Leadership is about POWER.
How it is exercised and used, what relationships it creates and how people feel in positions of “followership” is what distinguishes great leaders from others.
There are a number of different types of power. I will talk about two.
Positional power is that associated with a position, often in an organisation, society or other situation where people fill a created a position. A good example includes, in schools, Principals. We are in positions of Positional Power. The very fact we occupy the position of Principal gives us Leadership positional power. This can be ineffectual at times, in fact I would argue most of the time. We may remember situations where we might reluctantly do things “just because the Principal says so, [not because we want to]”. Positional power is often about coercion. An example of the worst of Positional Power could be Adolf Hitler. He occupied a Position of Power and was a Leader of an enormously powerful organization. He was not a great leader. More recently we can dwell on Idi Amin, Slobadon Milosevic, and others.
Positional Power used negatively is often about what I call Power Over. Power over is about disempowerment. Hitler was an expert at Power Over, totally. The school bully is an expert at power over. They disempowered people; they “colonize” people with their own beliefs and values, often violently. They take away the rights and dignity of people. They often take away that fundamental right to feel safe, valued and valuable.
Empowerment, which is what leadership is about, is the outcome from Great Leadership. It is about allowing people to take control of their lives and situations. It grows from respect for self and others and focuses on peoples’ strengths. Empowerment happens when Leaders, people, exercise power with, NOT power over, others.
Empowerment is founded on among other things,
q Respect for the dignity and uniqueness of the individual, families, groups or communities (you can see how Hitler does not fit the description of being a Great leader as he had none of these traits or abilities).
q A fundamental belief in the positive potential of people and an emphasis on their strengths and capacities.
q A Deep commitment to peoples’ right to self-determination.