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Let’s consider power for a moment: you cannot be a leader without the ability to exercise some sort of power and influence.
There are essentially, three types of power – coercive, positional, and true power.
Coercive power is when someone leverages a weakness in another in order to do something.
Positional power is when position alone gives the holder of that said position the ability to command and control.
True power is very different – while both coercive and positional power are legitimate forms of control and authority, they are only effective because of the fear motive they create in followers: fear of loss of credibility, job, position, added income, and so on.
True power is so effective because the motive and reason for compliance come as an intrinsic drive from within the follower. This is the difference between the shepherd and the sheep herder.
When caring for a flock of sheep, you need to be aware that, at different times of the day and season, they need to move around for watering and feeding purposes.
A shepherd is the person who looks after the sheep. The shepherd knows his sheep and the sheep know their shepherd.
When the shepherd calls, the flock will respond to the sound of his or her voice. The shepherd walks at the front of the flock as he searches for better grazing, and the sheep follow him.
The sheep herder, on the other hand, walks behind the sheep with a crop and whip, and pushes the sheep in the direction he wants them to go. It is a tiresome and stressful process.
The shepherd uses a form of true power to lead his flock, while the sheep herder has to coerce and constantly monitor.
Which of the powers mentioned do you feel would be most effective, and result in sustainable and lasting change? Which power would you like to possess?
If it is true power you seek, then you will have to answer the following question: how is this intrinsic drive or motivation created?
In all our research of leadership, and our exposure to top leaders, two things stand out as fundamental pillars upon which all true leadership and its associated power rests – trust and respect.
Think carefully about the leaders you have come into contact with throughout your life, and the power they exerted. There will be one or two who stand out in your mind as top people you still have admiration and respect for. What made them different?
I’m certain that in most, if not all cases, you trusted and continue to trust that leader. And that is the first, and most important consideration any leader should make about him or herself – am I trustworthy?
Respect is a natural result of trust. As your people see you follow through with what you say, trust is nurtured and respect is created.
While I was sitting with Greg Solomon, MD of McDonalds SA, he mentioned something that I took special note of: when working with people, he applies a particular equation and often makes decisions against the result. The equation is simply: trust (out of 10) multiplied by respect (out of 100) adding up to a score out of 100.
So, for example, if a person is earmarked for a leadership position, Greg, and perhaps others, will be asked to rate him or her out of 10 on trust, and then do the same on the respect side.
The average scores are then multiplied and if the result is below 70 or even 60, they are able to start formulating a strong perception about that individual as a leader.
We would do ourselves a great service if we applied this same process in our own lives. And not only by rating others this way, but applying it to ourselves as well.
Try this exercise: approach a few people that you work with/live with/are friends with, who will give you honest answers, and ask them to (anonymously if they would prefer) give you a score out of 10 for trust and then for respect.
Multiply these and see where you rate.
If you don’t do as well as you thought you would, perhaps there is some work for you to do. Often we are honest, trustworthy people, but others misunderstand who we are and may perceive us as something different.
Here, just work hard to ensure your values and beliefs, and the values and beliefs you communicate/ portray are aligned and consistent.
In some cases you may simply not be as honest as you should be, in which case you will know to work hard to re-evaluate what you value and the means by which you go about pushing for your goals.
Your ability to have trust for and show respect to others is a good indicator of a mental/emotional maturity that seems to be waning in our communities and society.
And others trusting and respecting you is a very important indicator and confirmer of the above mental/emotional maturity you may or may not enjoy at this point.
In fact, it is the test – if you feel you are mature in that way, test your feelings against the feelings of others. (Even the choice to take this test is, in and of itself, an indicator of your maturity as a person and leader.)
The final and most important question we need to ask ourselves, when it comes to power, is why? Why do you want power?
The answer to this question will in large measure lead you to understand which type of power you are interested in obtaining and what type of decisions you need to make now in order to obtain that power.
A seamless leader chooses the third type of power we mentioned today – real power.
He or she does this because there is an understanding of the big picture: while other forms of power may get the job done, they inhibit the growth of key ingredients to build successful and profitable teams and organisations.
To conclude and summarise: there are essentially three main types of power, the greatest of which is based on trust and respect.
It is worth every bit of pain to make this shift in your leadership thinking and philosophy.
The fruit enjoyed after such efforts will be your ability to exercise true power, or in other words, people will trust you to the point that when you ask them to do something they will do it because they want to.
l Contact Gareth Armstrong at firstname.lastname@example.org