Lust for…Responsibility?


A wonderful quote from one of my favourite books, “Dune”, the 1965 science fiction masterpiece by Frank Herbert focussed around clans and corporations fighting for power, where power means control of a powerful (interesting that choice of descriptor!) drug that is essential for navigating trade routes, called “Spice”.

As Lord Acton famously noted:

“Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely”

As mentioned in yesterday’s post, “Language, Truth and Trust“, last week I attended a massively thought-provoking talk on language and leadership. At the Q&A afterwards, a gentleman sitting next to me quietly added his wisdom to the conversation.

“power is the ability to make things happen, responsibility is driven by attempting to answer the question: In whose interest is the power being used?”

He then went on to ask us to consider the impact of a shift in language from leadership being focussed around the word responsibility rather than the current association with the word power. in closing his brief contribution, he noted:

“have you ever heard anyone talk about lust for responsibility?”

My own definition of wisdom is:

“something concise that, as soon as you hear it, you feel you always knew it”

It was inspirational to hear this gentleman’s contribution of his wisdom. After the talk, he and I spoke briefly and I am very much looking forward to meeting for lunch soon to learn more. For now, his name is Bruce Lloyd, Emeritus Professor in Strategic Management at London South Bank University. See here for a full article expanding on his concise wisdom above.

Now, for some of my own thoughts. I do believe we live in a system of growing unfairness and inequality that is not of service to the world. At the same time, I believe in business as a force for good, so I seek to influence change that is about leading from a place of responsibility.

Purpose, People and Planet before Profit

Much of my thinking on this is captured in this graphic capturing my idea for a new triple bottom line in pictorial form.

TM Profit for Impact Graphic v3_B

As I have written about on this site giving clear examples, businesses that follow this model drive their own righteous flywheel. The more they focus on Purpose, People and Planet, the more they can make Profits, then the more they can scale their impact.

Leaders of such organisations and businesses lead from a place of Responsibility, not Power.


“I help visionary leaders see beyond their own vision”

This is the opening line on this site’s home page. Yes, it is bold, and yes it is clear, as I only want to work with leaders who want to put their own dent in the universe.

In fact, the image I use on the back of my business cards, from Hugh McLeod of Gaping Void, is this artistic depiction of a famous Steve Jobs quote:

dent in the universe

When leaders talk to me about exploring working with me to support them achieving their vision, making their dent, I then ask them to read the #BeMoreYou page, which talks of four core attributes for the types of leaders I find I work best with, who see themselves being and wanting to be more :

  • Hungry
  • Humble
  • Brave
  • Open

Seeking Power is Weakness, Embracing Responsibility is Strength

In closing my thoughts, I have seen over and over again that when we shift the paradigm of a leader from “lust for power” to leading from responsibility, those leaders are truly the strong ones.

This reminds me of Chip Conley’s term “Vulnerable Visionary” (see a post highlighting this here).

In closing, a quote from Erich Fromm:

“the lust for power is rooted not in strength but in weakness”

If you choose instead to “Lust for responsibility” so as to serve Purpose, People and Planet, not only will you be coming from a place of strength, not only will you be the type of leader others choose to follow, your business will also be profitable by serving as a leader from a place of responsibility.

Also published on Medium.