When Does Power Fit in Leadership?

power-poles-503935_640When you think of a leader, you often think of someone who wields some amount of power. But is power really the main quality associated with good leadership? It can be, but good leadership development isn’t about amassing as much power as you can. It’s more about being a partner with a team, not just the boss who controls everyone’s future.

Sharing Power

The key to using power in a leadership role is to spread it around, rather than keep all the control to yourself. Delegate, share responsibility, and let other team members have their own levels of power within the group. Not only does that take a lot of stress off your own shoulders, it creates a better balance of responsibility across the team.

Punish or Praise?

How you use your power will reflect what kind of leader you are. Just because you have the ability to possibly fire or demote an employee doesn’t mean that threatening their job is the best way to motivate them. Using your power as a means to punishment is the worst way to work with your team and to build better productivity.

On the other hand, use that same power to offer encouragement or other positive incentives instead. Promotions for success instead of firing for failure.

Gaining More Power

Eventually, if you take too much pleasure in having power over others, it can bias your decision – making as you start to crave more. Making choices and establishing business plans that are based on gaining additional personal power is a very poor strategy. Ambition is a fine trait as long as it doesn’t start to cloud your vision and become a goal of its own.

As a leader, you should not be concerned with the power you have over your team. This is not leadership and won’t lead to any positive outcomes. You should see your power as a tool to help your staff do their best, to accomplish project goals and to further the company’s success.

While abuse of power is an easy trap to fall into, you do need to be aware that you have to retain some level of power in order to maintain proper leadership over a group. It can be a tricky balancing act. If you spread responsibilities out too much, or are too lax in getting goals accomplished, your role as leader can be compromised.

Rather than focusing on power in leadership, think about some the other more admirable traits. Honesty, communication, flexibility, confidence and a positive attitude are all more important traits than simple power when it comes to effective leadership. Not particularly gifted with these traits? A little personal development, some motivational speakers and perhaps a workshop or two can really build up these characteristics when you need help.

To sum up, never confuse power with leadership. Though the two concepts overlap, they are not equals. Power is only one part of a larger and more complicated mix of traits that works best when all pulled together.

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