in leadership positions is all too common today. Reports of corrupt heads of state and major scandals indicate that those in power often behave badly because of their position.
Power itself is not the problem. People who abuse their positions of power often do so because they are insecure and will use any means to bolster their self-esteem.
It is normal to feel defenseless when dealing with bullies who are bent on power and control. But that does not mean we are not, too. By taking an alternative approach, we can reclaim our authority and change the outcome.
Bullies need to be recognized before they attack so we do not end up as their victims. There are dangers we need to be aware of. People who cannot take no for an answer or who criticize others excessively should be avoided at all costs, no matter how nice they may be.
Victims of bullying should also stay away from places where the bully feels invincible. Abuse of power, like criminal attacks, usually takes place when no one is around. In private settings, such as after hours or at business meetings off company premises, the normal rules of conduct do not apply.
We are still vulnerable to bullying, even if we have taken these measures. When this happens, we need to take preventive measures against further bullying.
Uninfluenced behavior is a strategy. Abusers of power enjoy watching their victims’ reactions in the form of fear, anger, and resentment. If we do not take the bait, they lose interest and move on to easier prey.
One way to deal with inappropriate behavior is to simply address it. By keeping a close eye on the offender, we can shift the balance of power away from them and into our hands.
Even if bullies are inevitable or impossible to deter, our experience with them need not end in victimhood. By letting go of any self-blame we may be harboring, we can reclaim our former authority.
When we internalize the belief that we were responsible for or deserved the bullying, we increase our vulnerability to being victimized again. It is easier to move on with our lives when we accept that the experience was not our fault.
Lesson 4: If you are in a leadership position, it is your job to help those who work under you succeed.
Winston Churchill, Uncle Ben from Spider-Man, and the philosopher Voltaire are credited with the saying, “With great power comes great responsibility.” Its meaning is undeniable, regardless of the author.
Those at the helm of a company or group have enormous influence, and their actions have far-reaching consequences. To exercise power ethically, it must be used for the benefit of those around the user. This includes providing clear direction, giving everyone a sense of security, and assigning responsible positions.
Leadership and a focused mission are essential to any organization. The absence of these factors leads to conflicts between employees’ individual interests and reduces productivity. The role of a leader, as the highest official in the group, is to articulate and support the overall goal of the group. Each individual can make a big difference by doing this.
In order for everyone to do their best, the workplace must be a supportive environment free from abuse of authority. This is another responsibility of a leader. They are responsible for taking immediate action if they learn of an instance of abuse of power during their tenure.
This is best illustrated by the actions of U.S. Air Force Lieutenant General Jay Silveria, who responded to racial slurs directed at African American cadets at the U.S. Air Force Academy. He rallied the Academy’s 6,500 cadets, professors and staff and made it clear that anyone who cannot treat others with respect and dignity has no place there.
Leaders like the general can bring to the forefront those who are both committed to protecting others and have the ability to exercise authority effectively. There are three characteristics that distinguish these individuals.
The first is that you make success your primary concern. A person who is more interested in improving their knowledge and skills at work will be less interested in quickly climbing the career ladder.
The next quality you should look for is warmth. The candidate must have a strong desire to see others succeed.
Finally, awareness of one’s own power is the third trait. Candidates should see power as a means to help others and demonstrate the ability to use that power for the good of the organization.
Acting With Power Book Review
Acting With Power is a great book I’d like to recommend to anyone who is interested in leadership skills. If you spend some time digesting the ideas, it might make a positive impact on your life.
Possession of power is not enough. Depending on your goals and commitments, you must master the art of either improving or worsening the situation.
To adequately protect those around you, you may sometimes need to use your authority. This might mean taking the initiative in times of crisis, speaking out against abuses of authority, or giving due credit to those who also use their influence to advance the team’s goals.
There will be times when you should focus on gaining someone’s trust and strengthening your relationships with them. If you want to accomplish this, you need to downplay your power by either deferring to others or not taking yourself too seriously. Even if you do not always feel powerful, you can find the confidence to take on any role yourself by imagining alternate realities, practicing your lines, and keeping your focus on others or the big picture.
Be strong and help keep the peace.
It can seem safer to sit on the sidelines and watch as power is abused. However, if you choose to point out inappropriate behavior despite the potential consequences, you will inspire others to do the same.
If you are ever a bystander to someone else’s abuse of power, imagine instead that you are a performer. Intervene quickly and help. Alternatively, offer your help after the fact if that is not possible.
About the Author
Deborah Gruenfeld is the Executive Program for Women Leaders director at Stanford Graduate School of Business.
For over 25 years, she has focused her research, writing, and teaching on the psychology of power. Her work has appeared in academic journals as well as publications such as the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post.
She also co-wrote the book Stress in the American Workplace.
Buy The Book: Acting with Power
If you want to buy the book Acting with Power, you can get it from the following links:
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