When coaching those who are new to a leadership role, one of the top five items we deal with pertains to the advisability of keeping some of your “powder” dry. Translation: Your role vests a certain amount of authority in you to use positional power in order to get things done; power to decide, to commit resource, to give instructions, even orders, the list goes on. The amount of power one has ready access to is usually a factor of our level on the organizational food chain. It is there for our use, but not abuse. It’s not easily replaced or replenished, hence it is unwise to squander or misuse it. Moreover, it’s really unbecoming.
We’ve all seen so called “leaders” whose sole purpose in life seems to be to throw their weight around because they can, or think they can. In the workplace, they can often be spotted marching people around – Over here! No, over there!… belittling people, or seeking comfort for themselves while others are sweating or suffering. Those people aren’t leaders. There are other words to describe them, and there is always a day of reckoning for them, always. They will be found out and turned out, unceremoniously.
A few thoughts on your use of position power.
You get paid to use power. Recognize early on that position power is as vital to getting things done as is electricity. If you can’t or won’t make decisions, even before all the facts are known, take a stand on a difficult issue, or say, “that’s not good enough”, then you should probably earn your living another way. When you err in your use of power in the exercise of your duties, make sure that the error is made in the head, and not the heart.
Be judicious in your use of power. Ask yourself, why am I using power in this instance? Is it in pursuit of something instrumental to our mission, or perhaps in support of others in the organization? If the answer is ‘yes’, proceed. Alternatively, if you’re using position power simply because you can, perhaps for your personal benefit or amusement, please don’t.
Don’t shoot hummingbirds with a howitzer. Take pains to insure that the amount of power you use in every situation is appropriate to the task… not too little, not too much.
If you want to learn more:
For self-help, read Rebooting Leadership
For private or small group coaching, contact the author