Great leaders have mastered the art of getting things done through others. Even more impressive, their people do things required of them because they want to. This is a foreign concept to the many leaders and managers that seem to only get things done by doing it themselves or by brute force. Great leaders are able to achieve amazing things while the masses find themselves awake at night.
A key difference between great leaders and everyone else is found in understanding the distinction between “power” and “authority” and how to utilize them effectively. Unfortunately, these two words are typically used interchangeably. Understanding the difference between the two concepts can result in very large returns for you personally and financially. Before I begin, I have two questions:
Would you rather have “authority” or “power”? Why?
Authority derives from organizational title or position the right to enforce the rules, exact obedience, and command, determine, or judge. On the other hand, power may be defined as the ability or capacity to perform or act effectively in ways that influence the behavior of others. This is a personal talent that can be developed. It has little or nothing to do with title, rank, or authority. We can see this in our everyday world. How often do you see people in the same organization with the same position, title, or rank, yet one possesses far more influence in the company than the other? I have even seen those with far lower rank exact much more influence than their superiors.
Authority is necessary and serves a very important function in the operation of any organization, and it can be an efficient tool of management when used judiciously. However, I have seen many powerful leaders and managers allow authority to go to their heads. They get themselves so caught up in their own self-importance and expeditious attitudes that it destroys their power and ultimately company value. In other cases I see people trying to get promotions and accepting new positions to obtain authority when it is power they are really craving. While the ideal situation is to achieve both, every employee should start out each day asking “what can I do to increase power (influence) today.” The result will eventually lead to more power, job satisfaction, results, authority, personal growth, and profits.
How Do You Increase Power?
Power is earned, not given. It begins with building trust. A person that is not trusted unconditionally by others will never have true power over them. There are a lot of factors that go into building trust. However, my own coach actually shared with me a very powerful secret to earning more power that I would like to share with you. It is best illustrated through an exercise.
On a piece of paper draw a 3 inch line, and label this line “responsibility.” On the left side, write “least,” and on the right side, write “most.” Think about an organization where you have worked. Now in that organization I would like you to think of the person that took the most responsibility and write his/her name next to “most.” From that same organization, I would like you to think of the person who took the least amount of responsibility. Underneath the first line, I would like you to draw a second line and label it “power.” On the left side of that line, write “victim,” and on the right, write “master.” Thinking back to the same organization, if you are like most of my clients, you would put the person who took the least amount of responsibility next to “victim” and the person who took the most responsibility next to “master.”
Therefore, the secret to earning more power is taking more responsibility. If you find yourself feeling or acting liking a victim, ask yourself, how can I take more responsibility? In the end, you will find that you and others with more power find ways to take ownership when things go wrong and set things on course. Pointing fingers and placing blame on others, even when justified, does not earn you any power.
How do I know if I have Power?
Look at behavior and see how you answer the following questions:
- Are my people regularly performing at exceptional levels?
- Do I get what I need from others when I need them?
- Are people on time for meetings with me?
- Do people regularly cancel meetings with me?
- How happy do my people seem to be when they are in my office?
- How frequently do my people want to be in my office?
- Do I have regular turnover in my departments?
- What is the absentee rate in my department?
- Do people in other departments regularly seek out transferring to mine?
- Do people that do not report to me regularly seek out my input? Would they do this if they did not have to?
- Am I invited to meetings that do not directly involve my department?
- Do others regularly invite me to lunch at all levels in the organization?
- When I invite others in the organization to lunch who are at or above my level, are they regularly too busy?
The decision is up to you! Master the art of earning power or using authority sparingly, and the results will speak for themselves.
Review our website to understand how an executive coach or business coach can help you increase the success of your career and business, or contact Howard Shore at (305) 722-7213 or [email protected].
Reference and excerpts taken with permission from Leadership published by Resource Associates Corporation, Mohnton, PA.