Not all those with POWER are leaders…but all LEADERS have power.

“People who are truly strong lift others up. People who are truly powerful bring others together.” – Michelle Obama

What comes to mind when you think of the term “power”?

Does it evoke positive or negative feelings?

Did you know that your perception of power can either create a positive, healthy environment or one that is abusive, competitive and unhealthy?

Missed last week’s Facebook Live? Learn how you can enhance your leadership and confidence simply by embracing and understanding the dynamics of power.

Where does power come from? What gives a person influence over another?

I have worked with and managed teams for over twenty years.  One topic that continues to fascinate me is power. The power dynamics that exist between team members and how a leader’s perception of power greatly impacts this dynamic.  I have learned that to be an effective leader, one had to become comfortable with the levels of power that comes with each leadership position and most importantly, understand the dynamics related to power.

Do you have power? Are you comfortable with power?

I believe my ability to create healthy, cohesive teams was directly related to my ability to have each team member take full responsibility for the power their position gave them and the power dynamics created as a result.

Do you have positional power?

Positional Power is external and often granted through position, title or rank. This type of power gives a perception of effective leadership, however, one’s ability to get people to act is often due to a perceived potential of loss or reward. Positional power or using the power you have over an individual, most often allows you to manage rather than lead.

Leaders who rely heavily on positional power tend to lead by using threats, force and coercion.  Compliance to a request is often due to fear. Moral in these environments is often low.

Have you chosen to under-use your power or be passive?

I have also worked with leaders who had a strong desire to be liked, fearing repercussions for any decision they might make. Although they wanted to lead, they did not like the responsibility that came with the position. These leaders were easily influenced and their beliefs and values seem to change from one event to another. Leaders in this category often used manipulation, coercion and presented themselves as powerless or the victim of circumstances. Team members did not respect these leaders and would rarely do what was requested.

Similarly, I have seen great leaders under-use their power to enable someone to recover from a situation or save face. Although they could easily point out a wrongdoing and use their positional power to punish or set an example, they instead might identify a problem and create a space or circumstances that enables a person to save face and recover from a situation.

This use of one’s power will enhance the level of trust and create an environment where individuals are willing to take risks as well as admit errors.

Are you aware of your internal power?

In my opinion, internal power is true power and the source of great leadership. Access to internal power comes from an understanding and a willingness to take responsibility for what one has influence over. This power is not dictated by events, circumstances or position. This power comes from within and is gained through confidence and the esteem one acquires from creating successful outcomes and overcoming challenges. Decisions are not made to seek approval or prove one’s worth. Decisions and the use of power are guided by clear principles and values rather than by events and emotions. This leaders commitment is to equitable treatment and a larger vision, philosophy or process. Leaders who move from a primary space of internal power know that a desire to control external circumstances does not determine their value or effectiveness of the leader. As a result, they will use positional power or under-use their power as a means to a very specific end. Leaders who are guided by internal power are respected for who they are as well as what they are able to achieve. For these leaders, the process is equally as important as the outcome.

The power we cultivate within us is the one form of power no one can take away.

As important as it is to understand the different types of power positions, it is even more important not to limit yourself to one of these leadership styles. Knowing when to draw qualities from each position will produce the most successful and productive teams; however, focusing on developing your internal power is what can transform a great leader into an outstanding one. From great internal power comes an unparalleled sense of self-assurance, because if all else fails, the power we have inside us is what we are left with. Above all, the power we cultivate within us is the one form of power no one can take away.

As you lead, you will find each power position valuable; The question is when and how to use it?  

Let us know how you might use the insight in this article to improve your leadership.