Every leader has a critical question to answer for themselves.
At some point, this happens for all leaders.
At some point, you will walk into the room and realize you are the most powerful person there. At that moment, there will be a leadership inflection fork in the road. You will have to decide what you’re going to do with your power and how you will leverage it for either yourself or the benefit of those around you. What you do in those moments will define you as a leader and set the tone for your followers.
What are you going to do with your POWER?
You really have two options:
You leverage your power to your benefit and to the neglect of the people you’re responsible for. It’s all about you and advancing your agenda or your brand.
We’ve all experienced people in authority who leverage their power for themselves. They have little regard for those they are responsible for and work to ensure everyone in the room knows they are the person in charge. They make their authority known and wield their power to advance what’s important to them. They control. They don’t listen well to other’s ideas. They speak down to others to make themselves seem more dominant.
The interesting thing to me is, from my experience, it’s often insecurity that drives leaders to wield their power in this way. They are using their power to cover up insecurities or other weaknesses that make them feel out of control or uncomfortable. Power becomes a mask they use to hide the insecurities and a way to control the situation.
However, there is another option.
You leverage your power to say no to yourself so you can say yes to focus on those who are following you. You put others first and wield your power make others better and make what you do TOGETHER better.
This requires humility. This requires investing in building relational currency in those you’re leading. This requires listening more than you speak. This requires love and personal sacrifice.
I love what Andy Stanley says about leadership. He says, “Leadership is a stewardship. It’s temporary and we’re accountable.”
We are all stewards of what has been entrusted to us — the people, the business unit, the functional organization, etc. We are accountable to make things better and find ways to unlock the mastery that is inside all those who follow us.
One of the biggest opportunities we have to wield our power for the good of others is the way we use our words. Like Gandalf’s staff in The Lord of the Rings, a leader’s staff is often the words we use. Our words are powerful. We have the power the speak life into someone or take a little bit of life out of them.
Some of my best interactions and most rewarding times as a leader are the times I get to leverage my power to speak life into someone on my team. This can happen through encouragement, recognition, empathy, listening, asking probing and thoughtful questions, coaching through a difficult situation or just noticing someone is having a challenging moment and taking time to check in.
How about you? How are you leveraging your power as a leader?
Here are a few questions to ask yourself as a self-evaluation for how you’re leveraging your power:
1. Do you often think you’re the most important person in the room?
2. Do you speak and act in a way that makes it evident to everyone that you are the person in charge?
3. Do you speak more than you listen?
4. Do you often make decisions without including those who are impacted by the decisions you are making?
5. Do you invest 1:1 time with those who are following you so you can understand where they are now, where they want to go and help them define how they get there?
6. Do you often take credit for the success of your team or do you deflect recognition to the people who actually did the work?
7. Do you only serve yourself and your self-interests or do you focus on serving others?
8. Are people scared to come to you with their ideas or their bad news?
I would argue that Option #1 is not really leadership at all. A person leveraging their power in that way might have authority but will have very little influence. You’re not really leading if you have no influence.
How are you leveraging your power today? The choice is yours and will have an indelible impact on your legacy as a leader.