The single greatest influencing factor on whether your team is engaged is you, the manager. A significant part of this influence you hold lies in the type of power you choose to use in order to carry out your manager role – position power or personal power. This is a question all leaders need to ask themselves: which type of leadership do I use most often at work?
Let’s be honest, power is necessary in the workplace. We all need it in one way or another to get the job done, meet targets and keep customers happy. The outcome of power, though, depends first on what type we choose and, second, on how we choose to use it.
In the context of a workplace, the term ‘power’ often has a negative connotation. It refers to others having control over what we do at work. We often view the term with reference to controlling management. Much of this negative connotation, then, comes from our experiences with managers applying ‘position power’.
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Power does not have to fit with the negative connotations above. You have a choice to use your new position power constructively or destructively. If you choose to use it constructively, this probably means that you are combining position power with personal power. I will discuss this later in this article.
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The main problem with position power is that it is based on a position of weakness. Do you have the actual power to reward and coerce people? Can you carry out all the threats made if team members don’t do as explicitly instructed? The answer to both these questions is most often ‘no’. And, everyone knows it. Your team, therefore, put a valuation on your ‘power’. Overuse or abuse it and this value drops and so does your power.
The other main problem with position power is that it is usually overused or abused by managers who lack the social and personal skills to carry it off effectively. This is why power comes with negative connotations.
Those managers with the required level of social and personal skills know that they have position and personal power. They know they can call on either and use both. More important, they know how and when to use these sources of power.
This understanding of their power comes with the social and personal skills and a degree of emotional intelligence. They understand that they are in a relationship where each person holds power of a kind (team members have the power to work with you or against you). These leaders also know that their position power is limited and needs to be used sparingly. Such sparing use is an excellent tactic as it reserves the impact for when it is needed.
The main strength of personal power is that it is based on the leader’s intentions and integrity. It is based on the leader’s authenticity. I always stress the importance of ‘intention’ when working with leaders at any level. The leader employing personal power ‘intends’ to influence and empower others to perform to their best, to bring all their skills and talents to the table and use them for the benefit of themselves, the team and the business.
Personal power leaders are person centred. They focus on the people around them understanding that successful outcomes lie within these relationships, not in instructions, tasks and orders. Personal power leaders achieve authenticity through knowing their own strengths and weaknesses, and those of their team members.
Lead With People
Leadership and power can be a shared commodity in the workplace and teams. It can be a powerful and successful combination. Personal power leaders know this and encourage leadership throughout their teams. They assume responsibility and accountability, creating an environment within which innovation, creativity and change is valued. These leaders intend to lead with the people in the team, not over them.
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Blending Personal and Position Power
All leaders and managers can choose which type of power they wish to use, or they can choose to blend them for maximum effect. Use personal power to lead with people, empowering and motivating your team to perform and achieve to their best. Then use position power to make things happen for your team and the individuals within it. Remove obstacles affecting their performance, reward their efforts with development or a choice of projects to get involved in. The list can go on.
Do this and power becomes a very positive thing for everyone.
Imagine your success if you could exercise your personal power more effectively. Want to learn how to do this and become a more engaging leader? Then take part in my Free ‘Lunch and Learn’ Leadership Training Sessions