Thursday, September 17, 2015

Real Power Isn’t About Position Power At All; It's About Relationship Power!

As the 20th Century drew to a close, particularly from 1970 on, business and self-help books became an industry all their own. As the 1970s transitioned into the ‘80s (commonly referred to as the “Me Decade”) the focus in American and international business shifted to the idea of power.

We were encouraged to focus on gaining power, establishing power, jockeying for power, and just about anything else that would give us personal advantages over everyone else. The main character in the movie “Wall Street” uttered the famous statement that came to define the ‘80s: “Greed…is good.”

As a result, many people became focused on what is called position power. And I’m here to suggest that it’s not the kind of power that truly produces positive results—in our own lives, businesses, community organizations or philanthropic activities. Position power means that I have power over you solely because of my status. I’m your boss, or manager or supervisor. You must do what I say. I get perks that you don’t. Because of my position, I have the power.

However, when we rely on that type of power, I would suggest that we are weaker than we think and  that the truly influential people are those who cultivate relationship power.

The power of relationships is profound. The more positive relationships we develop, the more influential and effective we become. And influence is truly where power resides—in our professional and personal lives.

Think of the person who cultivates position power. Everything is wrapped up in their status, or their job title. But that can change in an instant. I’ve known people who had important jobs and fancy titles and big offices who were fired and lost it all overnight. Or, even if they weren’t fired, they were shuffled around in a corporate reorganization and suddenly found themselves on the outside of the power structure looking in. Their “power” wasn’t really power, after all.

Relationship power is something else altogether. It recognizes the value of connections, trust and respect and cultivates them effectively. It’s the gateway to real influence because it leads to true collegiality and camaraderie.

The power of relationships is profound—at work, in our communities, in our neighborhoods, and in our homes. When we take the time to truly show interest in others and build relationships with them, we exert far more influence than when we strive to gain an advantage over them.

Not only that, but we can practice relationship power no matter where we find ourselves in life. Regardless of whether you’re an executive, or a middle manager, or simply a staff employee, you can cultivate relationships—both inside and outside of your company or organization—that will help you be more effective and influential in your job. Participation in civic and professional organizations can lead to networking opportunities that will benefit your employer as well as your career.

How about you? Have you found yourself a little too focused on things like status and job title? If so, step back and look at how you can develop genuine relationships with others. In so doing, you’ll find yourself becoming a more influential person. And that’s where real power resides.

Jim Ondrus pioneered the management concept of Leadership Transitioning. He is president of JA Ondrus, LLC, a Canton, Ohio executive coaching firm.