Acting with Power Summary By Deborah Gruenfeld

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Acting with Power is a must-read for anyone who wants to learn how to effectively utilize power in all its forms.

Written in 2020, this book offers insights into the true nature of power and how to use it regardless of your situation or circumstances.

Drawing on techniques from the world of acting, author Melody Wilding also provides strategies for helping readers manage their nerves when taking on powerful roles and for expanding their influence even when feeling limited by their current role.

All in all, Acting with Power is the perfect guidebook for taking control of your own power - no matter where you find yourself!

Acting with Power

Book Name: Acting with Power (Why We Are More Powerful Than We Believe)

Author(s): Deborah Gruenfeld

Rating: 4.1/5

Reading Time: 23 Minutes

Categories: Management & Leadership

Author Bio

Deborah Gruenfeld is an expert when it comes to the psychology of power.

She's a professor at the Stanford Graduate School of Business and co-directs the Executive Program for Women Leaders, and has been teaching, writing, and researching in this field for over 25 years.

Her work has been featured in prestigious journals and publications including The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, and Stress in the American Workplace which she co-authored.

If you want to learn more about how power works in society today, then Deborah Gruenfeld's book Acting with Power is a must-read.

How to Channel Your Personal Power to Achieve Goals and Make an Impact

Achieve Goals

Knowledge is power, and understanding how to wield it confidently in any role is essential.

Through Acting with Power, you will learn why knowing when to downplay your power can be beneficial.

Moreover, you’ll get key strategies on how to secure a seat on a rocket ship, as well as gain insights into what power means when you’re at the top of your game.

By taking all of this information into account, you’ll be pursuing the right skills that help give you an edge in any situation.

From examining the subtleties of a particular part or catalyzing change from top-down, these sections offer useful tips for embodying a more powerful role.

Put all of your new knowledge into practice and soon enough you’ll master the act of Using Your Power.

We All Have Power in Some Form – How We Choose to Use It Matters

Power is not a one-dimensional concept.

It’s not just about impressiveness, wealth or titles; it’s about the role we play in other people’s lives.

Everyone has power in some way or another, irrespective of material possessions.

For example, holding up the parking spot for an eager driver grants you the power of choice that wasn’t there before.

Similarly, parent-child relationships can depend on either party to show love and respect towards each other which gives both parties certain powers over the other.

The ability for individuals to control their circumstances or the circumstances of someone else doesn’t have to be exclusively selfish either; hierarchies exist so people can work together with mutual benefit and solve shared problems.

When taking advantage of one’s power, one should always consider how it benefits both parties instead of merely benefitting oneself – that is what power is all about!

Playing Power Up for the Right Reasons: Asserting Authority to Benefit Others

Asserting Authority

The key takeaway here is that when playing power up, it’s best to use it as a way of protecting the interests of others.

Playing power up can be done in a variety of ways, from pulling rank to asserting your authority to using your right to say no.

To ensure that you’re doing it for the right reasons, it’s important to ask yourself if what you’re about to do is in the best interests of those around you.

For example, silencing someone in a meeting with rallying comments (“My name is on the building!”) or intimidating someone with aggression may appear assertive, but they don’t actually contribute anything beneficial to your team or relationship in any meaningful way.

But if you use this same power to encourage open discussion between people who normally wouldn’t get a chance to speak and make difficult but necessary decisions that keep everyone on track, then this can have a positive effect and make you appear competent and caring.

Ultimately, playing power up should be used sparingly and must focus on protecting the interests of others in order for people to respect your character.�

Playing Power Down: A More Effective Route to Earning Respect and Trust

Playing power down is not just a tactic used by those in positions of power, it’s an effective way to demonstrate that you are open to collaboration and connection.

Instead of putting yourself on display as a powerful presence, simply letting others make decisions or joking around can show others that you are more interested in connecting with them than maintaining your status as the one in charge.

This strategy was proved to be successful when two partners at Sequoia Capital tried to recruit a young female CEO.

When their initial efforts failed, they decided to play their power down by showing up at the meeting dressed in Toy Story costumes, demonstrating they were willing to go above and beyond for her sake.

This action showed respect and earned her trust immediately!

Ultimately, playing power down can help build connections between people and create meaningful relationships where everyone respects each other for who they are.

Using Imagination, Props, and Costumes to Help Us Comfortably Step Into a New Role


One way actors fully become the characters they are portraying is by using the Stanislavski Method of imagination.

This method, created by Russian actor, producer, and director Konstantin Stanislavski, involves picturing things happening to your character as if it is happening to you.

This Magic If exercise was put to use when the author had to find a way to maintain her composure while testifying in court – she imagined how she would dress and carry herself if she were an entirely fearless and strong character from tv.

When you have a new role at work or just an important task ahead of you, clothing and props can help get you into the right mindset for it.

Wearing certain clothes can influence your actions and mental state while also affecting how others perceive & respond to you.

For these reasons dressing differently than usual — “suiting up” — can be very effective in embodying your new role or preparing for any kind of meaningful event.

The streets may be empty but wearing smarter clothes as a senior manager could make you feel more confident or carrying that important-looking notebook really does affect how people look at it.

Using props & costumes along with imagination are all valid methods of getting into character for any situation.

Just like actors do, take a few moments imagining yourself in the role then put on something special for that extra sense of flair, confidence & dominance when tackling a new challenge!

To Succeed as a Supporting Player, Focus on the Mission and Prioritize Responsibilities

In any job – whether it’s acting or something else – a key to success is taking a mission-focused approach.

That’s why, if you’re in a supporting role and want to play it well, you have to prioritize the work and the team’s mission over gaining recognition or personal status.

It’s not easy of course, since there may be sacrifices you have to make along the way like working longer hours or taking one for the team.

But by doing this, you’re building trust among your peers and higher-ups, which can lead to bigger opportunities in the future.

As Sheryl Sandberg learned when she almost missed out on joining Google due to hesitating on a “small” role – when you’re presented with an opportunity that’ll help your group achieve its goals, take it!

With a focus on fulfilling team needs and contributing positively through your work, you’ll be well on your way to success.

The Power of Rehearsal and Warm-Ups for Occupying Powerful Roles

Power of Rehearsal

When you take on a powerful role, it can be intimidating.

You may even face performance anxiety.

In this case, the best way to manage stress is to employ techniques that professional actors use: rehearsing, warming up and not focusing on yourself.

Rehearsal sessions are important for acting as it allows for actions to become habit, building confidence in the role taken on.

It’s not just about saying what needs to be said either – detail is king!

Wearing costumes and props used in the scene are essential for getting fully immersed in the part being played.

Warming up too has a positive effect when dealing with greater amounts of stress and pressure.

Stretching exercises or simply taking a walk can help re-focus your energy levels and keep warm-up through speaking or physical activity prior to an important meeting or event will ensure optimum performance.

Actors also focus inwardly by not focusing on themselves at all; instead they spread their attention outward by looking at others and observing feelings in order to create more natural behavior across situations.

The same works for roles off stage as well; if you focus solely on yourself, you’re missing out on valuable opportunities to get immersed in the powerful role you’ve taken upon yourself.

How We Can Reclaim Our Power When Faced with Bullies

When it comes to bullies, we have the power to avoid becoming their victims.

We can recognize bad behavior before it happens and stay away from places where bullies might feel empowered.

We should also act unaffected and calmly call out any wrong behavior that we see.

Unfortunately, even with those precautions, sometimes we still fall prey to bullies.

In this case, though, we still have the power to reclaim our stories and not become victims of these people.

This includes removing any blame we put on ourselves and understanding that the fault does not lie with us.

That way, we can move past our experience and get back in control of our lives!

Leaders Must Use Their Power Responsibly to Benefit Those Around Them

As a leader, using power well means being responsible for those around you.

It is about guiding your team and creating a safe space where everyone can make their best contribution, as well as protecting them from abuses of power.

To help ensure that the organization moves in the right direction, leaders should use their power to define and reinforce its objectives.

The pursuit of success should be balanced with concern for the people involved.

Leaders should promote those with a focus on achievement, warmth towards others and who viewpower as something to help — not just further themselves.

As Lieutenant General Jay Silveria showed when African American cadets were targets of racism, defending others and admonishing such behaviour creates an environment where everyone can reach their full potential.

Leaders must actively look out for and elevate those who use power in an ethical way.

Doing so enables the rest of the organization to benefit from the direction given by those at the very top; allowing each person to contribute meaningfully towards shared goals.

Wrap Up

Acting with Power offers a final summary of key takeaways.

Holding power is more than an abstract idea – you must use it in the right ways for the right goals and responsibilities.

Sometimes, that means taking charge in difficult situations or calling out abuses of power when necessary.

Other times, it means playing power down by deferring to others or avoiding taking yourself too seriously.

Everyone has the potential to own any role, even if they don’t feel capable at first – practice being on stage and focus on the bigger picture for confidence-building success.

Finally, protect others from abuse of power by being a powerful upstander — exert your influence to help those you witness in uncomfortable situations or lend your support afterwards.

With Acting with Power, anyone can learn to handle difficult scenarios with grace and ease.

Arturo Miller

Hi, I am Arturo Miller, the Chief Editor of this blog. I'm a passionate reader, learner and blogger. Motivated by the desire to help others reach their fullest potential, I draw from my own experiences and insights to curate blogs.

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