Is leadership about power? Leadership is about persuading others, gaining alignment within a group to achieve group goals. Power is about influencing others to attain a goal, whether self-interested or in the interest of the organization.
Many of us hold negative pictures of power. That power is coercive, that is rewards and protects friends and punishes enemies. That power is based on the position that you hold in a hierarchy. And this picture of power is partially true. However, these kinds of power will achieve at best compliance. There are other effective forms of power — referent power, where people aspire to be like the power holder because they like them and identify with them, and expert power, where a unique set of knowledge and skills gives the holder power. Using referent power and expert power can create commitment among a group, rather than compliance or resistance.
Many of our modern notions of leadership fail to consider individual power. Perhaps because we associate power with so many negative traits. Yet we know that power derived from being admired or liked and from expertise is genuinely effective in achieving goals. Power in and of itself isn’t evil.
I know that leadership is more than just power. But I do think it is important to understand how effective leaders use power to achieve their objectives. Perhaps embracing our power is part of learning leadership skills.