Why Power Does not Equal Leadership

In the famous words of Dwight D. Eisenhower, “You do not lead by hitting people over the head — that’s assault, not leadership.”Superman

We all have power on some level or another. How we use that power is very different depending on circumstance and motive. Our use of power varies depending on our understanding of it and our decision to either use it for the good of others or use it to benefit ourselves.

I’ve found it’s often assumed that someone with power is automatically considered to be a person of leadership. Now I agree there may be instances where the two characteristics meet, but both shouldn’t be assumed if only one of these exists.

For example, are all celebrities leaders? Or are they arguably talented and/or unique individuals simply more visible to the public eye? Should we mix these descriptions by placing leadership expectations on such a group of people? Even when they do not possess leadership characteristics? Hmmm, that’s something to think about.

Power vs. Leadership

What is Power?

By definition, power is the ability to do or act; one having the capability of doing or accomplishing something by way of force and strength. Now this is not to be mistaken with having a leadership skill. For instance, there is no doubt the President has authority and power to start a war. Now whether he has the leadership skill to execute a war successfully is something that must be proved.

What is Leadership?

Unlike power, leadership is defined as guiding or directing a group with authoritativeness, influence, command, effectiveness, sway or clout.

Not everyone with power is skilled enough to get others to willingly act on their behalf. Having power and authority isn’t everything. People may work for you because they fear your wrath, but be sure to know they absolutely will not give you their best work under those conditions. You see, the only way workers produce at their very best level is when the goal to achieve becomes their personal desire, not the desire of someone else.

According to Forbes online contributor Kevin Kruse, “Leadership stems from social influence, not authority or power”. I totally agree!

While a manager or boss may use their power to push one into a direction by way of force, leaders use their influence to guide others towards the direction they personally desire to go.

Sure, you can use power to do many things, but getting people to believe in a vision influencing them to deliver great work, create new things and produce innovative ideas is not done through power. These awesome acts are done through leadership.

MDD-160Mary V. Davids is Principal Consultant at D&M Consulting Services, LLC., and creator of the Honest Model™. Mary has over a decade of experience in cultivating employee engagement, enhancing workplace performance, career coaching, leadership coaching and training & development. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Management and a Master’s Degree in Human Resource Management. To connect with Mary, you can follow her on twitter @MVDavids or you can email her at maryd@honestleadership.org

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