Champion Leadership Tip #21 – Learn to Balance Position Power and Personal Power

I was eight years old when I won my first Championship. It was in the Iselin, New Jersey town little league. Our coach was Mr. Cerria, who many years later would become the Mayor of our Township, and we loved playing for him.

Coach Cerria mastered the balance between the two leadership approaches of position power and personal power. Let me explain.

Position power is the authority that comes with the position a person holds, such as coach, CEO, parent, etc. Position power is applied by leaders in three circumstances:

  • they do not know how, or who don’t care to development positive, inspirational and influential relationships with those they lead.
  • there is a crisis that needs autocratic direction to move things forward quickly and responsibly (e.g., a fire in the building, an irate key customer demanding an issue get resolved).
  • a last resort after all other approaches have been tried.

Personal power allows leaders to create a team of engaged and enthused followers by developing a deep, trusting and inspiring relationship.

Coach Cerria used the latter approach by:

  • Knowing and caring about what position each of us enjoyed playing;
  • Giving us the opportunity to play that position often;
  • Showing us he valued our hard work by buying all players on the team an Italian ice after the games, win or lose. Other coaches only bought the treat after wins.
  • Would get us to play positions we were less inclined to play by explaining to us why the team needed us to play there for that particular game.

There were some times when he had to use position power. He benched some players for not paying attention, horse play or for not attending practices, etc.

Leaders should do everything they can to develop the personal, trusting relationships with the people they lead and use those relationships to inspire and motivate.

It is a less stressful and more rewarding way to lead. Over time it will allow the leader to attract the best and the brightest personnel to the team.

A leader who’s default approach is to use position power will create a stressful, compliance culture where team members follow the leader out of fear, uncertainty and doubt, fail to share resources and create silos of safety around them.

It’s your choice.

To learn to become a leader with relationship, personal power the first step is to learn to communicate like a Champion leader. The first step is to understand the biggest communication mistakes leaders make that sabotage their efforts, what I call “The 7 Deadliest Sins of Organizational Leadership Communication” – you can learn more about them and download the free White Paper Report here.