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Principle-Centred Power

In the study of leadership, via the academia angle, the learning and discussion of leadership comes from the theories of genetic “great man” theories, personality “traits” theories or behavioural “style” theories. They are true to a certain extent, explaining about the style of leadership, however, it does not cultivate the the capacity to lead.

Another method to understand and assess leadership is by looking and understanding at followers. Followers of leaders have various reasons and they can be unique and complex, however, they can be examined from 3 different perspectives They are known as –

(1) Coercive Power 

– Based on fear in both the leader and follower

– Known as the “Big Stick” approach

– Imposes a psychological and emotional burden on both leaders and followers

(2) Utility Power

– Followers follow based on the benefits, the useful exchange of goods and services in the relationship between leaders and followers, based on a sense of equity and fairness

– Used by most organisations

– Relationships based on Utility Power often lead to individualism rather than teamwork and group effectiveness. 

(3) Legitimate Power

– A very different form of power, based on the belief in them, and what they are trying to achieve. They are trusted, respected, honoured, and followed, not in blind faith or mindless obedience and they are in knowledgeable, wholehearted, uninhibited commitment.

– Legitimate Power is rare, the mark of quality, distinction and excellence in all relationships. It is based on Honour and the leader honouring the followers and the followers choosing to contribute.

– This form of power is sustained, proactive influence.

– Legitimate Power is not forced, and it is invited. 

– Control is not external, it is self-control. 

The leaders have a choice on which form of Power that they would or could choose in different situations. It would be limited by the character of the leader, and by his/her interactive skills, capacity and history. A leader who wish to increase legitimate power, a long term commitment is required, trust in relationships and sincerity.

To increase a leader’s Honour and Power with others, to increase their legitimate power, the following Ten Power Tools would help increase 

(1) Persuasion

(2) Patience

(3) Gentleness

(4) Teachableness

(5) Acceptance

(6) Kindness

(7) Openess

(8) Compassionate Confrontation

(9) Consistency

(10) Integrity

Ask yourself, as a leader what kind of leadership and principle-centered power are you ? As a follower, what kind of leadership power are you following ? Do you want this type of leadership ? Does it help you to grow and develop in your career and personal growth and development ?

To be a more effective and wiser leader, leaders need to activate the principle of legitimate power and this is the leadership model and the principle-centered power that you as a leader wants and the followers want it too.

(Adapted from Chapter 9 – Principle-Centered Ledership, from “Principle-Centred Leadership” by Stephen R. Covey, along with Blaine, N. Lee)

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