• Gina Folk

Leading With Power, Without Stepping Stepping on Toes

When I was put into my first management position, I thought I was hot stuff. In fact, I would go so far as to say that I was power hungry—willing to step on anyone’s toes to get the job done, and to get it done my way.

For about three years, this power-driven style worked for me. I got promotion after promotion, and was constantly impressing the executive team with my personal achievements. However, what I left in my wake was a long line of team members who felt overworked, under appreciated, and demotivated. My love of and need for power had effectively trampled their bodies and souls.

Unfortunately, because on the surface the results I was getting were stellar, I could not see the damage my drive for power was creating. However, while it worked for me at first, over time this power-hungry work ethic began to backfire on me—personally and professionally—and I had to adapt to a new way of leading with power. Along the way, I discovered three keys in particular that helped me begin to use my leadership power wisely. Those three keys are:

1. Provide clarity and purpose.

One of the biggest responsibilities leaders have is to set the performance expectations and results intentions for their team. Providing your team with clarity and purpose regarding the goals and actions they are expected to achieve gives them power. Think of clarity and purpose as the gasoline that fuels a car to its maximum performance.

2. Empower, don’t exert power over.

Exerting power over people works for short-term results, but it is only in empowering people that you will create long-term success. And empowerment is a process that requires trust, acceptance, and respect between you, the leader, and your team members. This means giving your team members the parameters within which they can make decisions and actions, and then giving them the latitude and flexibility to perform. Coaching along the way is also a must—your team members will still need and appreciate your input as they proceed towards their goals—but it’s crucial to empower the individuals on your team to use their skill sets and talents to the best of their abilities even as you guide them.

3. Reinforce, don’t enforce.

Some leaders see their role as the enforcer, but I have learned that the most powerful leaders reinforce their teams—they strengthen and support them rather than tell them what to do. In order to reinforce, you must first believe and expect that your team will deliver greatness. It is not effective to be like I once was and think that the only person who can do great things is you. People need to feel that you believe in their abilities if they’re going to achieve your expected outcomes—and they need to receive positive encouragement when they execute things well. If the positive method does not work, you may find that establishing consequences is required, but in my experience that is rarely necessary when you’re using your power wisely.

When I learned and implemented these keys with my teams, I discovered something very rewarding: true power comes not from stepping on others’ toes but from enabling others to succeed. When you do this as a leader, you will achieve results and personal satisfaction that will exceed your wildest dreams.

Reflection Question: Do you ever misuse or feel tempted to misuse your power? If so, how? Share your comments below.



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