Leaders manage countries, corporations and classrooms. Some leaders achieve their goals more effectively than others depending on their ability to use their power to motivate or persuade people to follow their lead. The best leaders use both positional and personal power to work to achieve their goals with their followers. Positional power comes with the job, but personal power is earned.
Positional power derives from the authority and responsibility of a particular job. Corporations hire their leaders while the voters elect government leaders. Each leadership position comes with some power. The President of the United States is the most powerful person in the world so his positional power is substantial. The CEO of an important bank has significant power to make decisions and determine the use of a substantial amount of money. A teacher has positional power over the students in the class. The sources and amount of positional power depend on the size and value of the organization.
Leaders have the authority to sign checks and the responsibility to promote employees to better positions. The president of a country can levy taxes, grant pardons and approve legislation while a teacher can make assignments, give tests, promote or retain students and assign grades. The positional power of a leader depends on the power to promote, fear of dismissal or lack of advancement. In contrast to personal power, positional power accrues or disappears with the position.
Personal power stems from the personality and behavior of the leader. Leaders derive personal power because the followers love or respect them based on their actions and charisma. Leaders earn personal power when they are fair, kind and conscientious. For example, leaders might acquire personal power by clearly defining their expectations and recognizing or rewarding those who meet those expectations. Leaders bring personal power with them and take it with them when they leave a position. Followers, friends, family and strangers can give personal power and withdraw it from their leaders so this type of power could be fleeting. A Presidential candidate often attracts voters due to their personal power. When elected, they acquire positional power. They might lose the personal power if they are ineffective leaders, but they will not lose their positional power until their term ends.
Effective leaders understand the source of their power and use it to achieve their goals.
The best leaders know the scope of their positional power and use it to motivate and care for their constituents. They bring personal power with them to an organization or office, and they increase or lose this power depending on the strength of their character and their ability to connect to others.
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