There are often a number of misconceptions regarding the role of leadership in any organization. Too often they are viewed as the persons with “power” and therefore the only ones who can affect the failures, success, and change in an organization. While that may be a popular perception, it is far from the actual truth in my opinion.
Power is the ability to do good things for others.
Every single member of the organization has power. It is the role of the leadership to channel and focus that power collectively so the organization can achieve their mission which means good things for others. As such there is perception that the leadership has a greater power than others.
Uncle Ben was right… with this perception of great power comes even greater responsibility. It is a responsibility to the beneficiaries of the organization’s work to ensure that the work is completed. It is a responsibility to the members of the organization to provide guidance and leadership in a constructive manner so that the work can be completed efficiently and correctly. It is a responsibility to act transparently ensuring the fair and equitable treatment of all.
To help with that leaders often rely on policies. I’ve already written about where I stand on policies, and if you haven’t read it then I invite you to do so.
Where I Stand
The perception of power is ultimately formed through the actions, or inactions, of those in leadership roles. This perception is important because it affects the organization in many areas including inter-agency relations, recruitment, operations, and an organization’s ability to fulfill their actual mission.
The authoritarian leader is more likely to lead through edict, micro-management, policy, and discipline for violating those policies. They will often have preconceived notions and fail to listen to either the beneficiaries or the members of the organization. They will keep a small circle of confidants and will often reward them for their work while ignoring the same or greater work done by those outside of their circle. Its important to understand that this leadership style is something they learned from leaders before them and they don’t see the problems associated with it, especially the complications it can cause in volunteer organizations.
Needless to say, I am not a fan of the authoritarian leadership style. I am a believer that good leadership begins with effective communication. The first step of effective communication is the ability to listen and then act upon that information to guide and lead to the achievement of the mission. I prefer to receive the constructive feedback from all, to recognize the efforts (no matter how big or how small) of all who help achieve the mission, and provide constructive guidance to those willing to accept it so they too can be part of the team’s success.
I don’t view leadership as something that gives power. I view leadership as a responsibility to empower, because the truth about actual power is it resides squarely with the members.
For democratic organizations members are often asked to choose who they want to fill a leadership role, and as such are able to cast their vote on what type of leader they think will be able to help them achieve the mission of the organization. This is an important choice since a poor decision by the group may lead to the failure of the mission or even the failure of the organization’s ability to exist and therefore unable to do good things for others. The voice of the membership in their vote is power.
Members who may be in the minority still have power. If they believe strongly in the mission of the organization they can choose to continue being a member and work to achieve that goal. A good leader will understand that a key element of teamwork is the ability to compromise. Failing to do so will cause dysfunction in the organization, causing members to feel unvalued, and they may just decide to go elsewhere. Keeping that in mind, who has the true “power”? As I said previously, every single member has power and it is important to recognize that.
Where Do You Stand?
Do you still think your leadership has “power”? If you were in a leadership position, how would you use your “power”?