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ROFCB Commander

Leadership 101: SOFT POWER

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Posted (edited)

Today is Day Eight of the twenty-day "Leadership 101" series I'll be posting. This series expresses my thoughts on some topics important to the successful leadership of a local unit, and asks other unit leaders to post their thoughts, ideas, and experiences on the same subject in hopes that together we can help those who are starting from scratch with unit-building.


Today's topic is "Soft Power".


This is a topic that is near and dear to my heart. It's among the most important things our groups should be about--and nobody, not one of you who leads a group now nor any who have led groups before, has it.


It's called "soft power", and the reason I know none of you have it is because nobody has the real support and admiration of your community and you can't get soft power unless you do.


So what is "soft power"?


When you're elected county commissioner, that is "hard power". Sheriff, head of your local Chamber of Commerce, wealthy businessman who owns a third of the town--all "hard power". Thirty years as head of the local Republican or Democrat party? Yeah, that's "hard power", too.


These are the people who decide they want something, and they generally get it. Mayor of the town says "jump", and twenty people say "how high". That's hard power.


Soft power is slightly different, and handled correctly it's far more powerful in the end.


Soft power is gained by earning the respect, admiration, and...uh, how would you say it...favors owed by important people (or at least people who might benefit you when you need them).


Remember the scene in The Godfather, when Vito Corleone tells the funeral director that he "may need a service to be done" in the future? And the funeral director, who had asked a favor of the Godfather, was essentially bound to comply?


That's soft power. Now Vito had both hard and soft power (it's pretty easy to get both when you spread money around and back up your "requests" with visits from Luca Brasi), but the soft power is by far the most potent. When people owe you, and it's a debt of honor or duty, they'll always pay.


That's the essence of what soft power is.


How do you acquire soft power?


Well, there are a number of ways; the best actually involves numbers--as in, being able to influence large numbers of people toward or away from a particular issue. Boss Tweed (look it up) had LOADS of soft power in the form of a gazillion people who he'd befriended and "gifted" over the course of time. He was able to peddle that influence into increasingly lucrative/powerful roles. At one point his soft power was so widespread that he was able to wield influence over the whole of New York City.


Part of how he accomplished that, by the way, was by befriending and "gifting" others who had significant soft power of their own. And that's the beauty of it; coalitions are built between the very powerful and the semi-powerful in order to keep the very powerful, well, powerful. Having the backing of the very powerful makes the semi-powerful more...powerful.


You get it, right?


Commanding ten guys with guns who practice warfare is kinda fun. It even makes you feel important, to some extent. But it isn't really "power".


Commanding a thousand-member unit, all of whom are well known and respected residents within your county? Well, that gives you a little bit of sway in the halls of power. It's called "soft power" because you don't actually tell them "do this, don't do that", exactly. More like you indicate that shopping at XYZ Market or eating at ABC Diner is the preferred thing. That makes XYZ Market and ABC Diner extra busy, and can put a hurting on QRS Market and EFG Diner. That kind of influence gets noticed. Suddenly QRS Market is selling produce to you at cost, and EFG Diner is offering your members 50% discounts. That's soft power.


You may have trouble with the morality of this. Why? Is it any different than WalMart being able to sell so cheaply because they can buy in such immense quantity? Or receiving a lower price on a car because you're a top-notch negotiator? Do you feel badly driving off the lot paying five grand less than the little old lady who never hurt a fly, but couldn't stare down the finance manager and demand a better price?


It's honestly the same thing--and more importantly, it's how the world works. Do you think the NRA gets the clout that they have in Washington by virtue of their stance on the Constitution, or by virtue of the fact that they represent large swaths of voters in Texas and other key states?


There are other ways that soft power is gained. If you command a unit of fifty qualified riflemen, who've trained with the local Sheriff's office, who do you suppose will be deputized by the Sheriff if that might be needed? You and your guys, of course. That's a form of soft power.


Some of your unit steps up when a terrible storm hits, and the sandbags they placed saves a business from flooding; do you think that business owner will want to help you out the next time you need insurance, or whatever service he offers? Of course he will. That's a form of soft power.


You can't get these things if you operate in the shadows, though. If your community is afraid of you, or thinks of you as the "anti-government whack-jobs" or "fat redneck Rambo wanna-bes", you simply don't have the opportunities to gain soft power. If you don't have the numbers, the respect of your community, or the ear of important people within it, you are wasting many opportunities to better your organization and the community as a whole--and gain/utilize the soft power that should absolutely be available to you.


One last thing about soft power...


...it's the thing all the most powerful people in the world have, and have throughout history. We all hear about King this or Queen that...but not about the person behind the scenes who has the King's ear and pulls all the strings. In modern times we know of people who have boatloads of soft power--one of them is a sworn enemy of everything we hold dear, because he uses his soft power to tear down and destroy our American way of life (can you guess who I'm talking about?)--but they aren't Presidents or Senators. One indication of an abundance of soft power is when the word "Foundation" is in the name of the organization. Can you think of any?


You see my point. The people who know where all the bodies are buried--those are the ones to fear, though they may not have the "hard power". That's what I mean about soft power being more powerful than hard power sometimes.


If you'd like to learn more about power, I'd suggest reading Robert Greene's "The 48 Laws of Power". And if you'd like to gain more soft power, I'd suggest getting out of the 1980s and into your community, where it's there for the taking...but not if you insist on running around in the woods with the same five guys week in and week out.


Tommorrow--when is a Commander not a Commander?

Edited by ROFCB Commander

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Also you loose that soft power when you get pushy overconfident or just act in ways that cause mistrust or resentment. Even if you've had it for years. 


Some one must lead, when others will only follow! 🇺🇸 



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