Absolute Power Corrupts Absolutely


Proverb: Absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Power. Control. Influence. On some level, most people crave these things. To have them bestowed upon you demonstrates your talent, intelligence, and ambition, not to mention the trust that others have in you.

But how do you use your power?

In the context of a collegiate a cappella group, a leader may, at first, feel unsure of himself in a position of power. He questions whether he deserves the position and feels the weight of the group’s long-term success on his shoulders.

For some leaders, confidence comes quickly; for others, it develops over time. But as a student leader accumulates power and begins to wield it, interesting things to happen.

In some cases, a particularly hard working, talented, or organized leader can vault a group to a new level of success by getting the group’s name out, demanding perfection in rehearsals, or steering the group in an innovative direction.

But more often than not, when one group member controls aspect of a group, it leads to problems. One voice cannot represent all of the thoughts, opinions, and insights of four people—much less twelve or twenty. With just one person at the helm, the group will find the range of its repertoire limited and unrepresentative of what the full group wants to sing. The same goes for elements of visual performance like choreography and stage attire. And then there’s the use of social networking, and creative decisions around recording, all of which benefit from group input and may get short shrift if one person manages all of these processes and emphasizes some over others.

The proverb at hand applies to a cappella groups because one person with too much control is liable to lead to a variety of problems for a group. While the leader herself may not be absolutely corrupted as the adage says, she may unwittingly wander down a path of putting herself ahead of the group and hurt not only herself, but the entire group in the process.

So appoint a music director, a president, a business manager, and a PR representative. There’s certainly value in having point people and leaders. But spread out the power to maintain a balanced, sensible approach to your group’s leadership.