Leadership is Power
Yes, leadership is power, however, the use of power separates the effective leader from the mediocre leader. The perception of a musical conductor is that of a dictator – the conductor is the dictator. Well, the conductor gets to dictate the vision, however, the conductor is completely at the mercy of the players or singers. Nothing happens until someone follows and makes sound.
The conductor is clear in communicating the vision. The conductor is clear with cues and directions. The conductor provides the context for higher functioning. Misuse of the power from the podium will bring negative results. In performance, musicians respond to the conductor because they are inspired to perform at their best. If they do not like the conductor, or if the conductor is a tyrant, then performing at a lower level makes the conductor look bad. Sometimes this reaction is not intentional or even a conscious decision. Negative use of power brings negative results. (See my post Watch the Director.)
The following three areas of over-functioning as a leader will bring negative results:
- Control: Yes, the leader is ultimately in control. How that control plays out is the key. Forcing a response creates tension and, sometimes, resentment. The autocratic leader has the only opinion and specifies how things will be done, and then enforces compliance. The effective leader is clear on the result desired and allows the team members to use their own skills to achieve excellent results. The musical conductor lets the music happen. The most important nuances of music happen in the ensemble because the players are fully engaged and have the space to perform at the highest level. The more the leader controls the process, the lower the functioning level of all participants.
- Intervention: There are two sides to this: over- and under-functioning. The over-functioning leader constantly corrects and modifies behavior, so that the team members are not willing to be open and transparent for fear of being wrong. There is no room for team members to learn and apply lessons learned from their own mistakes. The other dimension of intervention is hands-off, for fear of hurting the feelings of team members. So, the leader under-functions by not addressing issues as they appear. Instead, the leader hopes the issue will disappear. The issue does not go away or fix itself, so the leader ultimately must deal with it at a toxic level. This costs money and time, and may destroy relationships. The culture of high performance standards is defined in the orchestra. In rehearsal, the conductor stops and tells the trumpets that the volume needs to go down one level, that the oboe is flat and must tune up, and that the string bowing should be changed to get a different sound. The players expect the comments and, in fact, if the conductor does not address the issues, the conductor is seen as ineffective. Ask for what you need. Be specific. Be direct. Address the issue and not the person.
- Micromanaging: The conductor hires the best oboe player for the orchestra, but does not attempt to tell the oboe player how to play the oboe. Leaders frequently hire the best people and then give directions, sometimes very specific directions, on how to accomplish a goal. Micromanaging devalues the person and their skills. Be clear about the desired result. Provide the necessary information. Be the cheerleader. Get out of the way.
Power is one of those magical elements of leadership that makes or breaks you in your role as transformational leader. Just like the musical conductor – if you are not getting the results you want, then look in the mirror. Leadership skills continue to grow as you are aware of your own actions. Transformational Leadership is about leading with personal influence, and not by power or position.
The wisdom gained through self-awareness guides how you use power. Pay attention to yourself. You are your own best leadership trainer.
The Transformational Leadership Strategist TM
(c) 2012 Hugh Ballou. All rights reserved.