WHAT I’VE BEEN READING: Acting with Power by Deborah H. Gruenfeld

Acting with Power: Why we are more powerful than we believe, by Deborah Gruenfeld (2020)

Gruenfeld is a professor of social psychology whose research has focused on power. In this book, she provides an easily understandable and practical overview of power based on extensive research, and also relatable stories and case studies. She takes readers on a deep dive into the realities of power and how individuals might use it in different ways. She explores some common myths about how power actually works and how it doesn’t. She also defines what it means to act with power and what it means to do it well. She provides practical strategies for how to expand your sources of power and your range of uses of power in different contexts. There is also very useful advice about how to effectively respond to abuses of power, including a chapter on bullying.

Gruenfeld explains that all of us – regardless of who we are, how much we stand out, or how well we fit in, and despite how we feel – have power by virtue of the roles we play in others’ lives. She argues that to use power well, we need to think about power differently. We need to accept responsibility for the power we have. We need to take our roles and responsibilities more seriously than we do.

I particularly like this quote from the book: “Success, impact, and life satisfaction are not the result of how much power you can accumulate, or even how powerful others think you are; they are the result of what you are able to do for others with the power you already have.”

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