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quickpoint: Responsibility Develops Power

Responsibility Develops Power

IN AN ESSAY published in 1908, Orison Swett Marden encourages leaders to give responsibility to their employees—to develop leaders at all levels. Give power so that others may grow.

Below are thoughts adapted from that essay that are as relevant today as they were when they were written.

Every man is a stranger to his greatest strength, his mightiest power, until the test of great responsibility, a critical emergency, or a supreme crisis in his life, calls it out.

Some of the greatest men in history never discovered themselves until they lost everything but their pluck and grit, or until some great misfortune overtook them and they were driven to desperation to invent a way out of their dilemma.

Responsibility is a great power developer. Where there is responsibility there is growth. People who are never thrust into responsible positions never develop their real strength. This is one reason why it is so rare to find very strong men and women among those who have spent their lives in subordinate positions, in the service of others. They go through life comparative weaklings because their powers have never been tested or developed by having great responsibility thrust upon them. Their thinking has been done for them. They have simply carried out somebody else’s program. They have never learned to stand alone, to think for themselves, to act independently. Because they have never been obliged to plan for themselves, they have never developed the best things in them—their power of originality, inventiveness, initiative, independence, self-reliance, their possible grit and stamina. The power to create, to make combinations, to meet emergencies, the power which comes from continuous marshaling of one’s forces to meet difficult situations, to adjust means to ends, that stamina or power which makes one equal to the great crisis in the life of a nation, is only developed by years of practical training under great responsibility.

Tens of thousands of young men and young women today are only waiting for a chance to show themselves, waiting for an opportunity to try their wings, and when the opportunity, the responsibility, comes, they will be equal to anything that confronts them.

Every man or woman who goes through the world with great continents of undiscovered possibilities locked up within him commits a sin against himself and that which borders on a crime against civilization.

Let your work express yourself. Don’t be a mere cog in a machine. Do your own thinking and carry out your own ideas, as far as possible, even though working for another.

Adapted from He Can Who Thinks He Can by Orison Swett Marden (1908)

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