Powerful Leadership: Effective leadership assessment and training
Most of us have experienced both effective and ineffective leaders. It’s not uncommon in today’s business climate for leaders to be evaluated or even judged by the extent to which they are able to unite followers in a common cause. As management consultant Roger Tunks of Lake Oswego, Oregon once described it, “Leaders must develop the skills necessary to get followers to follow.” In other words, a leader’s effectiveness is largely determined by his or her ability to create an environment wherein others can be successful, both individually, and as a united team.
This, unfortunately, is contrary to some leaders’ belief that being successful is being powerful, or receiving respect, or controlling others, or being feared, or being visible. And some leaders believe that their primary purpose is short-term impact to the bottom line.
Clearly, an effective leader must be able to unite his or her followers to work toward common goals. And it would be foolish to ignore the fact that leaders must be able to at least sustain or improve the bottom line. How to do this has been the discussion for many articles and books for decades. In this article I would like to focus on two important aspects of being an effective leader: an understanding of where leadership authority comes from, and how to gain the organizational power necessary to make things happen, such as getting followers to follow.
Unfortunately, most discussions I’ve heard and read on leadership power and authority haven’t made the important distinction between the two topics. It’s not uncommon, for example, to see power and authority used as synonyms. Indeed, they are quite different in both source and effect. A leader’s authority is defined by his or her title or position in the organization. The authority of a vice president, for example, is different than the authority of a department manager. Leadership power, on the other hand, is the ability to accomplish things, or get things done through others. A department manager’s power is what he or she can accomplish through the workers in the department. In most situations, a specific title such as “manager” gives a leader a certain amount of organizational power. That usually is the result of what organizational psychologists refer to as “title respect.” Unfortunately, title respect does not engender enough power to enable a leader to be effective by itself. If you’ve been in management for a while, you have probably seen someone promoted to management who thought that merely being a manager was enough to make him or her effective. It’s not; it takes more than a title to be an effective leader.
So, leadership authority is a title or position and typically comes from your boss, while leadership power comes from other workers in the organization who enable you to become effective. In a successful organization, leadership power is actually more important than leadership authority. That’s interesting because most people work hard to obtain a title, thinking it will automatically give them the power they want to function within the organization. To maximize effectiveness, leaders must learn how and when to use their authority (title), and more importantly, how to grow their power through others to achieve the goals.
Now that you know that leadership authority is a position or title that is delegated to you by your boss or the organization, the next step is to understand what you can do to increase you leadership influence through leadership training and development. That, in turn, will increase your overall effectiveness as a leader in the organization.
Three leadership training topics to consider that will greatly increase your leadership power and skills are: (1) communication skills, (2) influence skills, and (3) character development. The first category involves how well you communicate with others. You can be more powerful by improving both the quantity and quality of communication you give to others. Many of these techniques, especially those regarding feedback, were explained in previous articles in this column. Your body language, open and friendly, verses closed and unfriendly, is also a major part of how you communicate. Be sure to be aware of how you come across to other people.
Your natural communication style sends messages to others indicating whether you are easily approachable, or unapproachable. The more approachable you appear to others improves the amount of power those people will give you.
When you express your appreciation for the contributions of others, either verbally or in writing, you also gain power. It’s also important to make sure that credit is always given to the persons responsible for the contribution. How soon and in what manner you communicate these messages either adds to or takes away from your power.
The second category is ensuring that your followers have some degree of influence in how things are done in the workplace. Dr. David McClelland of Harvard once said, “The greatest hunger of the human soul is to some influence in how the work is done.” If having some element of influence in the workplace is so important, we should delegate it. Along with soliciting influence, leaders should also ensure that their followers participate in appropriate decision making. This will increase follower buy-in to changes and increase your power at the same time.
The third category involves your leadership character. It’s been said that character can’t be coached, but I know from personal experience that each of us can yet improve aspects our character. Some dimensions of a leader’s character that generate power are: trustworthiness, honesty, integrity, respecting others (and yourself), not spreading rumors, and being considerate and friendly.
A grocery manager once asked me what one thing she could do that would help her get promoted to store manager. She felt she had enough years of experience and had worked in a number of different stores and was ready for promotion, but was always passed up. I could have chosen a number of possible answers. But I explained to her that she had a tendency to get things done by herself, rather than getting things accomplished through the efforts of her staff. She poorly delegated and as a result, lacked the respect of the grocery staff. I suggested that she focus on improving her power as a leader because that would improve her effectiveness. When her effectiveness improved she would be in a better position for promotion. That’s how important organizational power is. How’s your personal leadership power? What leadership training do you need to drive yourself and your organization to the next level?
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About the author:
Dr. Richard L. Williams is a retail consultant specializing in leadership training, performance coaching, and organizational development.
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