The Soft Stuff is The Hard Stuff:The Importance of Personal Power in Leadership

Employees are starving for leadership that “inspires”. Our organizations will have a better probability of successful transitions if positional leaders grow their personal power. Who says if titled leaders wield personal power? The Followers. Many leaders think they possess personal power if they believe they do but, that’s not the case.

Personal power is the ability to persuade, influence and inspire others to action.

You need to ask followers if they think the leader has personal power. If your followers are not inspired by your leadership style, all you have is positional power.

Positional power gets things done but it often governs through fear and autocratic strategies. Sometimes we need to use pure positional power, especially when we’re putting out fires, but leaning heavily on positional power, much of the time, will threaten employees’ commitment. Personal power governs through inspiration. Organizations need leaders who can regularly deliver a conspicuous blend of positional and personal power.

How can a leader assess and grow their personal power? The key is self-leadership. It reminds me of the saying, “do what you love, the money will follow”. It’s the same with leadership, “Develop your self-leadership and the personal power will follow.”

Here are Six tips for nurturing self-leadership:

1. Unhealthy stress can make us “react”, rather than “respond”, and that impacts our health. As leaders, we need to carry a minimum of unhealthy stress, so that we have the vitality and energy to coach and mentor others. Recognize your stress level by watching bodily symptoms. Ask a person who experiences you daily, for their observations and feedback. Assess your physical health. Be honest! Decide and take action on aspects of your physical health for improvement.

2. Initiate formal and informal celebrations of organizational, or team, milestones. Simple acts of real life phone calls or voice mails of thanks and acknowledgement, written notes or e-mails, and continuous encouragement of moving towards identified goals, can go a long way. People are naturally attracted to celebration.

3. Focus on power-full-ness rather than power-less-ness. Even as leaders, we don’t have control over everything happening at work. When a leader focuses on power-less-ness, they may pass this on to employees. Look for personal areas in which you can take charge.

4. Identify the ways in which you want your leadership measured. Project your own assessment of your leadership, based on these measures; participate in leadership assessment tools which include followership feedback. Adopt a mentor or coach to provide insights and perspectives on your leadership, in your professional and personal life. Be clear on who you wish to call on for leadership advise.

5. Demonstrate your passion by getting clear about your values and vision. Take at least 15 minutes daily to “go within’, to reflect on where you’ve been, where you are, and where you want to go.

6. Risk honest conversations with colleagues and followers to better understand yourself. Learn the art of “right ” language for delivering and receiving feedback.

The more we develop our self-leadership, the more open our heart is to people who need leadership from us, and the more personal power we’ll have with them. This seems like “soft”, expendable “stuff” but, as author Richard J. Leider reminds us, “the soft stuff is the hard stuff”.

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