Dear Leaders

A weekly letter with actionable leadership ideas.

Leadership and Power

By Hamza Shayk

Dear Leaders,

In your current position, it’s how you manage the delicate dynamic of leadership and power that determines your overall effectiveness, especially when dealing with subordinates.

By definition, leaders always have a measure of power. But many power holders have no trace of leadership. Leadership humanizes you, while exercise of power, although often necessary, if not done correctly, can paint you in the negative picture and deem you outright ineffective.

The air traffic controller, the tax assessor, the cop on the beat, the loan officer in a bank, the headwaiter, each has power in some degree, but not necessarily the qualities of leadership.

Some power holders – for example, very generous contributors to political campaigns – may be able to run leaders around by the nose, yet themselves have no capacity for leadership.

Although leadership and the exercise of power are distinguishable activities, they overlap and interweave in important ways. Consider a CEO who has the gift for inspiring and motivating people, who has vision, who lifts the spirit of employees with a resulting rise in productivity and quality of product, and a drop in turnover and absenteeism. That is leadership.

But evidence emerges that the company is falling behind in the technology race. One day with the stroke of a pen the CEO increases funds available to the research division. That is the exercise of power. The stroke of a pen could’ve been made by an executive with none of the qualities one associates with leadership.

Leaders differ markedly among themselves in how they use their power. Some employ it to create a climate of coercion and intimidation; others employ it simply as a useful supplement to their persuasive gifts, and foster a climate of cooperation and willing effort.

Refining the ability to make that clear distinction between leadership and power, and being mindful of when to exercise which, is one of the factors that separates the exceptional from the ordinary.

You can be an exceptional leader consistently; the choice, as always, is yours.

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