In 1870, English Historian Lord Acton was quoted as saying “Power tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely”. This quote is easily understood in today’s world where we see politicians, banking executives, and CEO’s forcing average citizens to reap the ills of their perceived absolute power, but it also is a message for us average citizens in our everyday lives.
Power is our ability, strength, and capacity to do something. It is often mistaken that we need power in order to have final authority over our destiny, so we spend our days trying to accumulate all the power we can in order to advance through life. Because of this belief, we often aim to acquire power as a means of entitlement, where through our power we are granted the right to act as we choose while deserving the respect we demand.
In truth, we look for power when what we really seek in empowerment. Empowerment is our ability to create confidence and assertiveness while giving, not demanding, authority. It is the act of letting respect, both personal and external, come to us when it is deserved, not demanded. Through empowerment we understand the concept that we are the ones who have the power to give ourselves authority over our destiny. While we may be the ones who have to answer to someone, we are the ones who have the choice as to what answer we will give. Power does not allow us to lead; it allows us to rule. Empowerment not only allows us to lead, it also allows others to follow.
Our success in life is dependant on the choices we are granted. The reason this is important is because choice is not just a decision that grants us freedom to pursue; it is the definitive separation between power and empowerment. Through power you are either a decision maker or a decision follower; in empowerment you become a gift through options. Choices lead to options; options lead to action; action leads personal authority. The minute we gain personal authority over our own lives is the same minute we become empowered to lead ourselves as well as others.
Lord Acton was making an observation that a person’s sense of morality lessens as his or her power increases in his quote. Through empowerment there is no question of morality because the empowered person has no choice but to act in goodness and decency while maintaining the highest standard of personal integrity.
While power may tend to corrupt, empowerment tends to enlighten. So, if absolute power corrupts absolutely, absolute empowerment will absolutely enlighten as well.