The American President, Abraham Lincoln once said “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power. ” As a leader your decisions will have tremendous impact on a great many others. Please provide an example of when you realized this in your career. Adversity tests a man’s determination. Most leaders possess this trait, as they would have gone through the long haul just to achieve their position. But it’s also true that power brings out the innate character of the leader.
Some great leaders have gone on to make the difference with the powers accorded to them, while others eave gone on to create impacts we would rather forget. What is power? Some view it as absolute, which accompanies a position of authority. Others view it as a form of respect to be accorded to an individual. This list can go on forever. As a matter of fact, we could write a whole book just to define the meaning of power, but that wouldn’t be the discussion here.
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Personally, I view the true meaning of power as the ability of an individual to bring about positive differences through one’s actions. George Eliot, the 19th century English novelist once quoted ‘What do we live for, if it is not to make life less difficult for each other? Power is not permanent. It lasts for only as long as the leader maintains the ability to bring about these positive differences. I recognized this fairly early in my career, within 6 months to be exact. Admittedly, I wish I could have achieved this recognition through another experience.
My first job assignment was to lead a team of about 20 manufacturing line personnel. By most accounts, the team was well-managed. We consistently delivered and exceeded our key performance indices. There was a problem to this “ideal picture”. In this team, there was an individual who consistently underperformed at work. She was much disliked by the rest of the team and labeled as “hopeless” by the management. I subsequently dismissed her on the grounds of gross incompetence. L received a phone call from her just a week later.
It was only a brief 15 minutes conversation. I discovered that she was a widowed mother to 2 young children. Essentially, she was also the family’s sole breadwinner. At that moment, I realized that I have failed miserably as her leader. I failed to empathic with her situation. And although I was in a position of power, I failed to make a difference for her and the team. This episode changed y perspective on the definition of good leadership. Good leadership is not the same as good management.
My leadership style now, is a direct result of that fateful incident. Seek first to understand an individual and the circumstances. Then, make the effort to coach and guide, with the eventual aim of creating positive differences for that individual and the team as a whole. “Leadership should be born out of the understanding of the needs of those who would be affected by it,” Marina Anderson, the 20th century American singer. I am very comfortable with this new style.