Business Magazine

Reality Check: Leadership is About Power

By Shrinkingthecamel

Reality Check: Leadership is About PowerIt might upset some good Christian business leaders to think too much about power. “But we are servant-leaders!” they will say. “True leadership is about humility, not amassing power!”

However, the authors of a very good article I read in the Wall Street Journal pose a spiritually-incorrect possibility:

“Whatever else a leader must do, a leader must gain, exercise and retain power.”

Why? Well, in order to become a leader in the first place, of course. Which will inevitably involve facing some unpleasant details such as dealing with difficult, strong-willed people who have their own appetite for power, or making life-or-death decisions in the face of extreme challenges. On the flip side, it takes a level of power to achieve some positive things too, like influencing and initiating new ideas, or charting a vision of the future and compelling others to follow.

Ultimately, the authors of this article believe that an aspiration for power is what is required to drive a leader to make the sacrifices, invest the time, and to develop the skills required to get to the top.

Preston C. Bottger and Jean-Loius Barsoux, both professors at the famous IMD International school of business management, go on to list three questions that executives must ask as a reality-check on assessing their own leadership potential.

1. How far do you want to go?

It is critical to understand the realities of the time, energy and level of responsiblity that come with the territory of high-caliber jobs. You will constantly be making decisions that affect other peoples’ lives and money. Take a good look at what the senior leaders are doing in your own organization. Are you willing to do those same things that are required for their jobs?

2. What are you willing to invest?

If you want to lead, you must make tough choices about how much effort you want to put in to your own growth. Aside from intellect, technical abilities, and cultural savvy, a leader must have a burning desire to get from here to there – a desire for power, according to the authors – which will never be an easy road. It will take discipline, drive, and sacrifice in order to perservere through the daunting course required to get there.

3. How will you keep it up?

Having the top post does not mean you will continually be surrounded with recognition and rewards. You will have to deal more often with criticism, resistance, setbacks, and people who simply don’t like what you are asking them to do. You will need to find some ways to balance your physical, emotional, and spiritual (I said that, not them) aspects of your life in order to keep fresh, energetic and relevant.

So, what do you think? Do you agree with these authors? Or are they missing the boat because of a lack of spiritual guidance in their thinking? Before you answer, think about some of the most “powerful” spiritually-grounded  business or church leaders that you can think of: Rick Warren, say, or Michael Hyatt. Could any of them have achieved their postitions without some level of desire for power or influence?

By the way, Websters definition of power is: “Possession of control, authority, or influence over others.”

From a spiritual perspective, is “power” a good thing or a bad thing?

Can you have influence in this world without power?

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