Early next month i’m delivering the prototype of a new Leadership programme called ‘Social Leadership: Power and Potential’. It explores the nature and extent of our power through sixteen questions, across four sections. Today, as part of #WorkingOutLoud on the development of this work, i am sharing the introduction i’ve been writing for the accompanying Guide.
To be a leader is to hold power, but the type of power that you hold is not set in stone. Some power may be held structurally, within the hierarchy, given to you by the Organisation you work for, and codified into rules, systems, process, and systems of consequence and control. Other types of power are unwritten, held within our reputation in the community, or through the influence or coercion that comes through seniority or expertise, stories or beliefs.
Power is complex: not a one dimensional space, but a multi dimensional one, and sometimes the different forms of power that we hold can operate against one another, or be mutually exclusive (you may fail be be both authentic to beliefs and concurrently obedient within a system, for example).
Whatever type of power we are discussing, whatever form of leadership we think we need, three things are always true.
Firstly, all power has limits. We may not realise it, we may never probe the edges, but power always has an edge. And understanding the limits of our power may be more important than understanding the substance of it.
Secondly, all power can be opposed. However powerful we feel, and however all encompassing our span of control feels, power can always be opposed. At least by those willing to pay the price.
Thirdly, and finally, all power has a cost: to us, and to others. Nothing if free: it may demand our consensus or obedience, our freedom or virtue, our follower-ship or sacrifice.
To be a leader in the Social Age is to understand this, and to embrace it: to learn our limits and build our portfolio of power, to consider how the story of our leadership (and Organisation) evolves, and to think how those stories are powered, and to be aware of the price we must pay, or are demanding from others.
In ‘The Social Leadership Handbook’ i set up the premise that we hold power in both formal and social systems, and that a modern Socially Dynamic Organisation may need us to lead in both.
Or, more specifically, at the intersection of the two.
Through this work we will explore our power as a Social Leader, through four different lenses.
- We will consider the Mechanisms of our power – how we are powerful
- We will explore the Shape of our power – and consider how we find the edges
- We will seek to understand the Impact of our power – and where consequences lie
- We will discover the Fragility of our power – and how this humility may make us stronger