As a Leader, You Wield Great Power
“Leadership is Influence.”
-John C. Maxwell.
Influence means, “the capacity to have an effect on the character, development, or behavior of someone or something”.
Influence means you have the power to sway.
Whether because of your positional leadership or from attributed trust, those that acknowledge you as a leader, more often than not also defer to you as their leader.
This gives leaders great power and great responsibility to be conscious and intentional about directing their leadership influence in the service of the vision, values, and lives they are accountable for.
The greater trust a leader earns from their people and community, the greater influence they wield with those people. This can get to the point where people “blindly” follow the leader.
Soldiers go to war, zealots dedicate their lives, and fanatics drink bleach, at a leaders’ express or implied word.
As a 360 leader, you can neither deny nor ignore what your presence and position as a leader does to those under your charge.
When you are a leader, your “opinion” is law to those under your influence.
There is no off guard nor off duty; wherever you are, whatever you say or do, you represent your office.
So, what do you do to steward your leadership influence to serve, rather than sabotage your people?
1. Set the Standard
Share your vision, values, and work expectations with your people, but also invite contributions from your team so that they too can own it.
2. Build Their Capacity
Build your people to be able to deliver. Make clear what success looks like, and how you will measure it. Then get out of their way as they do. This way you will not hawk over them with your opinion about how you want it done.
3. Create a Psychologically Safe Environment
Encourage critical thinking, problem-solving, healthy debate, taking risks, failure, recovery, and decision-making based on merit.
This will create a safe environment for individuals to express themselves and challenge opinions and decisions, including yours.
4. Facilitate Independent Decision-Making
In conversations, first, listen until everyone else has shared their views. Then, ask questions to clarify understanding. Thereafter, allow your people to weigh ideas on their merits. Finally, facilitate their decision-making.
What this will do is encourage the emergence of numerous voices and decision-makers. Couple this with fostering a psychologically safe environment, your team will reduce dependence on you as the ultimate decision-makers, and instead, increase reliance on each other.
5. Avoid Bias
When you do speak, avoid bias.
"Bias" is "prejudice in favor of or against one thing, person, or group compared with another, usually in a way considered to be unfair."
As a leader, your opinions can easily become biases, carrying the power to sway the room. Unless you intentional communicate and create an environment that discourages it, you the leader will have the de facto vetoing power over your people.
Avoid having and especially expressing personal bias because that then becomes the standard, often forcing people to choose sides; either align with you, or dissent.
This can sometimes cause backlash to those that don't align with you, whether from you, or from others who want to protect your leadership position.
6. Watch Your Back
Whether in social or formal settings, private or public communication, off or online, what you say as a leader is going to be taken to be the official position of your office. This could cause unintended consequences for you, your team, and your organization.
"Views are my own."
"It was just a joke."
"I didn't create it, I just forwarded it."
"We were just having fun."
It's all fun and games until something goes sideways. As a leader, you need to always be hyper-vigilant about the environments, associations, conversations, and pastimes you pursue.
I encourage you to reflect on these questions:
1. In what ways am I inadvertently influencing the people under my leadership to side with my decisions simply because I am their leader?
2. What behaviors do I want to change?
3. What will I substitute these behaviors for?
4. How will I prompt myself to be more mindful of my power and responsibility as a leader every day?
With Leadership Comes Great Power & Great Responsibility
Like it or not, as long as you are in a position of leadership you represent your office of leadership and must conduct yourself in a manner that befits your office.
A great responsibility, I know.
“If people understood the heavy responsibility of leadership, they wouldn’t scramble to get into a position of leadership.”
- Julius Kambarage Nyerere
It is a great responsibility and a tall order.
You've got this! And God's got you!
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