From old power to new power: How Leaders can Lead their Teams & Organizations through a world amidst a chaotic power flux

With the advent of technology, the world has become a hyper-connected community which no longer tolerates old structures of power. Therefore, leaders are entrusted with the responsibility of steering their teams & organizations through the rough seas to a new world, with new power.


It's an undeniable fact that we are living in a changing world. A world where technology is bringing previously inaccessible institutions like politics and businesses to our fingertips. Yet, we haven't fully made the transition to a new world. 'Old power' which we lived under for so long, has dug its claws into our backs and is trying to hold us back. This tug-of-war between old and new power is resulting in a chaotic power flux and it's up to leaders to help their teams and businesses navigate this landscape.

Why 'New Power' is the new blue-eyed boy

Unlike old power, which relegated the majority to passive roles and restricted power in the hands of those in the upper echelons, new power runs on a 'for-all' system. It caters to our growing need to become stakeholders and active participants in the ideas, systems and even products and services that we use. For e.g. the secret behind Facebook's survival is people's desire to create and share content. Likewise, a major portion of Nike's sales revenue is attributed to the NikeID program which allows users to customize their shoes. 

Where Does Your Team / Organization Lie?

In their book New Power , authors Jeremy Heimans and Henry Timms classify organizations into one of four categories depending on their power models and values. These categories are:

  • Connectors: New Power Model + Old Power Values ; e.g. Facebook
  • Crowds: New Power Model + New Power Values; e.g. Google
  • Castles: Old Power Model + Old Power Values; e.g. Apple
  • Cheerleaders: Old Power Model + New Power Values; e.g. The Guardian

To understand where your organization in the quadrant model, you need to audit the core values and models in your organization. Mapping your competitors also helps you see if you are headed in the right direction. Evaluate the culture of transparency in your organization. A lack of transparency could make your company the next target for an "Occupy Wall Street" like movement. Thirdly, organizations also need to tap into their community resources and develop an 'army' of supporters who 'will show up' to create a positive surge for their cause. 

Three Things Leaders Should Keep in Mind

For leaders to be able to successfully lead their organizations through the power flux, they need to keep the following three aspects in mind: 

  1. Don't embrace new power models while clinging onto old values : If you don't respect the wishes of your community and users, by stubbornly sticking to old notions of power- sharing, you risk being deserted by them. You need to fulfill the needs of both your internal and external stakeholders. 
  2. Don't substitute old power for new power entirely: The key to surviving in this changing world is to develop dual capacity - to strike a balance between old & new power models and values. Use your old power connections to mobilize a new power army.
  3. Don't forgo structure if you want to make an impact: Play to your strengths even if the rules are unfair if you want to make an impact and stand up to old and powerful institutions. In other words, if you can't beat them, join them and play their game better than them.

The shift from old power to new power may be confusing for leaders but it is inevitable. By striking a balance between the old and the new, they can ensure that their organization survives these ambiguous times and witnesses a new world order where everyone is empowered and included.

Questions for Reflection

What do you think is the difference between old power and new power?

Where does your team / organization lie in the quadrant?

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Chaitra K

With a background in Literature and Psychology, and an MBA in Human Resources Management, Chaitra is responsible for the design and production of NKoach’s courses, workshops and corporate training programs. Her mission is to help people discover their passion and become better versions of themselves.

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