It became apparent to me a long time ago that the word leadership is often misused. A good example is when workplaces promote employees internally because they have seniority, not necessarily for their leadership skills or ability to work with people. This perpetuates the idea of the “positional leader,” based solely on title and power.
With our current state of government and changing employee markets, there is more emphasis placed the idea of power. But consider for a moment how power and control can affect a team and an organization.
When a leader approaches leadership from a perspective of power, they are “leading” through fear, intimidation, and control. These “leaders” see their title or perceived leadership as a right and believe that people see them as a leader. In actuality, people do not trust them and are most likely biding their time with the organization. This leads to high turnover, which is OK in the eyes of a power-and-control leader because they can put their own people in place. They see all people as replaceable.
An organization ruled by a power-based leader will struggle to gain commitment and buy-in, because there is no clear vision – only mandates. The high turnover and placement of “yes” people creates a lack of growth through innovation.
So what should leadership be based in? Inspiration, motivation, support? Author and speaker John Maxwell described leadership in one word: Influence.
The sole purpose of a leader is to develop the people he or she interacts with on a daily basis.
Leadership is not rooted in power and control, but in empowerment. Influence-based leaders focus on how they can develop relationships and create organizational buy-in by being vulnerable and supportive of the people they encounter.
This idea of empowerment is key for the influential leader because it means that you are actually relinquishing power for the betterment of the team and organization. For example, you may seek opinions and thoughts from subordinates, because their perspectives might be different than yours. If you use their ideas, or the employees at least feel listened to, they will be more open to you and your ideas, creating buy-in. This creates stability in your organization, which will allow for the development of new ideas, a happier worker, and more effective teams, because people know they have a voice.
The biggest thing that sets the influential leader and the power-based leader apart is trust. Consider interactions you’ve had with people who lead by fear and intimidation … Did you trust them? I am guessing not, and because you didn’t, you were less likely to go that extra inch, let alone the extra mile.
Now flip that around and think about a leader who empowered you and was a positive influence on your personal and professional development. You likely were willing to go above and beyond for the success of the organization, because that meant you were going to succeed as a result.
I’ve made my life’s work about understanding leadership, and my desire is to help people to fully understand what leadership actually means. That may be a lofty goal, but I believe it’s possible. If I focus on empowering the people in my circle of influence to be influential leaders, those people can in turn do the same for the people around them. By modeling the influential leader, the idea spreads. I make myself vulnerable for the betterment of the group, and people take note of this action. People will flock to a leader who recognizes the value others bring to the organization.
If you are part of a team led by influence, someone has made the choice to invest in you and empower you. Now you have the opportunity to do that for someone else.
About the author
Robert Jones is an Employee Assistance Program Trainer with The Village Business Institute. Robert has a bachelor’s degree in History and a master’s degree in Education with an emphasis in counseling and leadership. He also has a bachelor’s degree in Communication Studies, and is working on his Educational Doctorate in Leadership. Robert has nearly 20 years of experience in the hospitality field and has been doing freelance training for almost 10 years.