Power is a wonderful thing as it helps us get what we want in life. Unfortunately most of us don’t understand that there are consequences beyond getting the immediate results that we desire. We will briefly look at coercive, utility and principle-centered power and why only principle-centered power makes sense in today’s world of business.

In the world of business, managers who were trained in the “old school” philosophy that came out of the industrial revolution in the early 1900s, used coercive power to get things accomplished. They used their authority over someone and ordered people around, telling them what to do, when to do it and how to do it. Many managers still use this technique today, as they were taught that power means absolute control. While this method was effective in managing uneducated workers on the factory floor, it is no longer effective in today’s culture. When coercive power is used, it makes someone do what we want, but as soon as the source of power is removed, all work stops. Coercive power breeds a climate that will result in high employee turnover, low morale and a culture of fear and mistrust.

Somewhere during the 1960’s, businesses began to realize employees were people that had needs and desires, and that by meeting these needs they would be more productive and efficient. Human Resources was the outcome of this school of thought and power became a utility. This means that we have something that our employees want, and are willing to trade them something to get what we want. This might be money, prestige, position, vacation-time, benefits, or any other “perk” such as a corner office or a bonus. This is practiced in many businesses today and is still considered the norm in many aspects.

Utility power works, until we no longer have what an employee wants. It is interesting to watch the baby boomer generation moving through the corporate ranks. While many of us wanted “things” as we were younger, we now realize that things only bring temporary happiness. The use of Utility Power brings temporary results, based upon having what our employees want at any given time. Given enough time, Utility Power will soon lose its luster and will leave us in a position where employees leave to go somewhere else to get what they want.

Current trends suggest that people respond best to Principle-centered Power. Principle-center Power motivates people at a deep level where they will follow you, and your business, because they believe in what you are doing and trust that you have their best interest in mind. If you take a journey down memory lane, and think of the one person in your life that impacted you in a positive way, you will have an idea of what Principle-centered Power looks like. Mother Teresa is a great example of Principle-centered Power. She was committed to living a life of integrity and helping others around her. People followed her because they believed in her.

Principle-centered Power leads to partnerships being developed between you and your staff. They will be self-motivated, teachable, creative, and around for the long term. Morale will be higher and efficiencies will improve, all based on the use of Principle-centered Power.

Are you a leader that utilizes Principle-centered Power? Do people follow you because they have to, want something you have, or because they believe in what you are doing? Becoming a leader and using Principle-centered Power is not a simple thing to do. If you believe that you are using this power effectively, you probably aren’t. The Principle-centered Leader realizes that this is a life-long journey that requires constant practice and adjustment. If you want to become a Principle-centered Leader, there are seven simple things that you need to do:

  • Lead with vision – Communicate the why
  • Have conviction – Live what you believe
  • Stop using the word “I” – Begin using the word “we”
  • Care for others – Serve others – Respect others
  • Encourage participation – Talk less – Listen more
  • Teach others what you believe and expect them to “get it”
  • Celebrate victories – Admit defeats

While the steps above are what most of us consider common sense, why don’t we all practice them more often? Your challenge is to put a plan of action together that will force you to look at these things on a daily basis. The difference between a good leader and a great leader, is moving from “knowing” these things, to “doing” these things. Are you a good leader, or a great leader?