Magic in the Room #56: Types of Power Part 2 – Capacitors or Transformers with Special Guest Ben West

If you have power, what should you do with it? In this episode, Luke, Chris, and Ben examine two possible choices; keeping power to yourself or giving control to other people so they can be more effective. The way leaders use power has implications for the effectiveness of teams and the health of individuals.



In the last episode, the hosts discussed why the source of your power matters and how to use the power you have for good. In part two of the conversation, Luke reflects on when he worked with different teams with a shared problem in common. Issues arose because of how the leader used power, how the employees related to power, and how they reacted when receiving it.


The experiences reminded Luke of electricity and the idea of a transformer versus a capacitor. When talking about the differences between the two, Chris immediately thinks about the primary utility of each device to store or distribute energy in a useful way.


Ben shares his belief that transformational power can also be about being willing to give up control. This can often happen in non-profits and the world of development. People want to do it, but they’re not willing to give up control. If you’re not ready to do that, you’re always going to hold it in, and you’re never going to put it back. This is one of the many obstacles to being a transformer.


Luke also shares insights around how some organizations say they will be more diverse, equitable, and inclusive. In principle, it is easy to do and makes perfect sense. But when an open position appears, things can quickly break down. Somebody will suggest a close friend they have worked with who will be a great fit. Suddenly, that will become more attractive than lining up five interviews.


Chris also shares how it’s not realistic to distribute “you’re great, I’m great, and we’re great all the time.” When we do that, we run the risk of glossing over the challenges and constraints they are experiencing. Sometimes, Chris likes to be a transformer within the rest of the system. He enjoys setting it up and distributing a message to ensure it has an optimal impact. By controlling the distribution, it becomes more meaningful and communicates value.


The hosts each share what the concept means to them and its relation to power in the workplace. Luke admits that he had a binary opinion of a capacitor is bad and a transformer is good in business. But after today’s conversation, he will be more intentional and not be afraid to lean on capacitor and ensure he is equipped to discharge it in a strategic way to maximize his impact with teams.


What were your key takeaways from today’s episode? If you would like to carry on the conversation started in the podcast, you can message Chris, Hannah, and Luke at

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