What is “leadership?”

Simply put, leadership is… influence.  The ability for person A to influence person B to do something.

So how do you influence others?   Influence comes from the application of power and can be used for “good or evil” as we’ve all seen.  There are several kinds of power that you’ve probably experienced.

Types of power leaders can use to influence others:

  • Positional power.  Also called “legitimate power” or “structural power,” it is the power of an individual because of their position/title and duties.  It’s when you do [a task] because your boss asked you to.  The military typifies this approach.
  • Coercive power.  It includes the ability to demote or to withhold rewards if the desired actions aren’t taken.  While highly motivating in the short-term, the downsides include increased stress, fear, uncertainty, etc on the part of the recipient.  Don’t recommend it.
  • Expert power.  Power someone has because of very specific skills or expertise.  This type of power is usually highly specific and limited to the particular area in which the expert is trained and qualified.  You all know someone like this – they are a technical genius in their field and when they speak, everyone listens.
  • Reward power.  Reward power depends on the power wielder’s ability to confer valued rewards (benefits, time off, desired gifts, promotions, increases in pay, responsibility, etc). This power is obvious but also ineffective if abused.
  • Referent power.  Ability of individuals to attract others and build loyalty, based on the relationship and interpersonal skills of the power holder.  This loyalty creates the opportunity for interpersonal influence.  Hopefully you’ve had the good fortune to work with someone like this – a boss you were proud to follow, a colleague that you could get you to run through a brick wall for them, or a team member that always inspired you to go the extra mile.

…So What?  (What should I take away from reading this?)

For Leaders:
◊ Take personal inventory. Which forms of power do you rely on most heavily? Is that effective in the short term? What about in the long term?
◊ What changes do you need to make in your personal approach to the use of power?

For Individual Contributors:  You’re leading every day… in fact you can be more powerful than people with “leadership titles!”
◊ Think about your spheres of influence… who do you influence on a regular basis?
◊  How are you consciously using your powers… for good & not evil?

For All Human Beings: 
These concepts apply in both business & in life.  Think about how you could change your use of these forms of power to enrich the personal relationships that mean the most to you.

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