Posted by: Bill von Achen | February 11, 2011

Cultivating Your Five Leadership Powers

Life as a leader would be so much easier if only we were endowed with special powers, just like Superman. But the truth is that, as leaders, we have many powers at our disposal, if we choose to cultivate them and use them well.

In a recent posting on her Harvard Business Review blog, business educator and author Rosabeth Moss Kanter distills her decades of experience in observing successful leaders from around the globe to identify the following five leadership powers she says are critical in achieving success:

Showing Up (the Power of Presence):  At a time when our working relationships too often depend on e-mails, Twitter-length texts, and voice mail messages, your physical presence can make a real difference in the quality and effectiveness of your relationships with others. Turn off your computer, get out of your office, and talk with the people you lead.

Speaking Up (the Power of Voice):  The power of voice is not about drowning out others with the sound of your own voice and ideas. It’s about the ability to frame the debate, ask the right questions, and shape a course of action. Your voice is more powerful to the extent that you use it to help others find their voice in the pursuit of success.

Teaming Up (the Power of Partnering):  “Together, everyone achieves more!” That expression captures the power of effective partnerships, whether they’re with employees, customers or vendors. Teams almost always achieve better results than individuals working alone. And, as Kanter notes, partnerships also increase self-confidence.

Looking Up (the Power of Values):  Values have the power to propel any effort forward. They provide an important context for our day-to-day efforts, and are essential ingredients in motivating ourselves and others. And having clear organizational values can help us transcend personal differences in pursuit of our goals.

Not Giving Up (the Power of Persistence): My  clients have often heard me say that a successful effort can often look like a failure in the middle, a line I freely attribute to Kanter. Instead of giving up in the face of adversity, appreciate that challenges and push-back are a normal part of any endeavor, and that such obstacles can actually improve your odds of success.

Of course, as Kanter points out, possessing these leadership powers alone won’t guarantee success. But continuously working to cultivate them can improve your chances.

You can read Kanter’s complete blog posting by going to our Resources page and clicking on the link under “Leadership.”

Share your ideas about the powers of leadership here. Thanks!


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