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The Power of Giving Away Power summary

Matthew Barzun

How the Best Leaders Learn to Let Go

4.3 (241 ratings)
19 mins

Brief summary

The Power of Giving Away Power by Matthew Barzun is a thought-provoking book that challenges leaders to empower their teams and celebrate individual contributions. It offers insights and practical examples that can benefit any organization.

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    The Power of Giving Away Power
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    The US was built as a constellation, but has come to embrace the pyramid structure of power.

    When the founding fathers signed the Declaration of Independence on July 4th, 1776, they felt like something was missing. 

    They’d just cemented the independence of their new nation. But now they needed a good logo for it. Of course, they didn’t call it a logo. They talked about a “Great Seal.” It would be a visual symbol of everything the US stood for: a constellation of 13 colonies with different perspectives, coming together as one nation.

    Lesser-known politician Charles Thomson took on the task of overseeing its design. First, he had his colleagues Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and John Adams come up with some ideas. But Thomson wasn’t satisfied with the results. He formed several committees and brought in a string of consultants to rework the ideas. Each new team ended up adding something to the design, until finally everyone agreed.

    Here’s the key message: The US was built as a constellation, but has come to embrace the pyramid structure of power.

    Six years later, on June 20th, 1782, the US Congress finally approved the design of the Great Seal of the United States. It prominently featured a bald eagle, a collection of 13 stars representing the 13 colonies, and a motto: “E Pluribus Unum” – “Out of many, one.” 

    The design echoed how the US and the Seal itself were created: through a constellation of independent actors who brought in different ideas and united them under one goal. 

    This constellation mindset almost represents the original spirit of the US. When Frenchman Alexis de Tocqueville came to the US in the early nineteenth century, he was fascinated by the fact that “Americans of all ages, all conditions, all minds constantly unite.”

    But the Great Seal actually has two sides. The other side depicts a pyramid and a different motto: “Novus Ordo Seclorum” – the “new order of the ages.”

    This second side was designed alongside the first. But it wasn’t used until president Franklin D. Roosevelt rediscovered it in the 1930s. For FDR, the pyramid stood for a New America. It represented stability, authority, and the consolidation of power – even if it was a hierarchical kind of power. 

    FDR wanted to put the pyramid on the new one-dollar bill, right next to the constellation symbol. And he had a note for the design team: put the pyramid first. 

    This marked a significant change in the American mindset and in the next blink, we’ll see what that’s all about.

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    What is The Power of Giving Away Power about?

    The Power of Giving Away Power (2021) explains how leaders, organizations, and businesses can harness power by giving it away. By replacing traditional ideas of hierarchy with a mindset centered around constellations, we can create flexible networks that allow us to get big things done, better. 

    The Power of Giving Away Power Review

    The Power of Giving Away Power (2021) by Matthew Barzun is a thought-provoking book that explores how empowering others can lead to greater success and fulfillment. Here's why this book is worth reading:

    • It offers compelling insights and practical strategies for leaders to cultivate a culture of empowerment, ultimately boosting productivity and morale.
    • Supported by real-life examples and interviews with successful leaders, the book provides tangible evidence of the power of letting go and giving others a chance to shine.
    • With its engaging storytelling and relatable anecdotes, the book manages to make a complex topic like power dynamics accessible and interesting.

    Who should read The Power of Giving Away Power?

    • Leaders and future leaders tired of gridlocked organizational structures
    • Activists and organizers looking to amplify their efforts
    • Anyone who’s ever questioned our hierarchical idea of power

    About the Author

    Matthew Barzun is a businessman, political fundraiser, and former US diplomat to Sweden and Great Britain. He began his career working as a business executive for media company CNET Networks. During Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential run, he pioneered the small-dollar fundraising events that helped win the election. 

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    The Power of Giving Away Power FAQs 

    What is the main message of The Power of Giving Away Power?

    The main message of The Power of Giving Away Power is the transformative potential of sharing and decentralizing power.

    How long does it take to read The Power of Giving Away Power?

    Reading The Power of Giving Away Power varies in duration, but you can get the key insights in just 15 minutes with the Blinkist summary.

    Is The Power of Giving Away Power a good book? Is it worth reading?

    The Power of Giving Away Power is a thought-provoking book worth reading. It offers valuable perspectives on leadership and the benefits of empowering others.

    Who is the author of The Power of Giving Away Power?

    Matthew Barzun is the author of The Power of Giving Away Power.

    What to read after The Power of Giving Away Power?

    If you're wondering what to read next after The Power of Giving Away Power, here are some recommendations we suggest:
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