Balancing Power and Leadership

In yesterday’s Advisor, we defined leadership with the help of great sayings by historical leaders. Today we’ll discuss leadership and power, how they relate, and how you can balance them.

Sometimes, people confuse leadership with power. Leaders are often portrayed as hard-driving, hardnosed, and headstrong. And, many good leaders have those qualities, to be sure.

But it takes force and influence to lead others effectively. The two approaches complement each other and create a powerful yet adaptable force for action. Good leadership always balances power and influence.

Let’s look more specifically at how leaders can balance these two approaches. For example, here’s how a leader can be both:

  • Commanding and understanding. A leader must know how to take command and run a department or work group. At the same time, he or she must be understanding and take the needs of each group member into account.
  • Directing and consulting. Leaders need to be able to direct operations and activities, but they also need to consult those they lead and listen to their ideas and opinions.
  • Ordering and asking. Leaders must know how to give orders when necessary, and they must recognize when it is more effective to ask for cooperation.

Here are three more pairs of opposite approaches and how leaders can balance them when wielding the power of leadership:

  • Striving and yielding. Leaders need to strive for success, but they must also know when to go around a barrier rather than try to break through it.
  • Strong and flexible. Like the best athletes, good leaders are both strong and flexible. Leaders must know when to stand firm and when to bend.
  • Controlling and influencing. Sometimes leaders need to be controlling, and sometimes, they must rely on influence. They have to be able to control situations and groups, but they also need to know how to influence, facilitate, and work from within the group—or even from behind the scenes.

Think about the way your managers and supervisors lead employees. Do they balance their power over employees with influence, persuasion, and guidance? Do they “boss” employees, or do they work with them, facilitating and empowering them?