Imagine an effective leader who does not need to command other people. At most, this kind of leader uses the powers of influence to encourage others to follow his or her guidance. Why is it then that many people think of leaders as a commanding force – a person comfortable with the power to dominate others?
Much has been written about leadership from the military perspective. Officers certainly have the power to command others. In the battlefield, the commanding voice is held to be virtuous and a savior of lives! I could write at some length about why command is vital and important under crisis and emergency situations – but most of us do not work under conditions of continuous emergency. Because of leadership’s association with the military, however, many people see the commanding role as essential to the work of a leader, and therefore, leadership is an act of domination and control. Regardless, that’s a common perception.
An Executive Development Plan for Personal Transformation
As I see leadership, the best leaders are involved in lifelong evolution, continuing to develop their potential to lead change into the future. I would be more inclined to call a less evolved leader, a “manager” and I would not be surprised to see this person using positional power to invoke command authority over other people. Many of us see it all the time; you have likely heard people describe their hated boss because of their inconsistent practices and their treatment of hard-working people on the job. Many leaders start out as managers and use (or abuse) the power of command to get results.
Anyone who looks at how the power of command is employed will recognize that it is extremely limited. If the commanding officer has his or her title taken away, there may be no power left to this person. Only the person who has built up a sufficient credibility factor can count on people, following his suggestions when there is no power of direct command. When the leader uses influence over other people, freely follow.
Occasionally, the leader will need to give a direct, forthright command. In a crisis, emergency situation, the trusted leader calls people to act without hesitating. The paradox of leadership is that the best leaders will not use this power until a major crisis has crossed the organization. The leader knows that a strong coalition is built by involving people, freely to choose to follow his direction. Vision is an opportunity to follow with, not an order to move quickly and get in line.
Executive Development for Influence Power
Command power is limited. It depends on the bonds of authority over individual action. If an employee is compelled to follow, command power will have a substantial effect only while the follower is under direct supervision and responding to a chain of command. In the 21st century economy, many followers are somewhat independent of command and control forces, serving as independent contractors and possessing a knowledge base that requires them to think and act as an intelligent decision-making force. The power of direct command is less compelling when the follower is an expert over part of the scope of action.
The modern executive is effective if he or she masters influence power rather than command power. Influence power is more enduring than command power. A person with high influence may continue to wield considerable decision authority over his or her followers even when command prerogative is eliminated. Influence is built on trust, credibility, and positive relations. Followers understand that the influential leader is authentic in the desire to build an enduring relationship. With command power, the relationship may end up being transitory.
Leaders: we have entered into an era where one needs influence power more than ever. The large corporation does not offer enduring security and fulfillment to its workers. Individual leaders can build relationships with their followers using influence power rather than the power of command. Influence power is not automatic; it depends on the investment the leader has with his or her people. With distributed work, virtual networks, and global relationships, it makes sense to become effective through influence power rather than command power. Invest in the relationships around you to achieve lasting impact with the people in your world.
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