Overview: Leaders who wield their influence and power optimally focus on their relationships. Leadership coaching prioritizes the development of leadership skills to facilitate relationship-building. Positive leadership benefits everyone and allows leaders to make lasting differences in the lives of their peers and reports.
In the business world, having power often carries stigma. We tend to view people wielding power over others as tyrants and authoritarian figures. This is a skewed perception, however. In and of itself, power is neither good nor bad. Whether it’s a positive force depends solely on what its wielder does with it.
Leaders have influence. Trust-born influence is the hard currency of leadership. Tedious to build and easy to squander, leadership influence can make or break a leader.
Leadership coaching aims to educate and train leaders on how to wield power responsibly so they turn it into an instrument of progress, help, and support. Executive coaching professionals know having power presents a more profound challenge for most people than adversity.
We are naturally more inclined to deal with adversity than to handle power over others. Leadership immaturity, the cause of most leadership failures, is a manifestation of our innate inability to handle power and influence. Some may find solutions to these problems on their own by intentionally developing their self-awareness and emotional intelligence, but most leaders need guidance. That is what leadership coaching can deliver.
The Psychological Impact of Power and Influence
Psychologists have always known that having power and influence over others lands people in psychological spaces they may perceive as abnormal. Influence and power can:
- Increase confidence
- Encourage optimism
- Spark risk-taking behaviors
Along with these positive effects, it can also cause people to engage in self-serving behaviors like:
- Exploiting others
- Putting the self above everything else
- Using power and influence to secure unfair advantages over others
- Growing more insecure
Executive Coaching Can Shape How Leaders Wield Influence
From the perspective of leadership coaching, six sources of power shape how leaders influence their followers.
- Position lends leaders some authority by default.
- Meaningful relationships support and strengthen leadership influence.
- Leaders possess information that lends them power and influence over others.
- Expertise is another source of leaders’ power and influence.
- Leaders can reward and punish their followers within the limits of their authority.
- Leadership charisma expands and amplifies leaders’ influence over their reports.
Where leaders source their power determines how well they wield it. Leadership influence depends on credibility and trust. Intelligent leaders know relationships represent the key to successful, people-centric, positive leadership. Leaders can’t build influence relying on their positions or titles, though immature leaders will try to do this regularly.
The real source of sustainable leadership power and influence lies in relationships. Leaders most readily turn to their expertise to build influence. They also rely on information and, to a lesser degree, relationships.
The optimal order is relationships first, while expertise and information are second. Charisma can also help leaders build relationships.
Focusing on Relationships – The Key to Using Influence Well
We tend to take work relationships for granted. Executive coaching is aware of the significance of relationships in leadership, however. Coaches focus on skills that facilitate diverse and meaningful relationships. Maturity, self-awareness, and emotional intelligence are essential skills in leadership and relationship-building.
What concrete steps can leaders take to improve their relationship-building skills?
Leaders can create inventories of their relationships and rank them based on importance. Knowing where they currently stand relationship-wise gives them a baseline against which they can measure improvement.
Creating a Plan
Having identified their most important relationships, leaders should set up a plan to invest more time and energy in them.
Leaders can take action on their relationships by spending more time with the people they value, showing genuine interest in their lives, and listening actively for clues on how they can help them succeed.
Leaders looking to use their influence for good focus on their relationships. The power that goes hand-in-hand with influence should benefit everyone the same way a rising tide lifts boats.