When you accept a leadership position in your organization, every day you have to make a decision that will impact your organization from top to bottom. Do I lead with Power or Influence? The lure of power is strong. Just sit back and tell people what to do, when to do it, how to do it and when it’s due. So what’s wrong with that scenario? Well in my younger, headstrong, undereducated about leadership days, I gave in to the lure of Power and here’s what I found. You have to be right there, onsite, all the time, in order to keep people on track. I found myself frustrated with the progress, on the outside looking in, and worst of all I was isolated and lonely. I never got the feeling of accomplishment that I thought I would, I never got the feeling that I was involved in something great as the fires started every day and I spent an inordinate amount of time putting them out. In short, I paid dearly for not giving my people any credit for the intelligence that they possessed. Change was needed and I found it when I researched Influence. It was humbling to realize that I had chosen the easy way out and I was responsible for the mess that had been created. But it put me in the proper frame of mind to do the right thing. That right thing was to go to my people and ask for their forgiveness, request that we engage in a collaborative “re-do”, and invite them to use their collective intelligence to be part of something great. Much to my relief, they were a forgiving bunch and they said yes, let’s do it. So I got buy in. Now what? Building influence isn’t easy. It takes time, energy and dedication. After the group buy in, it’s time for one on ones. Sitting down with each individual on your team and finding out as much information as you can in order to place them right, grow them right, and give them a chance to shine so the team can shine. These are not social events within your company. They are singularly designed to find out the specific strengths and weaknesses of each of your people and what your role will be in helping them grow. And they are AWESOME! I found myself fascinated by what makes different people tick, I realized that there is no one way fits all when it comes to your people, but best of all I became invested in their success even more than my own. Armed with this knowledge we formed a team plan. The influence I had built with the one on ones carried over to the group when I asked them if we could set high standards and not only did they say yes, but they built in a system of accountability and discipline that I’m not sure I would have had the courage to implement without their say so. Was it perfect? Far from it. The first year was a struggle, many setbacks, grumblings when they were held to the standard and disciplined according to their wishes. Many days I went home exhausted from the fray. But still it was different. Better. There were many more group meetings and one on ones and at the end of the year, we sat down to see where we were and we all realized we had grown as individuals and as a team and there was a confidence that although we were not yet great, we were going to be! And personally, for me, I realized that influencing was the way I was always going to do leadership. So Leaders, every day you have a choice. Power or Influence? Power seems easier and may even get you to the top. But if you want to do leadership properly, getting to the top is only the first step. The real judge of leadership is how long do you stay at the top. Greatness comes from longevity, from sustaining a level of excellence that keeps you at the top and coming from someone who has painfully tried both approaches, Influence is the only way!
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