What is the difference between leadership and manipulation/coercion?
I am finding myself being pressured more and more to step up to the plate and start to show some leadership skills or navigate the consequences of not moving forward in the direction I seek which requires this of me.
Yet I struggle with this. All of my life I have bent over backwards to avoid at all cost ever being a leader. When I have led it was it out of complete force, fear, and a desperate anxiety, not by my own free choice because I thought I could help somehow. And at those times I tried to get out of that position as fast as possible.
The reason leadership frightens me and scares me is because of the power it yields. Power dovetails leadership. There are leaders who abuse that power, whether by error or intent, which by doing so have caused great harm. Abuse of power from leadership can affect harm upon one to all of humanity, and from one household, neighborhood, or community to our entire planet.
If I am going to continue to be challenged by my peers to take a stand for my beliefs, and learn how to lead, I would like to know how does one become certain that they are leading in the right way and in the right direction? And how does one distinguish the difference between leadership and overpowering another persons freedoms, freewill for that matter, and their rights to make their own choices and decisions?
What is the difference between leadership and manipulation? Because surely there is a great deal of value and good in one, and great deal of disservice and wrongdoing in the other. But truly, what is it that distinguishes the borders and boundaries between them? It seems there is a fine line between them. I would like to know what marks that line.
Would you go so far as to say that if as a leader the people in your organisation are not growing and developing under you there is a problem with your leadership? Or at least that is the first place to look?
In Vistage we believe that a team can only grow as fast as the leader. We believe that a group leader should never ask anyone to explore a question that they themselves are not willing to explore.
If a leader stops growing, the team... and the organisation will stop growing. In a small team it is quick. In a large global organisation it can take some time for the momentum to run out, but it will start to falter.
On Power (and the fear of wielding power)
There is a real fear of power. Nietzsche talked about the realisation of our personal power creating a dizzy feeling that he compared to the metaphor of standing on the edge of a tall cliff and feeling the exhilaration of the height and a great anxiety in realising that there is nothing to stop you jumping and falling to your death (he was more poetic).
Many people prefer to tell themselves that they are powerless and that they need permission rather than feel the emotions and fear of realising that even though they may not have resources, they can be resourceful.
The worst use of Power
In the Organisation Behaviour courses at IESE Business School, one of the most powerful lessons that I took was that "The worst use of power is no use of power". The worst thing you can do is have power and not use it.
The question then is how do I get clear on what I will use power for? How do I avoid the risk of losing focus on the cause and beginning to enjoy power for the sake of power? "Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely" (don't know who said this, but it is powerful and true)...
If I am addicted to fame or status or validation, I will use power to further my status or fame.
It takes a lot of clarity to not be pulled off course.
In hindsight, I see that I can move to and from the dark side without really noticing. The antidote to slipping into manipulation/coercion is introspection. Plenty introspection.
I believe the difference between leadership and manipulation lies in your intention. If you are leading from a place of truth you guide from a place of authentic self-expression. I don’t see the argument being leadership vs manipulation. I think leaders definitely do have the ability to choose to be manipulative in their leadership style but how you lead ultimately comes down to what leadership style you want to embody.
Thank you so much for your reply! Wow that was an incredibly thorough framework you put into your response to my questions. Yes! Those are the concepts I was looking for the feelings I have but did not have the right questions for.
These are excellent questions to ask of myself if/as I find I am growing in the role I have as a leader. I love how these questions really do put the emphasis where it should be as concern for the other persons growth and development and that of the organization.
Would you go so far as to say that if as a leader the people in your organization are not growing and developing under you there is a problem with your leadership? Or at least that is the first place to look?
I am really looking into this now. I have a speech to give in the next few weeks on leadership. I am still in the research and writing stage now.