How to Close the Power Gap in Meetings, with Marcel van de Hoef

In the second series of the Meeting Strategist podcast, I will explore a topic that most leaders dread talking about: power in meetings and conversations.

You might think: “What on earth does this topic have to do with me? I’m not Machiavelli, I’m a modern-day egalitarian leader who doesn’t use any power.”

Try putting yourself in the other person’s shoes. Power is in the eye of the beholder. Even if you don’t consciously use any power (e.g. the carrot and the stick), you might still be powerful in the eyes of other people.

Here are three more reasons why no leader can afford to ignore this topic:

  1. Power plays a huge role in our daily interactions, which in turn shape the culture of the organizations we work in.

  2. Power can be used as a force for good, but it also has the potential to ruin your interactions and seriously hamper your ability to lead.

  3. On a more positive note, power is a choice. There are strategies you can use to neutralize it in order to create a more productive and meaningful discussion with the people you lead.

In the coming episodes, I will talk with leaders from the investment and business world as well as communication experts, coaches and other extraordinary professionals about their experiences with power in meetings.

The central question: how can leaders use their power more productively, starting with their everyday interactions and meetings?

Neutralizing unproductive power differences

A few months ago, Myriam Hadnes invited me onto her podcast ‘Workshops Work’. We talked about how I became interested in power, how power differences impede our conversations and what leaders can do to close the gap. I’m pleased to share this conversation to kick off my new series about power in meetings.

All credit goes to Myriam Hadnes for initiating the interview, asking great questions and allowing me to share the recording on this show. If you want to learn more about Myriam’s podcast and her work as a workshop designer and facilitator, please scroll down to the links section at the bottom of this page.

If you have any suggestions or guests you want me to interview about this topic, please let me know via

This conversation was first released as part of Myriam Hadnes’ podcast ‘Workshops Work’. Scroll down to the bottom of this page to find links.

This conversation was first released as part of Myriam Hadnes’ podcast ‘Workshops Work’. Scroll down to the bottom of this page to find links.


Show Notes:

1:02 – How I would describe myself in a hashtag

2:42 – Reflecting on my teenage years and how I became interested in the concept of power

4:08 – Herd behavior and peer group pressure: my view on power in journalism

5:09 – How I met power theorist Mauk Mulder and what I learned from him

6:38 – Why journalists should focus on doing their own unique thing 

9:44 – “A workshop is a power-neutral way of communication”

11:50 – Defining unproductive power

13:18 – Power is in the eye of the beholder, and it’s present wherever people meet

15:12 – It’s not just hierarchy: introducing different power relationships

16:44 – How to recognize power dynamics during meetings

19:01 – What leaders can do to reduce unproductive power differences

20:19 – Why leaders should sometimes go first to create a safe space for people to speak up

23:49 – How to use vulnerability and humanity to break through the politics

25:48 – What powerful people can do to manage the empathy deficit 

27:43 – Using Dale Carnegie’s human relations principles to handle power more effectively

30:57 – The role of ego in power games 

32:37 – Putting a wall in between: reflecting on my ‘leadership style’ as an editor-in-chief about 15 years ago

34:59 – Brainstorming about my wife’s idea for an internal leadership podcast and how it could close (or widen) the power gap

39:54 – What distinguishes a good and a bad meeting 

42:04 – How to balance brainstorming and decision-making, so meetings finish on time and people still feel heard

45:47 – Using power to make sure meetings deliver on their purpose

49:28 – Most people are overconfident about their ability to listen 

51:08 – A quick summary of what we discussed


Links to people, books and resources mentioned in this episode:

- The website of Myriam’s company idayz, her personal profile on LinkedIn and Twitter and her ‘Workshops Work’ podcast on Apple Podcasts. Also, here are direct links to the episodes we talked about in our conversation: episode 7 with Jeremy Akers and episode 6 with Steph Kinsch.

- The website of the late social psychology professor Mauk Mulder, a good friend of mine who profoundly influenced my thinking about power. His website is in Dutch; go to Google Scholar for his papers and articles in English.

- Relevant academic research:

- Other books, articles and podcasts mentioned:

- Finally, here’s my blog post about Dale Carnegie’s ‘How to Win Friends & Influence People’ and my earlier podcast episode with Deep Listening-expert Oscar Trimboli