Power can be used for good or evil; even abused. Like Brook Aston, I believe “Power is the ability to do good things for others.” 

As a university administrator I led a department with a $30 million budget. My position was two levels below the president, but ultimately reported to bond holders. The position contained power and authority. Could you imagine sharing it with 18 to 22-year-old students?

That’s what I did and here’s why; their housing and dining rate was raised 2 to 3% every year to keep pace with inflation. They saw their rates go up but didn’t see an appreciable change in accommodations. Even if students opposed the proposal, the Board of Trustees never disapproved an inflationary increase.

Students were frustrated and angry which created an adversarial relationship. Rather than continuing to do the same thing and getting the same result, we did something different. We were fully transparent. Instead of using inflation as the guide, we gave student government a blank sheet of paper and a copy of our entire budget to review. They were asked to study it and then tell us what they wanted. Based on their preferences, the proposed increase was 7.5%.

The moral of this story is people support what they help to create. They saw the situation through our eyes, and we saw it through theirs and found common ground. By sharing power, we co-created a win-win solution.