Changing Values - POWER.
by John Powderly FRSA

Welcome back to this series of writings dedicated to the work and worldview of Cultural Dynamics Strategy and Marketing.

What is Power?

In simple terms, Power is the ability or capacity to do something or act in a particular way; particularly with regard to directing or influencing the behaviour of others, or the course of events.

Here, I plan to take a short tour, exploring what power means through the experience of each values mode. The most effective use of power is when an individual, group or organisation honours the needs of each values mode.

Coercive Power?

Closely linked to the idea of control, the use and misuse of power tends to lie at the heart of our commentaries on history; however, this may be due to the over-focus on the more visible use of coercive power, including the consequences of threat, punishment and enforcement.

In reality, there are other less visible and more subtle forms of power that each values mode can use .... and mis-use. Coercive power is possible with all three values modes, but in different ways.


I am exploring an emerging hypothesis that each values mode focuses on a different core question, which underlies everything and seeds the kind of power used and the way we use it.

Settlers and Power

As Settlers, traditionally, our perception and experience of power links strongly to where we were born, which, in turn, associates with who we are related to. The foundation for our sense of power and potential for adopting a position of authority in society comes from what we have inherited and the culture we were born into.

We feel safer and more secure when positions of authority are clearly defined and respected, whether it be as parents, as leaders, or other roles we play in society.

In essence, it is about the question "Where?" Where are we born? Where in the culture's social structure do we find ourselves? It is all about our sense of place and social position relative to the people around us.

Compared with other values modes, we are more likely to accept our position in life and do not feel as motivated to change things. This ability to accept that we do not have the power to change something is when we embody what it means to be humble. That said, we are also very capable of resisting change, which can be a very powerful force when applied consistently.

Matching Personal and Societal Needs.

The question "What?" draws a response from the Prospector within us and builds on our Settler need to feel in control of our immediate environment. When we know the best answer to "What?" and start to focus our efforts is when we prove to be the most effective. If we can match our talents and our knowledge with society's needs then we feel secure.

Prospectors and Power

As Prospectors, we do not settle, we move. We are the shakers of society who focus on "How?" and learn to respond to change and to make things happen. This is where we develop the skills that enable us to be seen as more valuable to society and to start climbing the social ladder.

One of our core lessons is to learn how to gain and to use power. Depending upon our personality, our goal may be to fight and to compete for positions of power, or to focus on merit and to earn the right to take on more authority.

In practice, our power arises from - and is channelled through - our relationships. Again, depending on our temperament and personality, we can use our power in an enabling or disabling way; where we encourage, or discourage particular actions. As well as learning how to do something, we discover that we what we know supports the effectiveness of what we do. This connects with the old adage that "knowledge is power" and improves the way we respond to the question "How?"


The meeting place for our Prospector and Pioneer approach to power appears to be time and to respond to the "When?" question. Where our Prospector character results in a focus on planning, our Pioneer nature draws on our instincts for good timing. Like a great comedian or actor, timing is a more an art than a science, which develops with practice and experience.

So, we have more power to change things effectively when we do not just answer the question "When?" in the form of a schedule but are also able to respond instinctively and spontaneously to our inner knowing of when to do something.

Pioneers and Power

As Pioneers, our greatest power is truly knowing ourselves, which, in turn, helps us to understand and empathise with other people. These insights lead to a wider range of options, as well as the ability to refine the way we implement these options. So, one of our core questions is "Who?" Who am I? Who is the person with whom I am relating, managing, leading, encouraging etc.

As Pioneers, one of our core lessons is to learn the subtle art of influence - which does not always depend upon social position, wealth or authority - to make things happen. It is more to do with developing trust and respect. Our influence amplifies when we can truly answer the question "Why?" This is when we know our purpose, or the purpose of our organisation - and it enlivens everything we do.

At our best, we recognise the power we have and try to use it in a wise and compassionate way. This is about humility, rather than being humble.


So, we feel at our most powerful and most empowered when we:

  • have a true sense of place,
  • accept our position in society,
  • have the ability to influence others (or to follow others consciously),
  • have the freedom to plan,
  • have a good understanding of our strengths and weaknesses,
  • have a deep understanding of our purpose.

N.B. All views and opinions expressed through these writings are solely my own, and do not necessarily represent the views of Cultural Dynamics.

John. email: