Most people upon hearing the words “leader or leadership,” assume that the reference is to the people at the top in the power positions with authority, and not the managers, supervisors and team members who make up the organization.
Ask any room full of managers how many of them are leaders and you will find that most managers do not see themselves as leaders – and yet, how do you manage without leading? Leadership is one of the world’s oldest and most widely studied subjects. Leaders as prophets, priests and kings have long served as symbols, representatives and models for their people. In modern times, athletes, musicians, actors, businessmen and gurus have replaced the kings of old.
Leadership is often perceived as something elite, hallowed, special and reserved for the minority of people at the top with “true” power concentrated in their hands. These people tend to dominate the organizations or groups they lead (at least until someone overthrows them and takes their position) through the use of the age-old methods of authority, domination, command and control.
This style of leadership leads to organization structures that produce results by forcing compliance, adherence to rules, established conventions and old ways of doing things. Change is seen as a threat – even though it is openly stated that change is required. When it comes to taking action, new ideas and new ways of doing things are often met with anything from mild hostility to outright resistance.
The Hands of The Few
This concentration of power “in the hands of the few” may have worked in the past when things remained unchanged for long periods of time, however in today’s world, the pace of change is accelerating exponentially. We are living in a world where globalization isn’t the stuff of the future – it has already happened! We are more connected to our neighbor countries on the other side of the planet than ever before. There is a free flow of capital, ideas, information, technology, goods, services, and people worldwide. Ferocious competition is breathing down our necks from the most unlikely sources.
This new world requires a new leadership style that is very different from the successful formulas that worked well in the past. This is a counterintuitive, very difficult thing to do… to let go of the very things that made us successful in the past. Yet, this is exactly what we must do to survive, let alone succeed, in the future.
Transformation from Position Power to Personal Power
It’s all about power: who’s got it and who wants it. It is well known that traditional models of leadership are based on gaining and keeping power through establishing a top “position” and then protecting one’s “turf.” The thought behind this is that power comes from position, cannot be shared, and that by sharing it, it is somehow diminished. So if a leader has spent a lifetime building, enhancing and developing their power base, they are not easily going to empower other people in the organization. Yes, they will talk the language of empowerment – but when it comes to moving the decision-making – the words don’t quite translate into actualities.
This type of power is known as Position Power, which comes from formal authority or the right to command. Results are achieved by autocracy, coercion and the extensive use of punishment and reward (ie., If you agree with me, I will reward you. If you don’t agree with me or do what I say, you will be punished.)
Position Power works when you are in a position of authority over the person you are working with. However, it is ineffective when influencing networks of people in other departments, as well as suppliers, customers, peers, and project teams. If people have no choice but to do what they are told – then Position Power works. However, with increased demand and competition for talent, using autocracy is less and less effective. In fact, it can be outright counterproductive!
No longer is economic success dependent on natural resources, manufacturing excellence, and scientific or technological prowess. Today, the terms of success revolve around an organization’s ability to mobilize, attract and retain creative human talent. Every competitive dimension depends on creativity and ingenuity of the people that make up the organization.
It is impossible to think of new ideas, creative and innovative solutions that defy old ways of doing things if we are afraid of making mistakes and are constantly worried about the real or perceived threat from a leadership style based on autocracy, coercion and punishment. Leading a team of creative talent is very different from leading a factory line of workers who do similar tasks repetitively, or a service staff who provides functional services. It simply does not work to command creativity! Can you imagine Mozart or Picasso being told to produce or “You are out!”
Many of today’s leaders are still operating from this old leadership model. Leadership in the creative environment of 2006 and beyond requires a vastly different paradigm. Today’s new model involves partnership, cooperation and team. It’s not about abandoning Position Power – it’s about adding, developing and enhancing every individual in the organization’s Personal Power and working the agenda together in a partnership.
The most significant difference between Position Power and Personal Power is that the former is handed over or given to a person, whereas the latter is developed through personal development and improving one’s ability to communicate, influence, and inspire actions from others.
Personal Power is required when working on project teams, flat organization structures, and where people have the free choice to give you what you want or not. Creative and talented people always have free choice – because their skills are highly sought after.
Both sources of power are valid and needed depending on the situation, the skill, responsibility level of the team and the nature of the task. The use of power can be viewed on a continuum with ultimate Position Power at one end and ultimate Personal Power at the other end. Most situations require a leadership style that is somewhere in the middle of the continuum.
The Definition of Power
Power is the ability to get someone to do something you want done or the ability to make things happen.
Transform Every Person in the Organization into a Leader
Empowering individuals in the organization means to share the power with them. Shared power adds up to more power – not less. It means everyone has an increased ability to get more done and to make things happen. This can make a dramatic difference to the bottom line results of the organization. To do this means making everyone a leader.
An organization comprised of leaders adds up to a leading organization.
Like any skill, Personal Power can be learned and developed by anyone, however it requires a new leadership context that begins at the top and extends throughout the levels of the organization. It simply doesn’t work to send the people in the organization to trainings, alignments and educational sessions if the entire organization isn’t sharing the same context. Leading by example means that the context must be shared at all levels. Otherwise you end up with disillusionment, skepticism and a lack of belief that there is one set of rules for people at the top and another set of rules for everyone else.
It’s about Personal Leadership
For most people the concept of Personal Leadership is new. It is not simply a case of someone attending a three-day seminar or reading a book and then is transformed into a new leader! Developing Personal Leadership is a long-term commitment that involves an ongoing education combined with application – all with bottom line results in mind. This is a substantial investment in time, energy and money – not just from the organization, but from every individual, too. This is why the context of partnership is so important. The individual and the organization are in a long-term partnership for mutual benefit.
If this investment in Personal Leadership is directly connected to bottom line results that are measurable, significant and connected to the organization’s vision – any board of directors will approve the investment.
Band Aids Don’t Work Long-term!
The challenge for most organizations is that the leadership agenda is not consistent, nor is it communicated to the entire organization from top to bottom. Commitment must be backed up by action and a comprehensive Leadership Development Roadmap that everyone can follow to know where they are and where they are going.
If the leadership agenda involves everyone except the leaders at the top who retain the Position Power model – there will be results; however, they are limited compared to what is possible if the entire organization is aligned and all heading in the same direction.
The Need for Speed
Concentrations of power in the hands of a few, bureaucracy, and turf protecting slow everything down to a crawl. With every person in the organization empowered and aligned, cycle times from plan to results are dramatically improved. The speed of change and implementing new initiatives improves and results accelerate. The leadership agenda is mission critical and cannot be left to the HR and Training Departments alone – it must have the attention and commitment to resources that are required to succeed.
To change things that have worked for us in the past before they stop working is the essence of visionary leadership. The key to becoming or staying competitive globally is to transform our fundamental concept of leadership and to live, eat and sleep Personal Leadership at all levels of the organization.
The Goldzone Leadership Curriculum offers comprehensive, custom Leadership Development Roadmaps. Using the revolutionary New Paradigm Leadership Model, participants master more effective tools, strategies and methods compared to the old style and traditional leadership models. High stress and low performance is replaced with optimum personal and organizational performance.