In Praise of Power
Saying, “I’m the boss,” indicates you’ve lost influence and resorted to intimidation.
Coercive power offends. But, power isn’t a dirty word, with it you get things done. Without power, nothing gets done. Power is the ability to change things.
Power and position often come together; higher position usually equals more power. Using power associated with position is the least desirable and most offensive use of power. Think of individuals who advance their own agenda at the expense of others.
It’s said that:
Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.
Power as influence is better than power associated with position. Influence doesn’t require position. Weak, disenfranchised people can have power.
Gain power – influence – by understanding others and advancing their goals.
- Power that corrupts is about getting.
- Power that influences is about giving.
- People in positions of power talk too much and listen too little.
- People with influence listen.
- Leaders with positional power want you to understand them.
- Leaders with influence understand you.
Influence is always given never taken.
Managers using positional power push down, limit, pressure, and coerce. They’ve lost influence so they resort to position.
Influencers lift, expand, inspire, and set free. Influencers invigorate. Vitality characterizes organizations led by influencers.
Get things done:
If influencers advance the goals of others, how do they get things done? They align goals, passions, values, vision, and mission.
Tell me what makes you tick and I can influence you.
Influence only works when alignment exists. You won’t influence everyone. Create teams who align with your passions and you create opportunities for influence as long as you focus on their goals. Their goals become shared goals.
What do leaders who rely on positional power do?
How can leaders gain influence without resorting to positional power?
Leaders who rely on position, rather than their inadequate ability to influence others, by promises of some of the power they feel they possess, such as access to promotions or raises. They must buy and bargain away their position. The problem with this thin veneer of respect is that it vanishes quickly the first time they are not able to keep their promise, or conveniently forget.
Leaders who move by influence doing by knowing what really matters to people and aligning with them for outcomes that are beneficial to all; creating a win-win situation. They gain their true power by demonstrating their willingness to serve others. They work to gain respect, and it is this respect that propels them forward. And, as they move forward, they invite others to join them on the journey, as a colleague.
The best influencers are role models first. They listen as others speak. They validate the efforts of others. They are the people we think of when we are working on a new challenge. When we are facing fear we think, “How would so-and-so handle this?”
They don’t even need titles. Their consistent positive actions are embedded in our conscious and sub-conscious minds. We watch them and learn.
Power that comes from position is generally directed. It directly or indirectly expect others to do in desired direction. I agree with you that power that comes from personality influence. I believe that power of influence is much more lasting than power of position. Another dimension of power form personality is that, it deserves respect of others. The same is not true in the case power coming from position. Generally power emanating from position commands and expect respect. It connect with people as long as people desire is connected with the person in power. However, when people influence, it builds relationship and connect with people. The most important element in power from position and power from person is the ” Fear”. Fear comes from position.
But there are other category of power. When people do not use power in influencing others, they are able to build good relationship. But it requires a great amount to humility and creation of trust. It takes longer time to build it but moments to lose it.
So, I strongly believe that leaders make relationship using their exemplary action, decisions and values.
For the advanced course on this topic read the book “Power: Why Some People Have It and Others Don’t” by Stanford Graduate School of Business professor Jeff Pfeffer.
I think you are right on with this blog.
Along with being a good role model, humility is also a much needed component of being an influential leader. People do not like to be belittled and made a fool out of. A little bit of humility will go a long way with the people you serve (notice I didn’t say “who serve you”). “Real Leaders Don’t Boss: Inspire, Motivate, and Earn Respect from Employees and Watch Your Organization Soar” by Ritch K. Eich, Ph.D. is a nice resource that can be included as part of staff development discussions and training.
I have experienced individuals in a first-line level of positional power, who borrowed positional power from higher-ups (I’m assuming unbeknownst to the higher-up). I see this as a major red-flag. While there are always multiple sides to every story, it leads me to a potential conclusion that the person is insecure about their own positional power, therefore choosing to borrow positional power from others. Unfortunately, this compounds the perception that this person is unable to influence. Why would people try to lead through positional power? Is it because it’s the easy way? Does it look like the path of least resistance? Is it promoted by the company’s culture?
A true leader is only a leader if someone actually wants to follow them. I agree with you, people don’t follow a position they follow influential people – people they can belive in and trust. Thank you for continuing to share your insight. It’s always thought-provoking and inspiring.
Myopic leaders (using that second word loosely) who use positional power try to hold tightly onto the status quo, because, after all, that’s what got them this far, so in the long run, they choke the life out of the organization.
As far as gaining influence sans waving your positional banner, your 4, 5, & 6 nailed it. Mr Covey also nailed it, with ‘seek first to understand, and then to be understood.’ If you can identify WIIFT (what’s in it for them), you may point out alignments of values, of the organization, and of those that you share. Via the insecurities of life, in a moment, we versus them mindsets can entrench, so establishing more of what we have in common than disparities is essential in extending influence.
An engine produces power but uncoupled to other systems it serves no purpose, does no work and wastes energy and fuel. It becomes a noisey anchor.
You don’t to tell people you’re in charge. They’ll realize when you TAKE charge. And by taking charge, I mean to get your hands dirty and help as much as you can to get tasks finished as quickly and excellently-executed as possible.
A good leader should inspires his co-workers and colleges. A good leader should become a role model. He/she gains the credit and respect by constantly improving our abilities as well raising and empowering our motivation. A good leader knows the meaning of self management.
A leader should consider himself as a teacher !
Dan, I’ve found that a leader must be trusted and earn the respect of those that they lead in order for them to be able to lead effectively. It is so important for a leader to have bone deep integrity.
If you as the subordinate feel that the person who is leading you is just out for him/her self, you will always look at that leader with great suspicion.
Power is a five letter word and not a four letter word. There’s nothing wrong with power applied wisely. As long as you not abuse the power bestowed on you or cannot longer differ between your function and your personality, your probably doing fine.
Very good points here. In the work I do, I treat power as a slightly more involved concept.
If you take power as being the capacity to influence (usual definition from the likes of Pfeffer et al), position is just one way capacity can be built, and can be used with integrity as well as abused.
Other ways of building the capacity, as you identify, include relationships, personality, inspiration etc. But to this you can also add more, for instance, knowledge, qualifications, physical attractiveness/ugliness.
As you say, it really depends on what makes people tick, and that means different things for different people. So the important point for me is that you have to be aware enough of the types of capacities which will influence others, and then make appropriate use of these for effective and efficient influence.
Perhaps the main thing to bear in mind about corruption, is that any sort of power, if used excessively for personal gain, becomes a corruption/abuse, particular if the “influenced” are put at a distinct disadvantage or harmed.
Is the power that comes from wealth influence power or position power?
Can people have wealth without position?