Good Power: A book review by Bob Morris

Good Power: Leading Positive Change in Our Lives, Work, and World
Ginni Rometty
Harvard Business Review Press (March 2023)

“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” African proverb

To what does the title of this book refer? According to Ginni Rometty, power can be good when used with respect. How so? “When it unites people for a shared purpose and motivates them to be the best version of themselves. Power can be good when it seeks to maximize beneficial impacts and avert rather than ignore harmful consequences. Power can be good when it’s inclusive, shared, and distributed…Essentially, writing this book helped me clarify that power is necessary to change things for the better, and that power can be good when it is wielded respectfully, when it navigates tensions, and when it strives for progress over one person’s idea of perfection.”

Rometty organizes her material within three separate but related Parts.

First, she explains how almost anyone can gain true power (i.e. purpose-driven self-discipline) to change/improve one’s self. “We all have the ‘power of me’ — the choice to activate our talents, dreams, and will. We don’t need to accept the status quo as fate. Instead, with this type of power, we can raise up against obstacles we face with grace and grit. That is what I hope you take away from part 1.” (Page 11)

Then she explains how to engage true power (i.e. purpose-driven collaboration) to change/improve a shared workplace with others. “At some point in our lives and careers, our attention turns from ourselves to others. We still have our own goals, but we recognize that our actions affect many, and that’s impossible to achieve anything truly meaningful alone. As we help others and ask for their help, our perspective transitions from me to we. My journey learning to apply ‘the power of we’ forms the arc of part II” (Page 71)

Finally, she explains how multi-generational change agents can engage true power to achieve much wider and deeper impact. “Scaking good power is the ambition of part III, and the lessons and insights I share come from my multi-decade journey championing what I later came to call the SkillsFirstr hiring and training movement…

“How do we make systemic change? Many levers must be pulled. Multiple needs must be met. The desire for change must become a movement. Good power at scale can help build belief in a movement; cocreate new solutions; let go of what’s wrong; and modernize what’s right.” (Page 191)

As I worked my way through this material, I was again reminded of this observation by Margaret Mead: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” With all due respect to the wisdom of that insight, I think it is important to keep in what only one “committed citizen” can achieve. Thomas Paine, for example, as well as Henry David Thoreau, Mohandas Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, and Martin Luther King, Jr. Yes, the last three eventually attracted thousands and then millions of followers and are among history’s greatest leaders. That said, each had a specific vision and a set of core values –as did Paine —  that helped to achieve transformations that had not as yet occurred before them.

While I worked my way through this personal narrative and its timely as well as timeless themes, I was again reminded of Saint Paul’s discussion of “many parts, one body” in one of his first letters to Corinth and of the proposed motto for thirteen colonies that had become a nation, “e pluribus unum.”

Rometty shares an abundance of invaluable information, insights, and counsel that can help almost any person to have much greater POSITIVE impact as an individual and a member of a team as well as a member of a movement.

Obviously, no brief commentary such as mine could possibly do full justice to the value of the information, insights, and counsel that Ginni Rometty provides but I hope that I have at least provided some indication of why I think so highly of his book. It is a brilliant achievement. Bravo!

Here are two concluding suggestions: Highlight key passages, and, keep a lined notebook near at hand in order to record your comments, questions, and page references as well as responses to the suggestions and recommendations that are inserted throughout the book’s lively and eloquent narrative. These two simple tactics will facilitate, indeed expedite frequent review of the most important material later.



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