24 October 2016
People have become more knowledgeable, healthier and more mobile over the last two or three decades. Photo: CNSA
People have become more knowledgeable, healthier and more mobile over the last two or three decades. Photo: CNSA

Decay of hard power and rise of soft power

I’ve met Helen from Maggie’s Cancer Caring Center, which offers various forms of free support for people with cancer.

Seven years ago, it opened a temporary facility at an interim site and then relocated to a permanent center designed by Frank Gehry.

The center provides a calming atmosphere for those who have been diagnosed with cancer.

Visitors can visit anytime during its opening hours without reservation, and they can find a peaceful place to stay alone or talk with someone.

“You want comfort when you are not in a good mood. And it’s a torture if you still need to make an appointment and wait,” Helen said.

Last year, the center recorded 18,000 visitors. An increasing number of people experienced remission, thanks to improving technology.

However, it’s quite a painful and stressful process. And if a place can offer more support for those who go through different stages of the healing process, a patient may have a better chance to survive.

Maggie’s always tries its best to soothe patients so they may have longer days than those outside the center and live a quality life, Helen said.

We should always think positive and accept the fact that everyone has limits in their capability and power. Don’t control too much. Let us enjoy life.

Nobody has control over life and death no matter how powerful they are. And our generation has very limited control over many things.

As employees, they have to put up with the demands of their boss and probably even submit to humiliation from their clients.  Even managers and bosses may need to compromise.

The world is changing. No one must think they high on top and the whole world is beneath their feet. Bullying does not work in today’s world, and it could only hinder you from achieving your goals.

Venezuela’s former trade and industry minister Moises Naim has written a bestseller, The End of Power, which explains the decay of power.

Naim noted that leaders of all types face bigger, more complex problems with weaker hands than in the past. That is related to the rapid spread of the internet and social media.

Also, the human race has become more knowledgeable, healthier and more mobile over the last two or three decades. That has led to the rise of so-called Micro Power, which poses a challenge to leaders.

For example, nearly 30 percent of Hong Kong people have had post-secondary education, compared with less than 10 percent in the ’70s or ’80s.

In fact, the percentage of illiterate population has been falling year after year, and the global literacy rate has reached 85 percent.

In underdeveloped regions like Africa, the literacy rate has also risen to 63 percent last year from 58 percent 16 years ago. That is mainly due to information technology.

With the rise in literacy and knowledge, society will benefit as people become more aware of their rights and privileges.

Political leaders and business executives will need to make more effort to convince, comfort and manage an increasingly healthy and educated audience.

Meanwhile, the declining costs of travel and logistics have shortened geographical distance, making it easier for people to study, travel or even move overseas.

People have widened their horizons, and they won’t take anything for granted anymore.

Nowadays, the most important skill is affinity. One has to exercise power in a soft manner and use softness to conquer strength.

We’ve already seen many national leaders embracing social media and interacting with their citizens.

The US president has opened a Facebook page, and Hong Kong police also set up their own Facebook page to win support from the young generation.

Henceforth, political and business leaders need to rely on their eloquence, charisma as well as an adaptable communication team to communicate, explain and persuade.

The trend is set to continue in the foreseeable future.

In today’s world, you have to learn how to behave humbly and establish rapport with people if you want to be a successful leader.

You have to win trust and recognition from this massive Micro Power, and use subtle but effective communication techniques to realize your plans.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Nov. 17.

Translation by Julie Zhu

[Chinese version中文版]

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