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The Tension between Power and Leadership

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A little bit of power can go to your head. Give some people a uniform, a title, or a little bit of authority and they can become a little overbearing and overzealous (the movie Mall Cop comes to mind).

People often confuse power and leadership. I get it, leaders by perception have all the power and leaders often misuse power. But leadership and power are not the same thing.

Power doesn’t make you a Leader

Just because someone has a little bit of power doesn’t mean they’re a leader. They may have a title, the authority to tell others what to do, or even decision-making responsibility but it doesn’t mean they’re a leader. We’ve all met small minded people who get a little power and authority only to throw it around in a manner that repels everyone around them. No one wants to follow that person. That’s because they’re not a leader.

Power reveals Character

I’ve heard people say that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. I don’t buy into that, rather I subscribe to the idea that power simply reveals the character of the person wielding it. What you do with the power (whether you have a lot or a little) you have is a reflection of the kind of person you truly are.

Power is a Tool

Power is simply a tool, nothing more, nothing less. Some use power well…others not so much. It can be used to build up or tear down. It can be used to serve others or serve yourself. With it you have the ability to empower others or be controlling.

Power is a Last Resort

Making a power play to get people to follow you should always be a last resort. While statements like, “I’m your boss,” “I’m your parent,” and “because I said so” may work from time to time they don’t endear followers to you.


Posted in Leadership

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