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12 Oct, 2010

Four Principles of Ethical Power

Posted by: The Coaching Academy In: Coaching Articles|Life Coaching Articles|PS Online Discussion

How do you feel about your life? Are you on a treadmill, doing things you don’t want to do? Do you feel that you could only become powerful at the expense of integrity?

Power is a funny thing, and it has fascinated me for many years. On one hand, it is essential to life, and to living. Without power, the ability to convert energy into momentum, we have no life at all. Yet most people I meet don’t want power. Isn’t that strange?

Perhaps not. After all, we often associate power with abuse and misuse. Consequently, we see power as undesirable, even if it is indispensable. Not an easy conundrum to deal with. Indeed, it has been one of my big challenges in life, and it’s why I focus in on this area so much in my work.

I’ve realised that there are perhaps four core principles that underpin how we can develop an ethical approach to power. Mastering these principles will make a huge difference to your own personal power, as well as helping you to become more ethical in using it – a real win win. Outlined below are the four principles. The closer you follow them, the more ethically powerful you will be.


The importance of connecting with our own feelings is often talked about in a self help context. There are many great benefits from getting in touch with how we feel in the moment. One of the most significant benefits is to keep us in touch with our own state of power. Put simply, the better we feel about a particular situation or part of our life, the more empowered we are likely to be in it. Having a say in what goes on in our life makes us feel better, and people who are empowered don’t use this to make themselves feel miserable! All of this means our feelings are an accurate barometer to our state of power.


Get clear on your direction in life, and do whatever it takes to become clear. If power is the conversion of our energy into momentum, then where is the momentum going? As the saying goes, if you don’t know where you’re going, you will probably end up somewhere else. There will be no shortage of people telling you where you should go if you are not clear yourself! So get clear where you want to go, and what you want to do.

This could include clarifying any or all of your own life purpose, a vision for the future, your core values, or even just some goals. There’s no need to get over spiritual about it (though some of you might want to). Getting some direction helps you to see more clearly where other people may be stopping you from living a fulfilled life – and they might not be doing this deliberately. Besides, having clear purpose, vision, values and goals generates a momentum of its own. Seaweed will only entangle a boat if that boat had no momentum to start with. If it had momentum, it would sail through the seaweed.


Once you have the first two principles sussed, the next step is to express yourself to others when they are dis-empowering you, inadvertently or otherwise. Your own direction and feelings will tell you when a situation matters if you listen to yourself. So if someone is dis-empowering you, say something, along the lines of:

“When you criticise me publicly, it puts me down. I’d like you to stop doing this in future”
“I want you to support me in my work”
“I’d like you to come with me to see the family”

The golden rule on expression is to say what is true for you. Not aggressively, but clearly. You have as much right to express your needs, wants and desires as the next person, as long as you’re not harming anyone. Avoid the temptation to dress up what you say in the hope that others might ‘get the hint’. Often they won’t – the trouble with hints is they’re not always obvious.

If you have trouble doing this, practice in front of a mirror, get a coach, talk to a friend, whatever. But do something to develop this skill. It is in these moments of truth where we say something, or don’t say something, that our very lives are defined as joyous or despairing.

But always remember that in your rush to get to where you want to go, avoid trampling others into the dust. They have rights too. Which leads us nicely to the last principle.


Most of us find it difficult to forgive someone, unless we’re the Dalai Lama. For some people, it’s forgiving ourselves we can’t cope with. We go around beating ourselves up for things we did, or didn’t do in the past – sometimes a long time in the past. We feel guilty for this. For other people, it’s forgiving others that is the challenge. People who wronged us in the past. Betrayed us, undermined us, embarrassed us, humiliated us. There are people out there who go around collecting lists of ‘bad people’, and don’t forgive them, for all sorts of stuff.

We might have a tendency to favour either beating ourselves up, or beating others up – maybe even both. We might suppress those feelings, but we still haven’t forgiven. I just want to say one thing about forgiveness.

Non-forgiveness destroys our own power. It destroys it for one reason. Whether it’s ourselves or others we fail to forgive, the act of non-forgiveness ties up our energy. Ties it up fighting battles long gone. Ties up energy on beating ourselves up. Ties up energy that could be used now to generate momentum, and this is the essence of power. We can live in the past or live in the present, and ethically powerful people choose the latter. Let’s face it, the only person you’re harming by bathing in non-forgiveness is yourself. What’s the point in that? So again, find someone to talk to, clear the air with those who have ‘offended’ in the past, talk to the mirror, but find a way to move on. Otherwise you won’t move on.

There you have it. The four key principles – connect with your emotions, get clear on your direction, express yourself , and forgive people for their (and our) fallibilities. Developing your personal power is key to living a great life, and to enabling others around you to do the same.

I conclude with a wish, a variation on an old ‘Star Trek’ saying (I do confess to liking Star Trek!). Spock, the Vulcan, used to say ‘live long and prosper’. My variation on that, to you, is ‘stand up and live’.

Mark Eyre

4 Responses to "Four Principles of Ethical Power"

1 | Tweets that mention Four Principles of Ethical Power - Coaching Blog --

October 12th, 2010 at 9:04 pm


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2 | Emmy Yeadon

October 14th, 2010 at 1:40 pm


Hi Mark,

Wow what a lot of information to digest and to begin to work with! I know that I am going to find it invaluable to the work I do with myself and with my clients.

Thank you for making us think again about such a fundamental area of our lives that affects all of us every day.

Emmy -x-

3 | Mohammad Wasim Ghori

October 15th, 2010 at 9:46 am


Very meaningful and covers major areas of our lives!

4 | Julie Blunt

October 15th, 2010 at 10:29 am


What a useful and inspiring article. I work with individuals and groups in the area of change and career transitions. In both areas, the need for individuals to harness their personal power in a positive way is crucial. Thanks for reminding me of the importance of this.

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