Leadership Habit 46: Understand Power

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Understand power

Leadership Habit 46: Understand Power

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Most of the things that happen in the workplace have an emotional connection. Yes, many leaders talk about removing the emotion, using logic, and frequently give reminders that it is just business. Influence is powerful in leadership roles. Do you understand power?

For many, leadership is about power. It is the ability to control everything, call the shots, and flex the muscle. Power may be considered a form of positive influence, and it does work. In other cases, it may feel harsh and it may evoke fear.

Influenced by Power

When or where is power influential? Here are a few examples from the supervisor, boss, manager, owner, president, or CEO:

  • touring the facility
  • chairing the meeting
  • suggesting a policy change
  • arriving unexpected
  • calling you
  • emailing you
  • inviting you to the C-Suite
  • asking your opinion
  • requesting information
  • silence

Power requirements are different during good times as compared with bad times. The leader who leads during good times often possesses characteristics different from the leader who leads during difficult times.

Yes, some are adaptable to either scenario, but most leaders have strength towards one but not both trends.

Leadership in Good Times

During good times, the leader may appear to have things well under control. The business is coasting along, cruising, and life is good. The mood is positive and progressive. Decisions are more trusted and efforts feel respected.

Unfortunately, what often happens is that decisions affecting long-term outcomes feel less volatile. This sets up future challenges, because you won’t cruise or coast forever.

Leadership in Difficult Times

During challenging times, the leadership style may have to be much different. The power is different. Trust is questioned, respect is harder to develop. Decisions are often over-analyzed, paralysis often occurs.

Fear, not inspiration may be the default motivator. Short-term is problematic and long-term not well understood.

There is very little coasting during difficult times. The work is hard, the outcomes are not guaranteed.


When you pedal your bike up the hill, you look forward to the coast. While coasting, very little power is required. The flow feels great and your work is (temporarily) finished. The next hill seems far away or not even in sight.

Direction, as long as it doesn’t feel like uphill, doesn’t matter so much. Exhales are easy and relaxing. The road ahead appears smooth. Details like tire pressure, chain tension, and brake wear are seldom considered.

Quickly Forget

I won’t quickly forget the CEO who told me their business had grown too big to fail. “There isn’t a chance,” he said. Good people were in place and years of commitment with a strong team guaranteed results. They were coasting, but the ground was becoming level.

Nobody really toured the facility with an eye for change. Meetings were very casual with little concern. People didn’t call, write, or even ask many questions. The silence was assumed as a signal of success, no worries.

The coast was about to stop, a new hill straight ahead.

Not one person was interested to pedal, more importantly they weren’t in shape or prepared.

Did the leader understand power, or how to use it?

Understand Power

There is a difference in the power requirements when pedaling up-the-hill or when coasting.

Many leaders survive the coast, pedaling is a different story.


Dennis E. Gilbert is a business consultant, speaker (CSPTM), and corporate trainer that specializes in helping businesses and individuals accelerate their leadership, their team, and their success. He is a five-time author and some of his work includes, #CustServ The Customer Service Culture, and Forgotten Respect, Navigating A Multigenerational Workforce. Reach him through his website at Dennis-Gilbert.com or by calling +1 646.546.5553.

Dennis Gilbert on Google+

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