Skip to content

Executive Podcast #207: How to Manage Your Own Power Dynamics

September 29, 2022
Executive Podcast #207: How to Manage Your Own Power Dynamics

Quiet Quitting is term that describes someone who has decided to limit their job output to only those things strictly stated in their job description. They do not take on additional assignments, in fact they have decided to look for ways to do the absolute minimum to complete their job responsibilities. Is this an employee problem or a leadership problem?

Want to enhance your organization’s leadership culture? Learn more about our 5 Levels of Leadership private workshops HERE – Offered virtually and on-site to meet your organization’s health guidelines.

Download our Learning Guide for this podcast!

Perry Holley:

Welcome to the Maxwell Leadership Executive Podcast, where our goal is to help you increase your reputation as a leader, increase your ability to influence others, and increase your ability to fully engage your team to deliver remarkable results. I am Perry Holley, a Maxwell Leadership facilitator and coach.

Chris Goede:

I’m Chris Goede, executive vice president with Maxwell Leadership. Welcome and thank you for joining. As we get started, I want to encourage you to go to maxwellleadership.com/podcast. There, you can download the learners guide, you can fill out a form with a question, or what we really love is if you give us a topic or a leadership challenge that-

Perry Holley:

Actually, if they could write the entire podcast that would helpful.

Chris Goede:

If you could do that, that would help Perry tremendously. What we want this to be is real life leadership issues. Most all of this comes from either a listener that sends us a comment, or it’s from you being in the field, from us, our team, being in the field-

Perry Holley:

Coaching calls. Yeah.

Chris Goede:

… coaching and bringing it to the light. Man, if you would do that, that would be helpful. We will address that in future episodes. Go to maxwellleadership.com/podcast and you can fill out that form there. Today’s topic is titled How to Manage Your Own Power Dynamics. Okay. Where are we going with this? Is there something you want to tell me?

Perry Holley:

No. Actually, you’re very good at this. This is an interesting conversation I’ve had with many coaching clients, that power dynamics really describes how your power, your title, how it affects relationships. What I’ve learned is there’s always a power dynamic in play. Every time you enter a room at home, at work, there’s a dynamic going on. So it affects your social life, the workplace. It’s not negative, inherently negative. It could be if it’s not managed. That’s really what I want to talk about, is that, are you aware of the power dynamics associated with you? Maybe we should even define that before we get going about power, because power can be a negative word I think sometimes.

Chris Goede:

Well, as we look into this, I think there have been studies that have been done for a long time on many different types of power. Different situations, different types of power. So we’re not going to get into all of them, but what Perry is kind of brought to the table is three of them that I want to kind of share with us. And then we’re going to kind unpack as a leader, what do you do with that and how do you make sure that that’s not affecting your influence as a leader?

The first one is what we call coercive power, where that’s the ability to offer punishment to deter certain actions. For example, maybe what you want them to do, or else. A little bit of authoritative kind of power from a coercive standpoint. The second one is the reward power. This is where you’re rewarding a desired behavior. Where you’re doing that so that the team will do certain things. And then the final one that we brought today is formal power. This really comes back to almost kind of what you were just talking about in the introduction, about, it’s really tied to my title. The position that the organization has. And that they know, as team members, that you have the ability to terminate them or to promote them, and that control falls into you as a leader. The people on your team and the organization are fully aware of all of these and how you are leading with them, without them, and accordingly. So I love that you brought those three different types of power as a leader we need to be aware of.

To be a Successful Leader, You Need Feedback on Your Leadership.

We’re excited to announce our new and improved Organizational Effectiveness Survey (OES). The OES gathers feedback from employees to give leaders and management the knowledge and action plans needed to develop a more effective and productive work environment. Our new version measures 4 areas of your business: Leadership, People, Strategy, and Performance. 

Perry Holley:

Yeah. It took me a while, as I got promoted from being a individual contributor, being a first line manager, second line, third line, executive, that really, anytime you have a position, your title enters the room before you do.

Chris Goede:

That’s good.

Perry Holley:

Thinking, “Am I aware of that?” So just being aware that there is a power dynamic in play. If I could act intentionally and that I’m aware of that, I may be able to offset some of the negative associated things that … One that I noticed the most was, especially the higher you go, is … I called it the salute and stay mute. That people will, depending on how you play your power, if you’re using that coercive or formal power that comes with your title, are you actually shutting people down unintentionally because they’re nervous about you? Or, “What are you going to do with what I say?” They don’t know if they can trust you. So the power dynamics in play there can really get in the way of your engagement with the team.

Chris Goede:

Yeah. This is something, I love the phrase power dynamics. What we want you to make sure you understand is you may be trying to lead with power, but you may also not know that it’s happening, and it’s happening. To your point, I love your statement, what Perry said, which is, “Your title enters the room before you do.” You need to be aware of that. So as we dig into this, here’s the first fundamental teaching for us. You guys know this as longtime listeners of our podcast, and even just John Maxwell’s content as a whole, is that leadership is influenced. It’s not based off your position. You need to remember that if you lean on your title and your position, then you’re playing to that power. You can probably all think back to some leaders that kind of leaned on their position. Or you can even maybe even see some now that are doing that and they’re just playing to the power. But if you develop your influence with others, you don’t need to worry about that title whatsoever.

Think about it like this. I love this. You put this in our notes [inaudible 00:05:47]. Think about this, when you enter a room, everyone goes, “Oh, the boss is here.” You’ll get a very different response, sit up straight, maybe salute, to your point, stay mute, whatever. But if they say, “Hey, Perry’s here,” it’s a different feeling. It’s a different culture in regards to how you’re entering a room and how your team is influenced by you.

Perry Holley:

It doesn’t mean you’re any less the boss, but it’s means that they see you as a teammate. I love that aspect of that. A second way that you can manage this dynamic is … I just call it step up or step back. I saw this in a picture. We were teaching something in the five levels of leadership, and I saw this comment. The word picture I have of it is that when I enter the room, it feels like there’s a box in the middle of the room. And I am, as the leader, supposed to step up, and by default, everyone else steps back. They’re waiting for me to espouse the truth from the top of the mountain or something. I realize that if I could reverse that a little bit, that when I enter the room, I don’t step up. I invite others to step up and I step back. It allowed me to put them on the box.

Now I’m able to ask people, “What do you think? What’s your point of view? How would you handle this?” I start to hear how they think. It just opened up all kinds of positive dynamics of relationship and influence building with others to say, “If we’re dependent on my brain power alone to lead this business, we’re in trouble. I actually think all of us is smarter than one of us and I need to hear from you.” It allowed me to require people to come to meetings with a point of view. “Don’t come if you don’t have a point of view. If you miss more than two meetings, I don’t need you. So have a point of view and think about it, and then come in because I’m going to ask you to step up and share a voice in the room that comes from you.” So to me, just picturing that, when I enter the room, step back, let them step up.

Chris Goede:

That’s good.

Perry Holley:

There are times, absolutely, you have to step up, but for the most part, I can actually step back more than I think and invite them in.

Advertisement:

Hey, podcast listeners. Do you have a clear plan for growth? Achieving big results most often does not require big life changes. Small improvements over time compound into big results. Download the Maxwell Leadership app. It’s the new free app where our expert guides and John Maxwell help you pace your leadership journey and set a clear plan for your own personal growth. You can also find all sorts of resources on the Maxwell leadership app, including this podcast, information on upcoming events, and much more. Just search Maxwell leadership in your app store and download the app today.

Chris Goede:

Well, I love what Perry’s talking about here, is when he says no, there’s times you have to step up. Listen, ultimately, as a leader, you’re responsible.

Perry Holley:

Oh, yeah.

Chris Goede:

But when you’re going about entering a room in communication and collaboration, this is a great image to keep in mind as a leader, to ask yourself, “What are you doing? Which one of those are you doing?” Well, the third way to manage your power dynamic is to give power to others.

Perry Holley:

What?

Chris Goede:

Or empower others. That’s right. Probably John’s most known book in the leadership space, The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership. John talks about this in the Law of Empowerment, where secure leaders will give away power to others. This is big in the workforce. This is something that, as leaders, we need to be accustomed to, we need to learn how to do a better job of. Because I’m not sure that a lot of leaders feel comfortable empowering or giving power to others on their team.

Saying that they can’t handle it is not the right word. I don’t know if it’s an ego thing or if it’s a pride thing, but it’s something that I know a lot of leaders struggle with. You, coach executives, and I do as well. We hear this quite a bit. But if you could learn how to do this, as we think about your power dynamics, there’s a couple things that will come from this. You will build confidence in your team, not only you and the team as they then perform, but then the team in you.

It also allows for movement to be happening while you’re not there. I was having a conversation before Perry and I began recording this session, with someone on the phone. I said, “One of my issues is I feel like I am a bottleneck. Things aren’t progressing as fast as I would like them to, but that’s on me because I’m not empowering certain people in certain situations to be able to do that.” This ties into that power dynamics. I don’t need to, again, think that I have to be able to do that because of my title. I have incredible team, with incredible influence in them and with them, so they should be able to do that.

And then, finally, my last thought on this one is that you need to make sure that, as you’re thinking about this empowerment, that you become an inspiring coach. Not a level one leader. We talk about the five levels leadership. Really, we’re talking about now, how do you work your way up through influence levels to level forward, where you become an inspiring coach as you empower them? When you do that, there won’t be any question about the power dynamics going on in your leadership.

Perry Holley:

Yeah, I actually like that John called out, “The secure leader gives power.” Now, what does … I found so many times, actually on the coaching call this morning it came up, that … It wasn’t the leader I was speaking to. He was trying to coach somebody in his organization. He was the CEO. But he said, “This person doesn’t want to give power to others because this person feels it makes them look weak, or makes them look like they’re not as important.”

That’s the insecure leader in you saying … It’s actually a scarcity mindset. So we were talking about, how do you get an abundant mindset in this leader to say, “I’m going to give power to you, which is empowering you, making you better so that you can go forward and do the work, and then that frees me up to do the things that only I can do”?

Chris Goede:

That’s good.

Perry Holley:

I think as a leader, I need to free myself, make sure that I’m doing the things that only I can do. That by empowering others to do the work, other things, I’m growing, they’re growing. It requires that abundant mindset for me to say, “There’s plenty to go around. I don’t need to hold it all for me.”

Chris Goede:

We use this word vulnerability, which is-

Perry Holley:

I remember that one.

Chris Goede:

… which almost, to some people, would think that it’s an oxymoron of power, right?

Perry Holley:

Yeah.

Chris Goede:

We talk about this. I think this is extremely important that we bring this up. Talk a little bit about, from your perspective, the role that vulnerability plays in this whole power dynamic leadership/influence.

Perry Holley:

Yes. This comes up in every conversation we have in a classroom now, is that vulnerability is a big word in leadership, but a lot of people think it means weak or it means that I’m somehow less than. It really is about trust building. That you’re saying, if you’re putting out that you are the powerful one, you have the title, you’re perfect. Heard Brené Brown say that, “We love making people think we’re perfect, but we ourselves don’t like people who act like they’re perfect.”

Chris Goede:

That’s good.

Perry Holley:

We are not perfect, so why would you want to act that way? But vulnerability is really just owning your authenticity, and saying, “I made a mistake. I could use some help.” The three most unused words in leadership, “I don’t know.” Allowing other people to speak into, and not you having to have an answer for everything. I think when you have a strong power dynamic, people will yield to you, and it’s very tempting for you to act like you have the answer for everything.

I challenge leaders most of the time. I say, “If you’re pressed, don’t you have an answer? Why would you say I don’t know? ‘Well, what if I don’t know?’ Oh, you almost always know.” Almost every leader I know knows. They don’t want to say, I don’t know. But instead of that, I say, “Well, I know what I think. What do you think?” And then inviting others into it to have that vulnerability, which then builds trust. People say, “Hey, you’re a real dude. You’re a real person. You’re like me.” And then all of a sudden you have a relationship, your power dynamic comes down, you invite others into the conversation. When you do these things, engagement goes up, buy-in goes up, results go up. It’s really a great thing to not play your power card, but instead, be a little more vulnerable, build the trust, be authentic, and people will follow.

Chris Goede:

Yeah. I love how you just positioned that for us, in regards to, you don’t want to, with lack of integrity, go, “I don’t know,” if you really know. As leaders we, most of the time, may know the answer to a certain situation. But I like the word you used where you said, “Think. I think a certain way, what do you think about this?” Now you’re being true. You have a thought around it. But you’re also not saying, “I know the answer.” Instead of saying, “I know the answer, what do you think? What are they going to do? [inaudible 00:14:55]”

Perry Holley:

Right.

Chris Goede:

“I don’t know, Perry. What did [inaudible 00:14:57].”

Perry Holley:

I’ll take your answer.

Chris Goede:

I got it. But I like what you just said there. It’s a great phrase for us to use with our people in regards to growing the connection with them, saying, “I have a thought on this, but what do you think first?” Versus using the word no. Man, I appreciate this conversation.

As I wrap up, there’s four things I want to talk about just real quickly in regards to this power dynamics. As Perry said early on as we were getting started, this word power and dynamics is not necessarily something that people want to … I mean, listen, if you were playing middle linebacker for the NFL team, you want to bring all kinds of power. As leaders, you’re like, “I don’t know, is that really what I want to be known for?” But it’s going to happen. You have it as you’re leading people, as you’re influencing people. Remember, we interchange those words. So I think we all have some sort of that. I want to encourage you. The first point here is just to embrace the idea of the fact that you do have power. It’s a weird word for us to talk about, but you do have that as a leader of somebody with influence.

But what I want to challenge you to do, and this is where we get at level one, where we talk about, “How are you going to define your leadership?” I come back to that and say, “Well, give power a new name,” to your people. So that they may think you have power, but ultimately, you’re giving power a new name so that you can have the impact that you want and be comfortable with that over time. I think you also need to make sure you’re continually guiding and looking out for others with that influence or that power that you have. So embrace that idea because it can benefit not only you, but also the team and the organization.

The second point is make sure you are aware of the negative impacts of that power. Perry mentioned your title walks into the room before you do. And other things, people salute and stay mute.

Perry Holley:

I just thought about, we do a lot of workshops. We do a workshop for a team and the senior leader is there, have you ever noticed, in the room, you can tell what kind of dynamics are going on when I just see … If the CEO or the senior vice president of something another is in the room, the people around the table get really quiet. Or, I’ve seen it where they just mix it up and they challenge each other. I say, “Okay, this is a CEO that’s … She’s managed her power exactly right. People are not intimidated. They’re willing to mix it up.” Versus the one where I see them all with their arms folded, looking at their shoes to make sure that they don’t say anything wrong in front of the boss.

Chris Goede:

Where the boss is shutting down the room.

Perry Holley:

Yeah. So when you had that point … Sorry.

Chris Goede:

That’s good. No, it’s good. The third point here, as we’re wrapping up, is to make sure that you’re elevating those with less power around you. Goes back to the empowering thing. Make sure you’re elevating them. And create spaces and opportunities for them to gain power. We’re using this word power, almost makes me feel uncomfortable talking about it, but create those spaces for them to do that. And then, finally, involve your heart in a lot of the decisions that you make. We’ve had Joel Manby as part of our thought leaders. He wrote an incredible book. He really talks about leading by loving people, the verb, and how do you do that when you make decisions? Because if you don’t do that, you’re going to minimize the team and their contribution by treating them like a number. That’s not going to bode well for your influence overall. And then my last thought is just remember the motive behind why you’re in the position that you are in, and why you’re doing what you’re doing. If that motive is pure, then you’re not going to come across as leveraging your power dynamics as a leader.

Perry Holley:

That’s powerful, Chris. Do you see what I just did there?

Chris Goede:

Oh, I like that.

Perry Holley:

It’s good.

Chris Goede:

Yeah. I like that. Thank you.

Perry Holley:

Great. Well, thank you. We do appreciate you joining us. Just a reminder, if you want to get the learner guide, you want to leave us a comment, a question, you want to learn about any of our offerings, you can do all of that at maxwellleadership.com/podcast. We’re very grateful that you’d spend this time with us. That’s all today for the Maxwell Leadership Executive Podcast.

Be the first to comment on "Executive Podcast #207: How to Manage Your Own Power Dynamics"

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

leadership_podcast_maxwell