Points of Power Can Help Self Leadership

The concept of power in the workforce has a negative connotation.  It brings to mind such associations as coercion, manipulation, and even corruption.  This does not have to be the case. Power has many positive aspects, and everyone can learn to explore and harness different sources of the individual power they have in the workplace.  By developing their own sources of power, employees will be less dependent on others for the leadership they need and thus be better able to take initiative and make a greater contribution in their jobs.

In our program called Situational Self Leadership, we take a different perspective on power.  We suggest that “The sole advantage of power is the ability to do more good.” Thus, if you want to do more good for yourself and more good for the people around you, it is important to learn how to tap into your own points of power.

Points of Power.  There are at least five power sources you can develop in any job, all of which relate to each other in varying degrees: Position power, task power, personal power, relationship power, and knowledge power.

Position power is inherent in the authority of the position you have.  You have position power when your business card has a title printed on it that indicates you have the power to manage people or command resources. My dad, an officer in the Navy, used to say, “The best leaders are those who have position power and never have to use it.”

Task power is power that stems from being good at a particular task at work and being able to help others with a process or procedure they may need to do.

Personal power comes from your personal character attributes such as strength of character, passion, inspiration, or a personal vision of the future.  Personal power is further enhanced by the strength of your interpersonal skills, such as your ability to communicate well and be persuasive with others.

Relationship power comes from association with others through friendship, personal understanding of a colleague, cultivation of a relationship, nepotism, or reciprocity (trading favors).

Knowledge power is about having expertise in an area. This is often through knowing a special skill or group of skills in your job, but is also evidenced by having certain degrees or certifications indicating special training.  Knowledge power can often be transferred from job to job or from company to company–it is a general type of power.

Charting Your Points of Power

An enlightening activity is to list a number of workplace situations or conditions where you feel you have the power to influence outcomes or people.  Next to each item, categorize the type of power you have in that circumstance.

Now draw a five-pointed star with ten hash marks from the center to the tip of each point.  From the center of the star, mark off the corresponding number of responses you listed in your assessment of each type of power.  The farthest hash mark you indicate on each arm of the star becomes the new tip of that arm.  Connect these new points.  The resulting graphic should be some semblance of a star, with certain points having more emphasis and others having less. This will show you at a glance your primary points of power.

If you want to be a real star in the workplace, try to develop a strategy to balance the points of power where you work. Some examples:

·       You have high knowledge power due to expertise in analysis and are often asked to analyze situations and report your findings in meetings.  However, you are weak in personal power and a poor communicator.  Your strategy might be to take a presentation skills course or to ask someone to critique a presentation before you give it to the group.

·       You have high task power and need to present an idea to the head of your department, but are somewhat weak in relationship power.  Your strategy could be to ask a coworker who has the ear of the department head to give you feedback on how he or she thinks the department head will react to your idea.

·       You have task power and are working on a very visible project, but you lack position power, which might make it difficult to get support.  Your strategy could be to use your task power to solicit a sponsor or champion who will help promote your project and your credibility.

·       You have personal power, but are weak in relationship power. Your strategy might be to use your social skills to network.  Ask others for instructions, attend meetings of professional organizations, or schedule lunches to help build relationships.

Take advantage of the points of power where you are strong.  Use your power in a positive way to do more good for yourself and those around you.  If people throughout your organization are enabled to develop their sources of power, it could create a more even playing field for everyone. Power doesn’t have to be concentrated in the hands of a few.

What, Exactly, Is Servant Leadership?

At The Ken Blanchard Companies, most of our work in the past focused on leader behavior and how to improve leadership style and methods. We attempted to change leaders from the outside. But through the years we have become convinced that effective leadership starts with self perception—it’s an inside job. It is a question of the heart. It’s all about leadership character and intention. Why are you leading? Is it to serve or be served? Answering this question in a truthful way is so important, because you can’t fake being a servant leader. We believe that if leaders don’t get the heart part right, they simply won’t ever become servant leaders.

The most persistent barrier to being a servant leader is a heart motivated by self interest that looks at the world as a “give a little, take a lot” proposition. Leaders with hearts motivated by self interest put their own agenda, safety, status, and gratification ahead of others who are affected by their thoughts and actions.

In a sense, developing a “servant’s heart” is a lifelong journey. It is my belief that you finally become an adult when you realize that life is about what you give rather than what you get. The shift from self-serving leadership to leadership that serves others is motivated by a change in heart. Servant leadership is not just another management technique. It is a way of life for those with servant’s hearts.

When some people hear the phrase servant leadership, they associate it with “soft management”—they think you can’t lead and serve at the same time. Yet you can, if you understand that there are two kinds of leadership involved in servant leadership: strategic leadership and operational leadership.

Strategic leadership has to do with vision and direction. This is the leadership aspect of servant leadership. The responsibility for this visionary role falls to the hierarchical leadership. Kids look to their parents, players look to their coaches, and people look to their organizational leaders for direction.

Once people are clear on where they are going, the leader’s role shifts to a service mindset for the operational leadership task, which is all about implementation—the servant aspect of servant leadership. How do you make your vision happen?  In a traditional organization, all the energy in the organization moves up the hierarchical pyramid as people try to be responsive to their bosses instead of focusing their energy on meeting the needs of their customers. Bureaucracy rules, and policies and procedures carry the day. This creates unprepared and uncommitted customer contact people who are trying to protect themselves and it leaves customers uncared for at the bottom of the hierarchy. This scenario doesn’t do much to move the organization in the desired direction toward accomplishing a clear vision. Servant leaders, on the other hand, feel their role is to help people achieve their goals. To do that, the traditional hierarchical pyramid is theoretically turned upside down so that the frontline people, who are closest to the customers, are at the top. Now the frontline people are responsible—able to respond—to the needs of the customers. In this scenario, leaders serve and are responsive to their people’s needs, training and developing them to accomplish established goals and live according to the vision.

Servant leadership is not soft management; it is management that not only gets great results but also generates great human satisfaction.

If you are interested in learning more about Servant Leadership, I will be speaking at the Servant Leadership Institute Winter Conference on February 1st-3rd in San Diego. For more information, or to buy tickets, please visit their website at http://sli2011winterconference.eventbrite.com/. See you there!

Managing Through the Holidays

The holiday season presents some different challenges for leaders.  Here is some advice I’ve found can help you to get the most out of this special time.

Get in the holiday spirit.  It’s important for leaders to get into the holiday spirit.  It’s a wonderful time of the year when people want to feel good and connected to each other.  It is a time to capitalize on team building and allow workers to get to know each other better. Yet often managers end up acting like Scrooge by being too busy or demanding of themselves and of their people.  Bosses can really ruin the holidays by being grumpy, under stress and too demanding.  Try to be a little more lenient, supportive and willing to “go with the flow” in appreciating the time you have and the people you have to work with.

Focus on what has to be done. It’s important during the holidays to be clear with everybody on their key goals.  What are the significant things that really have to get done during the holiday season to keep business running as usual?  It’s good to write down these goals so that people are better able to work harder earlier in the season if they are going to be less focused later on.  This is especially true if, for your business, the holiday season is one of the busiest time of the year.

Be flexible with employees. Be more flexible in terms of the hours your people work, depending on their needs.  Is there a way they can have a couple of hours off so they can get some of their shopping done and make the time up later?  A lot of people have family and friends fly in and would love to have flexible work hours to accommodate them.  How could the company help employees save time?  For example, at our company, we have people fill out a form that allows them to mail their packages from our company.

Avoid negative news. Don’t use the holiday season to give employees negative news.  It is not a time of the year to catch people doing things wrong, nor it is a time to accent the negative.  Instead, do your best to redirect employees without being punitive.  Save more substantive performance issues for after the new year.  And don’t turn what should be good news into bad news by poor timing.  For example, if you are planning to give employees extra days off between Christmas and New Year’s Day, tell them far enough in advance so that they can make plans for that time.  Otherwise, they might end up at home watching television and griping about you.

Be sensitive to different religions. Be sensitive to those who don’t celebrate Christmas.  You might set aside some time when people could share information about their religious or cultural celebrations.  For example, one of our Jewish employees had people who wanted to find out more about the meaning of Hanukkah, the Jewish festival of lights celebration, meet him for lunch.

Be creative about celebrating the season. Your celebration doesn’t have to be lavish for it to be effective.  You might want to do an activity rather than hosting a party where everyone just sits around and drinks.  It might even allow for more bonding to do something like caroling that allows for a shared experience away from the office.  Another fun group activity that we’ve done is to take the time for our work group to read Dickens’ A Christmas Carol together, giving each employee a role to read.  Activities such as these can help you avoid getting into the position where you have to worry about serving alcohol to people and having them drive home.

Whenever possible, include families in holiday activities.  We had an artist come to our company one year during the holidays to teach everybody how to paint landscapes.  There were four sessions and everyone could bring their spouses, kids, and parents.  The artist dressed everybody up in French berets and artist aprons.  At the end of the activity she touched up the pictures and then we had them framed.  It was really a lot of fun.

Have fun with celebrations. Think of fun ways to celebrate the season.  I love those parties where everyone buys a three-to-five dollar gift, numbers the gift, and then people pick numbers and open the gifts one at a time.  The person opening the gift has the option of keeping what they open or trading it for one of the already opened gifts. That can turn into a pretty lively time! You can also have people exchange funny cards that they have either bought or made.  You could even set somebody up to be a “Secret Santa,” leaving anonymous gifts for random employees.

Make the spirit last all year long. A few years ago, after the holiday season had ended, several of our employees at The Ken Blanchard Companies asked, “Why does the spirit have to end at the end of the year?”  From that question sprang an employee-run program called “Blanchard for Others” which sponsors local charities and hosts all kinds of fundraising events through the year. Each year they raise tens of thousands of dollars for charity.  We now have the holiday spirit year round.

So get in the holiday spirit this year!  Go with the flow, lighten up, and enjoy this special time with your employees and with your families.