Leadership and Power
I have always been curious to understand what comes first- power or leadership. Can you lead without power? Or can you have power without leadership? It is similar to the well-known chicken or egg parable. What is more important to possess in life? And why? Two simple questions with vastly different answers, depending on your goals.
Leadership has many definitions, written over centuries of its study. The one I understood the most to be true to my perception of its definition of leadership is: a process whereby an individual influence a group of individuals to achieve a common goal. (Northouse, L 1 p. 2, 2016)
. There are many types of leaderships, including assigned and emergent leadership. I believe there is no truer form of leadership than an emergent leadership, where it is your skills, knowledge, and hard work that gains everyone’s respect. An assigned leadership sometimes can produce an implication that you are there, not because of your hard work, but for your last name, or the people you know. Leadership, then, is only meaningful when it is gained, not handed down.
Power, by its definition, is “the ability to act or produce an effect; a possession of control, authority, or influence over others.” (Merriam Webster,2020). The six bases of power are: “referent, expert, legitimate, reward, coercive, and information power.” ((Northouse, L 1 p. 12, 2016)
. Referent and expert power, being a personal power style influence are the ones I consider more valuable. They are defined as “identification and liking for the leader, and competence.” (Northouse, L 1 p. 9, 2016). Even Kellerman states that the playing field between leadership and followers have been evened out based on technology and information. A new source of power is being valued, and it is intrinsic to understand its worth and where it is heading.
If one understands power and leadership, and their value, like I do, the answer is simple: leadership comes first, followed by power. Why? In order to obtain personal power, the ability to produce an effect, one has to prove they have the skills and knowledge necessary to produce “it”. That only comes from a great leadership; an opportunity to show your team, followers, coworkers, what you are made of. Which is more important to possess in life? Both. Why? You can’t be a good leader, having all the skills, if you don’t know how to canalize it. And you can´t have power and its effect on others, if you don´t have the necessary skillset. One must aim for power, through emergent leadership.
Merriam-Webster. (n.d.). Management. In Merriam-Webster.com dictionary. Retrieved May 20, 2020, from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/management
Northouse, P. G. (2016). Leadership Theory and Practice, Seventh Edition. Chapters 1 & 2. Sage Publications.