Power is a funny thing. I’ve had it from time to time. At other times, others had it.

Sometimes you have to ask for it. Sometimes it will simply be given to you. And sometimes, you simply have to take it.

But one thing I’ve noticed is that, nine times out of ten, power is a complete bluff.

Power could be defined as the ability to force your will on others. To get them to do as you wish. The question is, how do you enforce the power you have? You make a rule and expect others to follow the rule. How do you make sure they will? That’s the trick. If you are physically bigger and stronger than them, and you’re in their presence, then the answer is obvious. And then there are situations such as the military, where rank means you must follow the orders and rules set out by someone of superior rank, or risk being stripped of rank, pay, or prison and possible ejection from the military. Similarly in business, failure to follow the dictates of superiors can get you fired, which you usually don’t want.

These are common situations which most people will encounter at one time or another throughout their lives. They’re situations where the circumstances dictate that the person with power can obviously enforce their will on you.

But their are other times where you’re dealing with circumstances where it’s not so clear cut. And if you’re the person in power, you may wonder how you’re going to get people to follow you. In these cases, power is about bluffing.

I was at one time the leader of a Linux users group. I was the leader because I seized power at a time when there was a power vacuum, and I managed to out-maneuver my opponent. Afterward, I was left with the question about how I was going to get everyone to follow me, without having a real way to enforce my dictates.

And the answer is to get others to agree you’re in power. Sometimes it’s only necessary to remind them you have the word “president” behind your name. Sometimes having seized power is enough to convince others you’re in charge. They didn’t want your job, and you just grabbed on to it, so they’re fine with you being in charge. But in a lot of cases, you don’t actually have any way to physically enforce your will on them. It is only by their agreement that you continue to have the power you have.

One last ingredient for this formula is important. A wise man once said that to be successful in life, it was only necessary to be right 51% of the time and never be wrong on the really important stuff. Too true. Fail a lot while in power, and someone will replace you (or the group will fail entirely and collapse).

Even in situations where the leader is stronger, or he outranks you, the idea that he has the power is really by your agreement. You can always walk away, quit or refuse to play anymore. At which point, he no longer has the power. If his name starts with “President” or whatever, it is still your agreement which gives him power over you.

Just an observation.