Friday, 24 July 2009

Show Strength Without Power

Power; do you aspire to power or the idea of power? It’s true that the higher up in an organisation you rise the more power you generally have. Power in business is often associated with:

  • Decision making
  • Budgets and finances
  • Cost cutting or increased investment
  • Personnel decisions on salaries, bonuses, hiring and firing
  • Determining the overall direction and future of a business or division and the people who work in them
All this power comes with the position you hold. It’s not about YOU.

Power has two sides - good and bad. Bad when used for self-fulfilling purposes and the repression of others. Take for example the manager who has to make every decision, review all correspondence, or have the final word on how things are done. And what about those to whom the proverbial brown stuff just will not stick? This is fear based behaviour. Fear of a loss of control, being dispensable, fear of ones performance being scrutinised. Fear and the subsequent behaviours it generates can result in power being misused in an attempt to regain control.

The good side occurs when a leader shows strength and has sufficient self confidence not to control everything or everyone. This type of leader will use their hierarchical position to enable new or altered behaviours in peers and subordinates. The line between enabling and controlling is a very skinny one indeed and as a leader any position of power is a privilege, one that may exist one day and be gone the next.

The leader who is clear about their role and the role of others will achieve more by exhibiting behaviours of strength without the need for a power-trip. Understanding the true meaning of empowerment and openly inviting others to empower themselves doesn’t come by telling people what to do or controlling when and how they do it. This leader doesn’t need power to achieve great things and even though they know they have it they’ll use it only when necessary. Generally speaking power is low on the list of regularly wielded skills, tools and techniques for this leader. In fact the less frequently power is used the more impact it can have as it takes courage and strength to set boundaries, make tough decisions, and skill to know when and how to say No as well as Yes without relying on power.
Leaders who use strength without power will:

  • Inspire and motivate others
  • Be respected by their peers
  • Get things done with ease
  • Have people queuing up to work for or with them
  • Draw others to them through their positive energy
Are these skills that can be learned? We believe so. We also know that learning them is not enough. These skills have to be learned, practised and applied with a commitment for different behaviours and outcomes. Without commitment their application is un-believable for others. Once exposed the leaders’ fall-back position is what they know, their comfort zone - power. It takes strength to persevere with a new behaviour.

What type of leader are you? Take a look through the following questions and write down your immediate response to each one. When you’ve finished go back through your notes with an objective critical eye. Decide if your responses suggest you’re operating from a position of power or strength. Ask your colleagues what they think. Better still, ask us! We’re here to help.

Question 1:
Do you have a backlog of work because each member of your team seems to be in constant need of assistance or does everyone get on with their jobs only to request assistance or guidance when necessary?

Question 2:
Are the outcomes you and your team achieve the ones you expect or are they a bit like pulling teeth - difficult and painful?

Question 3:
In a conflict situation are you more likely to turn defensive in an attempt to deflect attention or acknowledge areas that are lacking and commit to collaborate so as to close the gap?

Our Assessment Wheel for Effective Change ( is a tool designed to evaluate 8 important areas of business operation. The responses to each question results in a spider web diagram graphically showing the level of maturity within a leader, team, process or organisation. However once the level has been evaluated it takes effort and commitment to improve it. Take your response to the above questions by doing the assessment, making the commitment and then a plan of action to change.

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