Power Dynamics in Leadership

One of the things I’m proud of at my companies (but especially TWC) is we have suppressed the hierarchy down to the lowest possible level.

You have to have one, sort of. If there is NO chain of command there is no order — but one of our values (which is repeated often) says this:


In short, it means this — you believe something is good for a client? PUSH for it. You think someone is making a wrong decision? TELL THEM. Even if (especially if) they are a leader.

The team’s ability to remain agile depends on the autonomy of each individual level. If it costs less than a hundred bucks to keep a client, you just do it. Don’t even ask! Just do it. If you can “wow” a customer by spending an extra 10-15 minutes, JUST DO IT.

You, like me, exist because your clients and customers want to pay you.

Occasionally, teams get confused and think they’re paid to finish a to-do list. No: the to-do list only exists because our clients and customers are getting value. If they stop paying you then your to-do list goes away. The main thing is the main thing.

(PS next year in the first half of the year we are re-recording our flagship ‘8-Figure Teams’ for Chamber… we have 6 different models that tell you when to hire, who to hire, how to hire, who to term/when to coach them/when to replace them, tiers of leadership & offloading, it’s dense)

But this article isn’t about ‘leadership’ necessarily.

It’s about power.

Let’s split power into two tiers:


Here’s what that means…

Relational power is when someone has sway with you because of the relationship you share. Self-explanatory. Your friends, your spouse, your pastor, whatever.

Utility power is when someone has something that you want, need, or a symbiotic trade of utility. “Positional” leadership typically relies on utility-based power because the boss (positional leader) has something the employee needs (a job, favor, money, etc).

But let’s split these two types of power into respective subsets. We divided the first two types of power into categories of use-case. For their respective subsets we’ll organize them into motive & behavior:

  • Uses power for personal gain
  • Uses power to serve / lift others

Instantly you can see why we all hate politicians.

This is like a grid so check this out…


  • no relationship
  • too much utility (positional power)
  • almost exclusively self gain

Here’s the truth about power: anything out of balance becomes unhealthy.

We’ve all met the person who is always saying something like this: “I legit don’t care about myself, I just want to help you — how can I help you?”

This usually means one of two things:

  1. They have no utility to offer and can only get into relationship with an extreme value transfer
  2. They are dishonest about what they can really get from the relationship

This might make me sound crass but there’s nothing new under the sun.

At the end of the day, we use our utility to build relationships and we use our relationships to create more utility. It isn’t pessimistic and it isn’t manipulative. It’s just how society works and it’s how you should approach any business relationship.

If you are client, I want you to extract as much value as possible from me. And you’re going to pay me for it. It’s a win/win because it’s symbiotic. I can keep you in business while scaling your company. You can pay my team what they’re worth and add to the flywheel that is our “client culture.”

This creates a perpetual value transfer back and forth.

As you can see in the graph, ALL of us skew across multiple boxes at different points in time. That is healthy and it is good. In 2018, I skewed towards the lower levels of the graph. Today, I skew towards the top of the graph.

Is it good? Is it bad?

It’s neither.

It comes down to how you want to build your life. Marketing follows the same dynamics. You can be honest about what YOU get from a customer — or you can trick them like a politician.

We aim for honesty and just call it like it is: “If you give us money, we get your money. And we get your trust. You get smarter and hopefully make more money.”

In two weeks we host our July fly-in here downtown Nashville on parenting & entrepreneurship. What’s funny is how intuitively your KIDS understand this power graph. They know when they’re trading. And they’re too innocent to be dishonest about it. Human psychology is BAKED IN… so it’s worth learning.


  • Think through the lens of the other person: what are they trading, what are they getting? It must be worth it for them or the exchange will not be durable long term.
  • What is it you need? Be honest about it — anything beneath the surface can hurt you beneath the surface.
  • Too much value distribution OUT, without appropriate intake (think ‘give and take’) will leave you vulnerable and burned out.
  • Too much value INTAKE, without appropriate yield given to other parties, will ruin your reputation and cause people to avoid you.

The best outcomes exist in constant flux back and forth.

For more of my thoughts on culture, read this.

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