The whole and its parts

The whole & its parts

Force and power in leadership

When people seek to attain their objectives, they can be driven by the fear of failing as much as the belief that they have to achieve their objectives. In a way, these ideas are indistinguishable from one another. Both present themselves with an attachment to the result.

What it often does is create a sense of tension the person has to deal with. It is a type of stress that influences the person’s thinking. Instead of focusing on the task at hand, they add subjects to their thinking that they perceive as relevant. These subjects all deal with the specific attachment that person has to the result.

A visible consequence in behavior is how much effort the person brings forward, how difficult they find to regulate their emotions, and how forceful they act.

It is a situation in which they are at risk of confusing force with power.

Ed Batista once defined force as “strength or energy as an attribute of action.” His definition of power was “the ability to produce an effect.”

They may seem to be leading to the same result. However, they are distinct in how they achieve an effect. Power will not always need force to produce an effect. Using force produces power, but the effect this power produces depends on how it is experienced.

How someone developed power differs. In general, it is a function of perception. For the leader himself, it often is the confidence and way to relate with others that enables their sense of power and defines their behavior. For those “on the other side” it is the power they give the leader or perceive him as having that will define their behavior.

There often is a stage in life, where force is helpful. Most of the time it is when the person doesn’t have power yet or perceives herself as lacking power. That is, in the situations in which the person didn’t experience herself as able to produce an effect. It’s a situation in which the person will use a trial-and-error approach deploying her force. It may happen, for example, by raising her voice, interrupting others, or speaking rapidly. With only force at hand, the person needs to discover her power.

This isn’t the case anymore when someone is a leader.

But if the leader finds himself in a position where he doesn’t perceive his power, he might revert to force. It happens when no alternative is visible. He hasn’t yet developed the skills allowing him to have sufficient insight into the given situation, nor perceived the power others give him and he has in himself.



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