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Rethinking Leadership: The use and abuse of power

So let's talk about...power.  Power is a gift we are given by either the formal recognition from an organization,  the informal recognition of our peers, or at times from both.  Power often has a negative connotation, perhaps because we often see leaders using it for selfish reasons.  We've all seen a boss or two throw their weight around hiding behind their badge.  This is usually accompanied by the likes of "do it because I said so".


But when leaders exercise power appropriately, it can push teams and organizations to new highs.  The fire service wins when leaders exercise power in the spirit of their organization's mission and values--putting citizens and their team first, and themselves second.  So what does that look like?


Win: When a leader chooses to use power to create an opportunity for someone to step up and step through a new door in the organization.  Example: When I served as the lieutenant of training I created a cadre of incumbent adjunct instructors I considered to be both subject matter experts and role models of the organization's values and expectations.  It was my privilege for these folks to help us execute an incredible 7.5-month academy for new hires.


Loss: When a leader chooses to leverage the efforts of his team to make him or herself look good, seeking an opportunity for themselves first.  Example: When a leader takes credit for the work or idea of another member of his or her team.


Win: When a leader uses their power to gain more information, perspective, and the why behind organizational decisions to help their team get on board faster in accomplishing what's been asked.Example: Take the time to share what you hear during officer meetings, training, and represent the organization well while you are communicating.  Just because you disagree with what you hear doesn't mean you have to kill it in front of your troops.


"Knowledge is power when it is shared freely; when it is lorded and hoarded it is divisive and destructive". -Aaron Fields


Loss: The leader sits on any information given to them, thinking that knowledge is power if it isn't shared.  Example: The leader selfishly chooses what he or she tells the team, thereby limiting their ability to be creative and problem solve.  This keeps the leader in charge and lessens the risk that he won't know it all, or be outdone.  The leader is quick to take and keep when credit is given.


Win: When a leader uses their power to go to bat for their people and celebrate their accomplishments to those above them.  Example:  Whenever you receive a compliment for the work getting done make sure your bosses know the names and efforts of the guys getting it done with you. 

Remember, as a leader your power comes from your walk--not your talk.  Power comes from your example.  

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