Being a powerful person in the workplace

The word “power” is often associated with the idea of control, dominance, authority and sometimes corruption, depending on your experience, which obviously can have some negative connotations. The kind of power we’re referring to here, however, is quite the opposite.  

Through our work in recruitment, we come across a wide variety of people; different cultures, personalities and stories, which we love. Something that consistently sets people apart from the hundreds we interview, regardless of any of the abovfeatures, is their ability to demonstrate the qualities of a powerful person. Whether you’re a CEO or a graduate employee starting out in the industry, you have the ability to be powerful in your workplace.  

So what does a powerful person actually look like? Here are five qualities we’ve found to be consistent: 

Powerful people have a growth mindset. 

They are not afraid of failure because they know that failure can help them grow. They know that owning their mistakes is important but do not let their mistakes own them.  

Having a growth mindset as opposed to a fixed mindset means that you harness within you the ability to turn anything into an opportunity for growth and promotion. This is a highly valuable quality in your everyday life but also in the workplace. Eduardo Briceno does a brilliant TED Talk on this exact subject matter if you’d like to learn more about what it looks like to cultivate a growth mindset. 

Powerful people choose not the be the victims. 

Life does not simply happen to themThey are happening to lifeThey refuse to play the victim to their circumstances or the other people around them and take ownership of their own choices. Powerful people don’t complain about the issues they face, they look for solutions and collaborate on how to move forward rather than blaming others. 

Powerful people ask for feedback. 

This is just as relevant for a key leader or an entry-level employee. Getting in the habit of asking for feedback shows that you are engaged, eager to learn, open and humble. Humility is one of the keys attributes of Level 5 leadership in Jim Collins’ bestselling book, Good to Great. 

Matt Tenney, Social Entrepreneur, Author of Serve to Be Great and The Mindfulness Edge, says, “By simply asking for feedback about how well we are serving and caring for team members and living the values, we send the message that we care about our team members and about living our core values.”   

Powerful people mean what they say. 

Another way of saying this is they let their ‘yes’ be ‘yes’ and their ‘no’ be ‘no’. They are people of their word that don’t say something they don’t mean. It’s important for them to be trustworthy and consistent in what they say and do. If they can’t do something, they know how to say no. 

Powerful people do not try to control others. 

They don’t try to convince or manipulate other people or their behaviors. They know that the only thing they can really control is themselves. They assume that the people around them are powerful too and so treat them accordingly – they ask empowering questions to help people find solutions to their own problems rather than taking on a responsibility that isn’t theirs to carry. 

For more on this, read our previous blog on dealing with difficult co-workers. 

Powerful people limit procrastination. 

They know that their worth is not dependent on what they achieve and so they refuse to procrastinate. Instead, they confidently set out the tasks they have before them and get to work.  

Unfortunately, the vice of procrastination that we think will only be with us in high school can very much be a real and frustrating part of our work life. Nic Voge, senior associate director of Princeton University’s McGraw Center for Teaching and Learning says that“…we procrastinate because we’re afraid of performing poorly on that thing we’re putting off, which reflects directly on our sense of worth/value as a person.”  

For some tips on how to limit procrastination in your life, check out this article. 


We all have room to grow in learning to become powerful people so let this encourage you that you have what it takes. The best part is, these are not things we’re all born with, they can be learned. Powerlessness doesn’t do you or anybody else in your workplace any favours. For more on powerful people, check out author, speaker, and counsellor, Danny Silk’s resources.

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