The Nature of Power

How much is a 20-dollar bill worth? That seems like a trick question but bear with me. The bill itself is worth nothing. If it is printed on both sides, exactly nothing. What is worth 20 dollars is the belief that it will buy 20 dollars of goods or services. If the belief stops, it is worth nothing and there is no intermediate step. It cannot be worth $10.

How power works

Power works the same way. Power is not in the office nor in the person, it is in the belief.

A story about a Cree chief in Northern Quebec. While chatting with the chief of a first nation community the question arose as to the power he has by tradition. His answer. “I have absolute power over the people. I could order Elmer over there killed if I wanted.” That is a rather striking example of the limit. He went on to point out that while he has that power, he only has it as long as he doesn’t try to use it. “It is like in your world. The man is the head of the house and the pedestrian has the right of way, but neither is safe if he tries to prove it.”

Mature leaders understand the nature of power and how to use it. You do it by relying on the belief, not on the proof. If you try to exercise proof that violates the people’s view of what is reasonable, the power goes away. Just like the $20 bill becomes worth nothing when belief stops.

As long as the people know the leader has power and will use it carefully, they negotiate. They will behave in objectively rational ways. When they don’t believe, the leader must be dismissed before harm comes to anyone. Random use of great power is the mark of immaturity as a leader. The President o the United States would not use a nuclear weapon to kill a raccoon in the Rose Garden.

In Canada

Our beloved and glorious leader, Justin Trudeau, has made the persuasion of power error and must go. Like the Cree chief, if you try to use the ultimate power, it goes away or, at a minimum, is taken from you. Power has limits that are not always visible, but neither are they absent. Absolute power does not exist indefinitely. If you would like to test the theory, try walking randomly in traffic.

The bits to take away

Overusing power destroys credibility.

A leader’s real power lies in the belief that the leader will make good decisions.

The Trucker Convoy is only a little related to mandates. It is fully related to leadership and the decision-making process.

Most Canadian leaders have failed the test. If you cannot convince the people your decision is reasonable and supported by sound evidence, and remains so in the known circumstances, you are overusing your power and must be dismissed. Evidence and reasoning instead of propaganda, please.

The media will lose their influence for the same reasons. Once credibility is lost it never comes back. It is like a dog that one time bites a child. It is never again trusted.


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I build strategic, fact-based estate and income plans. The plans identify alternate ways to achieve spending and estate distribution goals. In the past, I have been a planner with a large insurance, employee benefits, and investment agency, a partner in a large international public accounting firm, CEO of a software start-up, a partner in an energy management system importer, and briefly in the restaurant business. I have appeared on more than 100 television shows on financial planning have presented to organizations as varied as the Canadian Bar Association, The Ontario Institute of Chartered Accountants, The Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food, and Banks – from CIBC to the Business Development Bank.

Be in touch at 705-927-4770 or by email at

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