May 3, 2021
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A leader’s job is clearly cut out for him; he has to get things done. He has to produce results that will gladden the hearts of most stakeholders and ensure the sustainability of the organization. What he has to decide for himself is the strategy that will be deployed to achieve that end. This is where the rubber meets the road. This is where the distinction between great leaders and those who are not becomes glaring. This is where a leader’s style comes to the fore. Some leaders work with their people to achieve stated objectives; others use their people to achieve corporate goals. The two sets of leaders achieve their aims but travel different routes to get this done. While some realize their corporate goals with every member of the team enjoying the ride no matter how arduous the task is, others achieve their stated end with members of the team feeling bruised and battered.

Leaders who work with people are regarded as powerful while those who use people are forceful.

Powerful people understand the need to understate their power. They know that power is more potent when veiled, so they do not vaunt their positional power. They restrain themselves from harassing people with their power; they eschew the brutality of power. They instead deploy their power for the benefit of everyone who has contact with them as well as the organization to which they belong. Knowing that the potency of power is heightened when deployed for the benefit of the people, they never stop using their power as a lever for others to attain their personal objectives while working to achieve corporate goals.

Between the powerful and the forceful leaders

Powerful and forceful leaders are as different from one another as light is from darkness. Their orientations are different, their styles are poles apart and their dispositions are not the same. While powerful leaders rely largely on their inner resources and people skills to get the people to work and get things done, forceful leaders rely on the dictates of the law to get people to go along with them. But forceful leaders do not get too far because where the force of the law stops is where the power of people skills take off.

Here are some of the attributes that distinguish the powerful from the forceful.

Inspiration Vs drive

Although powerful leaders are self-driven, they don’t drive others. Instead, they inspire them by doing what is right rather than by demanding that their reports do what is right. Powerful leaders set high standards for themselves. They go beyond the call of duty to achieve their goals. They never see obstacles; rather they see opportunities. They never consider any hurdle too difficult to scale. They have positive attitudes to life and demonstrate a high level of positive energy. They never demand from their team members what they themselves are unwilling to do. They never ask their team members to make any sacrifice they are unwilling to make. They lead by example. For this reason, they are a source of inspiration to their team members. Their conduct and self-discipline fire up their subordinates who want to be like their leaders. Their subordinates regard them as models and are willing to follow in their footsteps. Their team members are willingly committed to the realization of corporate goals because they are inspired by the disposition and conduct of their leaders. Because of their commitment to diligence and discipline, they do not have to go into any excessively laborious exercise to get their team members to buy into the organizational vision.

But not so the forceful leader. Though self-driven, he never stops trying to drive others. He does not inspire others, neither does he see any reason to motivate them, he just drags them along with him. He does not show them any reason to move in a particular direction but expects them to tag along. Although he gets people to go along with him because they have no alternative, he does not get their maximum cooperation because of his inability to lead by example.

People are not only willing to follow leaders who walk the talk but have preference for leaders who walk more on the right path than they talk about it. Leadership is about modeling, that is why leaders who model what is right get the commitment of the people than those who do not.

Persuasion Vs coercion

Powerful leaders prefer to persuade their people instead of coercing them. They rely on communication to achieve this. A great leader does not just communicate to inform, he communicates to transform. So, when he communicates with his people, it is with the intention of persuading them to see why the organization is taking some steps or going in a particular direction so that they can better perform their tasks.

All great leaders have one thing in common, they are great communicators. This is not about having the gift of the gab, it is about being painstaking in getting the message across clearly and unmistakably. It is about initiating a change in the lives of the people through that communication exercise. Powerful leaders dwell more on the ‘why’ than the ‘what’. They know that when the people understand the ‘why’ doing the ‘what’ would not be difficult. They never stop communicating the ‘why’ until they are sure that they are on the same page with their people.

Powerful leaders always communicate their expectations and do not leave their people in doubt about what is expected of them. They also allow feedback from their people and are willing to effect necessary changes as a result of the feedback they get.

Forceful leaders do not believe much in communication, they coerce their people into action by issuing directives and instructions. A forceful leader believes that his word is the law and everything he says must be carried out. He does not believe in getting feedback from his people because he arrogates to himself the monopoly of wisdom. For a forceful leader, it is either his way or the highway.

Control Vs guidance

Powerful leaders do not seek to control their people; they guide them. They refrain from having an overbearing influence on their people. They allow each team member to develop the ability for independent thinking and not walk in the shadow of the leader.

Powerful leaders do not micromanage; instead they allow their people to use their initiative to get results once the general terms are agreed upon. Their actions are based on their belief that every member of the team has something of value to contribute to the achievement of the overall objective. So, they allow the ingenuity and creativity of their people to come to play in the discharge of their duties.

Forceful leaders micromanage. They require constant and detailed performance report and focus excessively on procedural details rather than on overall performance, quality and results. They stretch the statement, ‘Don’t expect what you don’t inspect’ to the snapping point. They demonstrate their lack of trust in the competence of their people by breathing down their neck to ensure that everything runs in accordance with the way they had set it out from the outset.

Bonding Vs aloofness

Powerful leaders go the extra mile to connect with their people. They build relationship with their colleagues. They understand that people do not care how much the leader knows until they know how much he cares. Therefore, they stay connected with their people. They also understand that people will go out on a limb for leaders they believe care about their welfare, so they show that they care about the people not just because of what they stand to gain but because they believe that the people deserve their care and attention.

Powerful leaders, knowing that most people spend the greatest part of their waking moments at work, try as much as possible to make the workplace as lively as possible and give their people a sense of belonging. They deliberately make themselves accessible to their colleagues and make time out to listen to issues bothering them. They do not create a ‘we’ and ‘them’ situation but create an inclusive system.

On the other hand, forceful leaders are too distant from their people. The only thing that connects them with the people is the work. They cannot be bothered whether the people are hurting or not. For as long as the work is done, all is well and good.

Self-deprecation VS self-glorification

Powerful leaders understand that unless they make deliberate attempt to stop it, their position can create a wall between them and their people. So, they intentionally poke fun at themselves and this empties the leader of the image of the superhuman. The people begin to see the leader as a person just like them.  Through this they create a convivial atmosphere that is devoid of tension. They know that people are able to give their best when they are relaxed and free from unnecessary pressure.

Apart from creating a convivial environment, powerful leaders are also wont to give credit for group achievements to their members. They take the blame for whatever goes wrong but pass the credit for successes recorded to their members.

Forceful leaders are engaged in self-glorification. They take their work and themselves seriously. They stomp around and leave no one in doubt about who the boss is and where the power lies. They are reluctant to share credit for group achievements but quick to point fingers when things go awry.

Last line

The less a leader talks about his power, the more powerful he becomes.

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