Paul Hawken – What is Power?

21 08 2010

When looking into the topic of sustainability and economics it will not take you long before you come across Paul Hawken. As an author he has written “texts” that have been widely read and changed the business approach of many. ‘The Natural Capitalism’ and ‘The Ecology of Commerce’ are great resources for any director or business manager. The story of Interface’s Founder and Chairman Ray Anderson, is one to show the impact that a book can have on business.

This article is not about the books, rather an exploration of some thoughts that Paul has on approaching life.  It was composed by Dr Merrin Pearse following a leadership event with Paul in San Francisco.

What is power from a personal perspective?
It is not the use of violence.  It is not being driven by the need: to change people; to be a hero; or overcome disappointment.  It is not being in a state of disappointment as that means you have become attached to an outcome that you may not have any control over.  You are not going to be in a powerful state if you are living in fear of losing say money or security.  The strongest power comes from being who you are.

Do not have the burden of needing to have an effect.  The effect will happen if you are having a great fine time.  Do the things that you do well and team up with others who do other things well.

We are in a period of end.  Like cycles in nature it is great that things end and therefore allow change.  There is nothing wrong with darkness – it happens each day.  When you look in the shadows you can often find gold there.  Those areas of a business which are the darkest can provide the greatest opportunity for powerful change.  Go and explore there.

If you are looking for inspiring action there are many places to be energised.  A couple of examples are:
– Ashoka (
– Change Makers (
– Skoll Awards (

If you are looking for ways to build collective team spirit in the area of sustainability then look at the initiatives by Social Profit organisation called the Pachamama Alliance which Paul believes is “the most important NGO on the planet at this time”.  Their “Awakening the Dreamer – Changing the Dream” symposium is supported by the Dalai Lama, Van Jones, Desmond Tutu, Julia Butterfly Hill and many others.

We live in a time where it is powerful to know that we are not mistaken though rather ignorant to the sustainability and social justice issues that business is part of creating and maintaining.  Mistaken implies something that was not intended whereas ignorance implies we have so much still to know.

To learn more about Paul Hawken visit