Authority, Power and Experience

by Augusto Cuginotti

What is the connection between Authority, Power and Experience?

I’ve learned that authority is not related to “being an author”, but rather with growing, making it grown. And also that ‘to have power’ or ‘be powerful’ means being capable of performing a deed.

We can make our power to influence and action grow, our capacity to act on something, when we have authority. To be an authority means to grow our actions so they carry more power, they generate more possibilities.

To have authority and power does not mean to be pre-potent, to be someone who puts his own power ahead, before everything else. Our power and authority can be at service, it can be both great and humble.

Power comes from Authority

To have more capacity to and for something means to have grown in the direction of being capable. To have power is the result of making our capacity grow, of being an authority.

This wasn’t (and still isn’t) always the case. In past societies, authority could be declared by birth right or divine decision, for the ones belonging to one specific societal cast or having a specific role. This type of authority was many times considered unauthentic as it would not be a result of perceived capacity from others.

Looking to it in our current social system, authority is normally declared in a specific system in which we can see many domains and dimensions. We can be an authority of law but not an educational one, or a political authority but not an artistic one, etc.

Every human system and subsystem defines what it takes to be an authority and have power within the system. The capacities of whom has power are also very different, both in terms of distinct domains and in levels of expertise.

To look at distinct domains it is sufficient to imagine the developed capacities of a sumo wrestler compared with a buddhist monk, or a CEO and a ballerina.

On leves of expertise, we can vary from beginner to a master’s level in a given capacity. [1]

Levels of Expertise
MasterObserved and/or participated in practical historical changesDesires and it is capable of reinventing the practice facing the world’s changing context
VirtuousSuccessful output in past practices in a variety of different contextsMoves without deliberation in the world of practice, produce excellence in others
ExpertPast actions with a number of situations, and experience with its consequencesPerforms with excellence and starts to see the practice in its world context
CompetentReacted previously to symptoms and has initial practical experience in the domainCan complete satisfactory practices in clients and community
Advanced BeginnerUsed in the past rules that relate situational characteristics with concrete actionsStarts to recognise aspects of practical situations as symptoms of future possibilities
BeginnerUndertook previous practices on related domainsFollow rules, instructions and standard practices previously learnt

Capacity Over the Self

These capacities can be, like the examples above, functional, and are capacities that enable us to perform an activity with greater expertise.

Regardless of domain and level or authority in a functional capacity, we can always explore in us human beings our capacity over ourselves. It is in this capacity of self mastery that new possibilities emerge that were once hidden.

Personal mastery is not necessarily a result of a specific practice since every journey towards a functional capacity is a journey to knowledge and most likely to self knowledge as well.

Despite that, a conscious self knowledge practice allows us to observe ourselves while walking the path at the time of the journey itself.

The tipping point to greater levels of expertise are perhaps conditioned to a true journey of self knowledge as a way to allow a deep knowledge of something.

This is related to the fact that knowing is connected a great deal with the observers of the world that we have being. When we broaden our observer, we also judge with better discernment and with more authority.

Authority comes from Experience

Both functional and self authority is connected to experience. To become a master in a specific function requires many hours of experience in it [2], while becoming a master of oneself might be a lifelong task for everyone.

Lived experience becomes embodied capacity and is this is the form of authority that we experience as authentic in ourselves and we recognise in others.

Think about someone you admire… Admiration is the result of watching and recognising an embodied capacity in someone else, regardless of our desire to achieve that capacity level or not. We admire authority and mastery.

Authority is always declared, but has more power when it is recognised as authentic by the self and others.

How does our experience translates into authority? What have we done to become an authority in the things that matter to us? And to become an authority over ourselves?

  1. Flores, Fernando (1994) “Creando Organizaciones para el futuro”, Dolmen Chile. Bear similarity to something called Inspired by the Dreyfus model of skill acquisition.  ↩
  2. Some authors, like the pop Gladwell, says that 10000 hours of practice are needed for experience in a field. There are other opinions and theories written at Business Insider and at the BBC.  ↩