What is acceptable power in business?
29 November 2021
Who should lead us?
Bosses have power. They can schedule you to work on your spouse’s birthday, they can have the idea to use your idea without credit, and (one friend’s favourite), they can schedule a 4:30 PM meeting on Friday’s in the summer.
Sometimes it seems like bosses do things like that just because they can.
This power comes from the boss’ position in the business structure. Maybe they had been the best or oldest _______, so now they get to be the boss of ________ , and they often wield their power somewhere between irresponsibly and incapably.
Power like that is short lived and unproductive. It powers songs (“Take this job and shove it”), gossip, and resentment.
There is a different type of power though.
Almost all of us are aware of and have experienced power that comes from competence, caring and trustworthiness. Power like this can be rare in business, so some of us have to reference a coach, mentor or older relative who had an influence on us, could guide us, and make decisions that influenced our responsibilities and our futures.
People like that are true leaders, and we would have followed them even if they hadn’t been in a position that gave them power over us.
Because it was clear that they cared about what happened to us, what happened in the activity we were in (a game, a family, a business) and we trusted them.
The first type of power, the power of a boss, isn’t acceptable. It has a negative impact on everyone involved – employees, customers and the community around them. Other than short term benefits, exercising power like that doesn’t help the business.
The second type of power – a leader’s power – is not only acceptable, it’s desirable to the individual and necessary for the development of the business.
The next time you have a decision to make or an action to take, ask yourself which type of power you are using.
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