So you’re in charge, huh? You’ve got power, baby! You can use it make things happen. Before you let all that power go to your head, let’s take a closer look…
I once worked with a general manager of a large electronics firm (2000+ employees) who had 17 people reporting to him directly. He loved his power. One rather unusual practice he enforced was insisting that none of these people, except him, was allowed to read the entire strategic plan. In other words, Marketing didn’t really know the strategic initiatives of Manufacturing, which didn’t really know the goals of Finance, which didn’t have access to the plans for Human Resources, and so on. The GM believed that this was good for the organization – a source of creativity and innovation.
The actual result? Innumerable false starts, debilitating conflict, and confused and angry managers and line employees. But the General Manager got to feel powerful.
In a recent post, I listed Seven Simple Rules for Leaders. The fifth is, Empower others – give yours away.
Sounds a little oxymoronic, doesn’t it?
Where does your power come from? There are at least seven sources:
- Legitimate: that which is granted you by an organization in terms of your position. For instance, you have a certain amount of budget authority; you may have power to hire and fire, etc.
- Expert: if you know more about something than others, you have the power to control what happens to that expertise. You can share or withhold your expertise.
- Coercive: the ability to deliver a negative consequence and/or to make people fearful.
- Reward: the ability to deliver a positive consequence and/or make people feel good.
- Information: possessing more information (or access to that information) than others gives you the power to control who gets to use that information.
- Connective: comes from your perceived relationship to other people in power.
- Referent: your own personality and skill as a visionary and communicator.
Now let’s look at three myths about power:
Myth #1: Power is your reward for being in charge.
Nope, power is a resource you have at your disposal; it’s a means to an end.
Myth #2: Power is finite; there’s only so much to go around.
Nope, leadership power is probably infinite, and the more you share, the more you have at your disposal.
Myth #3: Power is something you can accumulate, like money.
Nope, power is more like time, which can only be used, just as time can only be spent, power can only be wielded. Leadership power isn’t a battery, it’s more like a generator. It’s not a pie that, once divided, leaves you with less. It’s a lit candle, which when used to light other candles, multiplies rather than divides.
So, empower others – give away your power. Remember, great leaders don’t focus on creating willing followers, they focus on creating more leaders. They don’t horde their power, they give it away constantly. How can you do this?
- Keep people informed. They share information freely.
- Help people get connected and build their professional networks.
- Mentor people and teach them skills.
- Encourage people to think for themselves, not blindly follow you (or others).
- Recognize and reward people for their efforts and accomplishments.
- Build self-esteem.
- Increase responsibility and accountability for those around you.
- Create a climate of possibility.
- Eliminate fear.
- Share decision-making.
If you fear giving away your power, you’ll only create fear on your team, which is a poor motivator at best. Fearful people will do things because they believe they have to, not because they want to.
Give away your power – empower others, and get out of their way. You will be amazed at the results. And here’s what’s truly ironic – when you give away your power, you will have even more power to make things happen.