Leadership is a serious meddling in other peoples’ lives. –Max De Pree

Here is an understatement: Each of us human beings in an imperfect human being!  One consequence of our being imperfect is that each of us will use our power in both healthy and unhealthy ways.  Given this, it is crucial for each of us to be awake and aware to when and why we choose to use one of the four forms of power that we will briefly explore today.  When we choose which form to use we also choose to accept the response-ability and responsibility that comes with our choice.


 Coercive Power.  I am granted, or I assume overt or covert sanctions which I then impose on the other(s).  The teacher assumes the coercive power of grades.  The parent assumes the coercive power of punishment.  The leader assumes the coercive power of threat – think: My way or the highway.  In order for coercive power to exist the one with the power must have certain ‘leverage’ over the other.  The leader seeks compliance.

Manipulative Power.  Greenleaf notes that we manipulate the other when we guide him or her by plausible rationalizations into beliefs and actions that they do not fully understand [Greenleaf also notes that some will not make the effort to understand].  Think: Trust me on this for in the past I have not led you astray!  As those who attempt to sell us today’s best stock tell us, future performance is not guaranteed because of past performance.  The leader seeks compliance.

Persuasive Power.  I seek to convince you through the use of logic and reason.  There is a give-and-take that must occur; this give-and-take does not occur in the first two uses of power for it is not necessary.  The leader is seeking more than ‘compliance.’  The leader is seeking, is advocating for, ‘buy-in.’ The first two uses of power are rooted in a ‘dependent relationship.’  Persuasive Power is rooted in interdependence – We are in this together.  By-the-by: The leader has the ‘final say’ and the ‘buck stops’ with the leader.

Influential Power.  This ‘power’ does not allow for either coercion or manipulation and moves ‘Persuasion’ from advocacy to inquiry and from using logic/reason to inviting discernment.  The process of inquiry and discernment enables one to say with conviction ‘This is where I choose to stand!’  The autonomy and integrity of all is held in trust by all.  Interdependence moves from ‘buy-in’ to ‘emotional ownership.’  The ‘buck stops’ with the relationship, not just with the leader.  The process usually takes significantly more time, energy and effort than the first three do.  A by-product: All grow as a result of the process.

Influential Power requires that one be ‘fully human.’  One seeks to become more and more aware of who he or she is and of who he or she is choosing to become.  One seeks to understand his or her core beliefs, values, guiding life principles and deep tacit assumptions for they guide his or her life.  One chooses to ‘trust’ and seeks to be ‘trust-worthy.’  One also seeks to be vulnerable – to take risks, to be transparent and to carry the wound with grace (Vulnerable is rooted in the Latin ‘vulnus’ which means: to carry the wound with grace).


  • What motivates you to choose NOT to use your power?
  • What motivates you to use your power immorally/unethically?
  • What motivates you to use your power morally/ethically?
  • What is there within an institution that affects how people use their power?

A servant-leader is a person who begins with a natural feeling of wanting to serve first – to help, support and encourage and lift up others.  And because of their noble role-models others begin to lead by serving. –Robert K. Greenleaf

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s