What is this Power of which you speak?

A statement I was once confronted with:

“Powerful managers are good for an organization.  It is the ‘powerless’  who are the ineffective Managers.”

 I wonder why anyone would agree with this statement?  

What is power anyway?

You know what? According to the American Heritage Dictionary, power is defined as:

“The ability or capacity to perform or act effectively.”

Well, who’d a thought?  Power=effectiveness.  But, does effectiveness=power?   Well, the answer depends on the situation.  Perceived power in an organizational sense can mean any number of things ranging from job-titles to authority that is “taken” by force, or the authority that the manager has commanded through her/his own doings and the respect that others have gained for her or him. And what about achievements, the commitment, the drive, the humanness, the openness, the kindness, the sternness, the resolve, the will, the technical and factual ability, the sovereignty, the casualness, or being unrelenting (where it makes sense)?

If you can juggle all of the above traits and put them into practice decisively and intuitively whilst choosing the right dose of strictness, lenience and understanding, then effectiveness will be measured by the  results made using the right tactics at the right time. On the other hand, a person who is lacking the talent to build up a following through true leadership traits will hide behind other things that give off signals indicative of power.  Things like title/position, affluence, personal connections(for example, to known “powerful” individuals), office size and even type of company car 😉

How effective is something?   

Either way, different types of managers can be “powerful” in their own right if they posses the ability to bring about decisive and intended results.  I find it important to mention this because effectiveness not only means that a result has been brought about, but effective can also mean bringing about results with a lasting effect.  Good results that make others take note and want to reproduce what they have seen. 

Now get this:  A minute ago we said that power=effectiveness.  The very same source also tells us:

“\Ef*fect”ive\, Having the power to produce an effect or effects; producing a decided or decisive effect”

There’s that word power again.  Are we running in circles here? 

Effectiveness=Power, Power=Effectiveness.  In other words, being effective means that we have the power to get things done, or through our actions inspire, encourage or even scare others into taking a course of action that will produce a desired effect.  And this power is derived from the effectiveness of the means with which we proceed to command this performance of others. So, in other words, we must be careful in choosing our efforts to get others to perform in a desirable manner.  

So, Answer the Question…

Alright – so you want to know my answer to the initial question?  Well, it is “Yes” – at least for part of the statement.  I do believe that the powerful manager will be the most effective manager. If you look at it this way, then surely a good leader is a powerful person and in reaching goals through exceptional organizational and strategic skills mixed with an incredible talent to move employees to perform specific tasks in a positive and helpful way, then the job being done by this person is effective – I think I’ve built that argument above.

But let’s be careful slinging those words around like that.  In this humble person’s eye, the truly powerful are those who will not rely on negative influence.  The truly powerful do not preach “management by fear”, trying to dominate their subordinates instead of working with them together to bring about desirable results.   No, sir. 

I like the example of  Lou Gerstner, former CEO of IBM who, in the 90’s, was able to turn a behemoth enterprise around and bring it back to its old glory. It was not just his knowledge of the market, of technology and of strategies alone that got the job done.  He is quoted as saying that he “had help from the inside”. He found that the most valuable tool for improving the company was already inside the company – the people.  And he didn’t use his “power” as CEO to force anyone into anything –  they were inspired to turn it all around because they had the drive to begin with. His effectiveness was his insight into the fact that “underneath all the sophisticated processes, …there is always the company’s sense of values and identity”. 

And that’s a powerful thing…



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