Leadership Perspectives: Power Vs. Force
by Joe Contrera
A few years ago, I had the opportunity to work with an executive who was recently promoted. He was extremely frustrated with one of his leaders. As I asked him to explain what the challenges were, he went into great detail about his attempts to constantly get this guy to “fall into line.”
He was astounded by the fact that the more attempts he made to apply pressure downward, the more this leader pushed back. At times it was direct, which the executive deemed as insubordination. At other times, it was very subtle: missed deadlines, absenteeism, and lack of follow up. Normally you would say, problem employee, get rid of them! But this was a stellar employee, highly rated by his peers and his previous director.
After he explained the situation, I leaned over and asked the executive to place his hand against mine. As he did I started push on his hand and he immediately started pushing back. He wasn’t going to lose the battle.
I stopped pushing and said, “Newton’s third law of motion states, for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction; now maybe you understand the situation? He is actually more like you than you think. I never asked you to push back, you simply started pushing against me; the more I pushed, the harder you pushed. So, what do you want to do now? You can either act out of your ego, and demand loyalty and respect, or you can look for a solution.”
Most people have a negative connotation about the word “authority.” They confuse authority with the word control. The word authority appeared in the early 1300s and comes from the Latin word auctor, which means “author.” Author means enlarger, founder, and one who causes to grow. This is a far different meaning than what most people believe about authority today.
Influence and authority is not a derivative of how long you speak or how many words you use. It isn’t about how long you have been a leader or how many degrees you have. The power of influence goes much further than words, time elapsed, or characters on a piece of paper.
All great leaders lead from a place of influence and authority. They are committed to enlarging the talents and skills of others, they are committed to helping others grow. Your choice to lead from a place of power begins with your decision to lead by influence and authority.
Excerpted from the book "Extraordinary Results: Mastering the Art of Leading, Coaching & Influencing Others" by Joe Contrera, president and founder of ALIVE @ WORK LLC.