4 Types Of Leadership Power
A few weeks ago an article in Forbes expressed how leaders can use power for good in their organizations.
Leadership and power can carry a positive influence with the right heart attitude. But when corrupted by self serving interests, power and leadership become terrible partners.
Understanding the basic types of power that can occur in leadership will help us understand – and at best, become self-aware – what power can do to one in the role.
Power can either be identified in two focuses, either power of self or power of others. Yet these types can be applied and manifest in various ways across these two separate focuses. Let’s quickly breakdown these types to understand the impact of power through various leadership personas.
Power Over. This is overt and subvert, demanding or passive-aggressive, power to control another person. It comes from a leader wanting to exalt themselves by marginalizing others. It can take the form of various types of harassment, racism, bullying and threats, and usually is found in a “command-and-control” mindset. This type of power sees hierarchy as the end goal, and the leader ascending ranks and status for themselves by using others as their stepping stones.
Power Through. A leader who piles onto their people without regard for their well-being is someone who powers through others. It is one of the contributing factors to the work-life and employee well-being crises we see today. The characteristic of these leaders is they see people as a means, a resource, or capital. They feel that everyone on their teams need to act like owners, work as hard as they do, or should eat/work/live their jobs so the company, and the leader, can be successful. Under the guise of teamwork and making sure everyone is committed, this power ignores the limits and balance of the human spirit.
Power of Misdirection. Deferring, blame-shifting and gaslighting are all ways to keep power by tactics that misdirect. When leaders don’t answer questions directly, or with a positive spin or political-speak, they seek to keep their people off-balance by controlling the narrative, the information and the advantage. By not playing straight and talking truthfully, giving vague or blatant lies to get employees off the scent of what is really going on is another way leaders can abuse power.
Empower. This is a leader giving power equally and generously to their people, without playing favorites, discrimination or fearing for their own careers and livelihood. it is the pivot point where a leader liberally shares power with others rather than hoarding some for themselves. While empowering leadership doesn’t mean giving up the role or responsibility that is incumbent upon them, it means they have found the most effective way to meet basic human needs in giving people vision, value and voice, resulting in rewarding work and sustainable success. It’s the willing transfer of the the opportunity they’ve been given to enrich others, while ensuring no one has been expended in the process.
Power, like electricity, is neutral. Wrongfully applied, it can cause great harm and can even be fatal. Power in leadership, corrupted by wrongful, prideful and selfish motives can also cause great harm and life-altering after effects.
But in the right hands, and with the right heart-attitude, power can be multiplied instead of hoarded, leading to an impact that will illuminate the lives and careers of those it touches.
Create a power that emanates out and empowers others rather than force them to wear out, retreat or stay in their lane.