How To Be A Natural Leader (& Use Your Power To Inspire Others)

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How To Be A Natural Leader (& Use Your Power To Inspire Others)

If you want to learn how to be a leader, you must start by improving your leadership skills and learning how the dynamics of power work.

But power can be a slippery concept to grasp until you see someone who owns it. For some people, power is like a well-oiled trumpet. The brass tubing is warm, unobstructed, and the ivory-topped valves spring back into shape.

A musician places the mouthpiece to their lips and a strong, vibrant sound arrives from the bell. On others, it looks like a game of Sudoku, where each number is the result of several logical decisions.

We all know that one person who has their life together. Whether they wield theirpower like an instrument or a puzzle, all you know is that you want what they have. Someone who, despite having just as many stressors and bills and deadlines as you, still manages to perform all the actions of the day with confidence, grace, and control.

A natural leader.

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We celebrate it in others, but fail to grant ourselves that same authority. Why is that? How many times have you talked yourself out of taking charge? Of making a change? So many people choose to live without power because they are afraid of creating the adverse effect, of over-exerting and generating force. This is an understandable concern and not one to be taken lightly.

Force is a closed door. You shove and push until the door clicks shut, bulging from the clutter in the closet behind it. Sure, the door closed, but the closet is just as messy as it was before. You’re certain your game of Monopoly was knocked from the top shelf during the commotion and now lay waiting, balanced against the shut door, for the opportunity to spill its miniature plastic houses and cars and silver pieces across the floor. 

The differences between power and force are paramount to a successful work environment. I believe that anyone can learn to wield power sustainably, without producing force. The challenge is to learn which is which. David R. Hawkins delineates the differences between power and force in his book, Power Vs. Force: The Hidden Detriments to Human Behavior:

"Force always moves against something, whereas power does not move against anything. Force is intrinsically incomplete and therefore has to constantly be fed energy. Power is total and complete in and of itself and requires nothing from outside of itself. It makes no demands; it has no needs. Because force has an insatiable appetite, it constantly consumes.

Power, in contrast, energizes, gives forth, supplies, and supports. Power gives life and energy. Force takes these away. Force always creates counterforce; its effect is to polarize rather than to unify."

I think the most telling characteristic of force is indicated in the last line: “Force always creates counterforce.” Anyone in a leadership position can understand what this looks like. We have all had moments when a request is met with resistance.

Here are 5 simple practices to ensure that your actions hold power, not force:

1. Remember the Golden Rule.

We’ve all heard about treating others how you’d like to be treated, but when it comes to leadership, take it one step further: Hold yourself to the same standard you expect from others.

Too many bosses choose to allocate their responsibilities to reduce their own workload. Employees or interns take the brunt of the workload while the supervisor enjoys a long lunch. This creates a toxic and often duplicitous work environment. If you’re asking a certain amount of work from your employees, expect to accept more work for yourself. 

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2. Facilitate discussion-based decisions.

If people feel like they were involved in the decision-making process, they’re less likely to feel suspicious or resentful of the change. You are not relenting any power by allowing other people’s voices to be heard.

3. Practice confidence-building activities.

You know the ones I’m talking about. Square your shoulders, raise your hands above your head, make yourself look and feel big. Look in the mirror and tell your reflection, “I’m doing great. I’m powerful.” You’ve probably heard several variations of this from your family or friends — I know I have. But they work.

Positive thinking changes your brain. Invest the same effort in yourself that you give to others. You can’t expect anyone to be confident in your ability to lead unless you are, too. This is especially pertinent for women as a powerful confidence gap still exists between women and men in the workplace.

4. Be authentic.

In today’s world, with distractions coming in every which direction from our smartphones to our television screens, the struggle for authenticity is more fraught than ever.

According to an article on Forbes, authenticity can be defined as “...building self-awareness of our whole person, as well as being transparent with others about our whole person, both strengths and limitations.” When most of our communication occurs through text, email, or teleconference, it can be difficult to say just what you mean. The sparse, blank presentation of our words on paper or on the screen can obfuscate meaning

Therefore, miscommunication is bound to occur at inopportune times, with frustrating consequences. It’s important to consider the mistakes made by someone you employ as your mistakes as well. Admit where you could have been clearer. Alter your technique for more success in the future. This leads to my next point.

5. Make mistakes into opportunities.

To expect perfection on the first try is to invite a certain type of failure. Remember the Sudoku game I mentioned at the beginning of this article. A wrong number in the cluster produces an unwanted result, which in this case is expressed by halted progress in the game. Unfortunate, sure, but now you know not to use that number again. If you respond to mistakes in a cogent and logical manner, your employees will see you as reasonable and be more responsive to criticism.

Ultimately, the differences between power and force lie in respect, confidence, and transparency. Power lies in understanding the intrinsic worth of the people you employ and your ability to lead them. Imagine that cluttered closet again, with the door forced shut. The game of Monopoly stuffed between the shelves and the wooden door.

You kneel against the hardwood floor and sweep together the scattered cards, plastic houses, the silver figurines, a dog, a car, a wheelbarrow. You force the game between the cardboard sleeves for Sorry and Trouble again and again. The result is the same because the problem remains the same.

Similarly, employers and employees will experience the same frustrating results until someone is willing to clear the clutter and re-organize their thinking patterns. 

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Coach Monique offers six programs to suit your individual needs: Building A Solid Base, Get Your Mojo Back, Kick It Into High Gear, Moxie: Women’s Confidence & Leadership, The Power Of One, and Open Coaching Day. Change your pattern of thinking and introduce power into your life.

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