No one in their right mind can possibly identify all the ways power can be misused and abused. However, if I can illustrate enough possibilities, you may be alert enough to spot it yourself when it occurs, in yourself and others.

In the Church, we call misuse and abuse of power "unrighteous dominion".

Unrighteous dominion

In D&C 121:39 it says:
We have learned by sad experience that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion.
Since it is this common, we should all be worried about it.

Getting authority means we have been given some official responsibility. In other words, this generally means we've received a calling.

It is just as possible and probable that we will exercise unrighteous dominion even if we aren't in what is generally acknowledged as a leadership calling.

We are at risk regardless of what official responsibility we have.

Anything other than "persuasion and love unfeigned" is an abuse of power, or in other words, unrighteous dominion.

In the order of heaven, the husband has the authority to preside in the home. That issue is not subject to review. How he presides, however, is subject to review, and to correction, if necessary.
When it comes to power and authority, everything hinges on how it is used, and not just for men in the Church or at home.

He continues:
In our own experience, each of us may have seen church workers who dictate rather than listen to others, who care more about appearances than experiences, who see callings as status rather than stewardship. It is easy to forget that we are called “not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace” (2 Tim. 1:9), and that the Lord often uses the weak things of the earth to accomplish his purposes.
I prefer to stick to scripture and commentary by Church leaders, especially at General Conference. However, the following comes from Avoiding Unrighteous Dominion By James S. and Jeanne N. Jardine in the Ensign:
People exercise power unrighteously by using familiar weapons: criticism, discourtesy, discrimination, blaming others for their own failures, taking credit for others’ ideas.
A particularly unpleasant form of unrighteous dominion is the expression of feelings of superiority that may arise out of an attitude that one is better than another because of education, material success, or Church position.
Examples of unrighteous dominion:
  • Dictating to people. This includes pulling rank and ordering people to do something because you think you have the authority and power to do so. This is essentially the opposite of persuasion.
  • Using anger to control people. If you have power and authority you can scare people. They will be concerned that you will use it to hurt them somehow. Scaring people can cause things to get done, but it is destructive in both the short and long term.
  • Emphasizing hierarchies instead of partnerships. This is most evident in marriages where one partner is somehow controlling the other even though an equal partnership should exist. In church service we all should be partners.
  • Hoarding power. This is reserving power, authority or the perks of one's position entirely to oneself.
  • Not delegating or not using the council system in the Church to make decisions or take action.
  • Refusing to elevate a person the leader doesn't like, is competing against or somehow views as a threat.
  • Excluding whole families from full church fellowship for whatever reason.
  • Controlling who can be called as a counselor or worker in various organizations where one has oversight but where the responsibility rests with another to make.
  • Designating ministering assignments oneself when it is the direct responsibility of those serving under you.
  • Micro-managing those beneath you in some way. Everyone should be allowed to function under the authority and power their calling bestows on them.
  • Not following jurisdictional lines. You as a leader should respect who is technically empowered with the authority and power to make a decision or do a task. You should not usurp their authority and do something yourself or cause it to be done when it falls under someone else's calling.
Unrighteous dominion is ineffective and inefficient

M. Russell Ballard has taught:
Unfortunately, some wards in the Church are hitting on only a few cylinders, including some that are trying to make do with just one. The one-cylinder ward is the ward where the bishop handles all of the problems, makes all of the decisions, and follows through on all of the assignments. Then, like an overworked cylinder in a car engine, he is soon burned out.
He comments further: 
In my experience, lives are blessed when leaders make wise use of committees and councils. They move the work of the Lord forward much faster and farther, like a fine automobile operating at peak efficiency. Committee and council members are unified. Together they experience a much more pleasant trip along the highway of Church service.
Ideas for righteous leadership

In the H. Burke Peterson talk referenced above, he provides a list of how to righteously exercise power and authority.

I've gender-neutralized it and modified it more into a list partly for clarity and so that women will take his counsel seriously as well.
  • By persuasion
    • uses no demeaning words or behavior
    • does not manipulate others, appeals to the best in everyone
    • respects the dignity and agency of all humankind—men, women, boys, and girls
  • By long-suffering
    • waits when necessary
    • listens to the humblest or youngest person
    • is tolerant of the ideas of others
    • avoids quick judgments and anger
  • By gentleness
    • uses a smile more often than a frown
    • is not gruff or loud or frightening
    • does not discipline in anger
  • By meekness
    • is not puffed up
    • does not dominate conversations
    • is willing to conform their will to the will of God
  • By love unfeigned
    • does not pretend.
    • is sincere, giving honest love without reservation even when others are unlovable
  • By kindness
    • practices courtesy and thoughtfulness in little things as well as in the more obvious things
  • By pure knowledge
    • avoids half-truths
    • seeks to be empathetic
  • Without hypocrisy.
    • practices the principles he teaches
    • knows he or she is not always right
    • is willing to admit their mistakes and say “I’m sorry.”
  • Without guile.
    • is not sly or crafty in their dealings with others
    • is honest and authentic when describing their feelings.
In sum ...

As D&C 121:39 makes clear, the sin of unrighteous dominion is not something that only a few of us suffer from. It is a near-universal sin.

With this in mind, we should all take this subject extremely seriously!

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