red-power-button-423x544There are two kinds of power: positional power and personal power. Sometimes we are actually not using our positional power in the role we play, but that’s not what I’m talking about today.

Often when I work with a client about a frustrating situation or person, at some point we come to a recognition that the client has more power than s/he is using. That personal power can be sourced by a combination of at least three things:

  1. An ability to “see” the underlying problem and a range of solutions.
  2. An understanding of the players’ concerns and interests.
  3. A reputation among players that allows for influence or inspires loyalty.

Once beyond frustration, s/he can use that power with:

  • A positive and clear intention and
  • An ability and opportunity to take action or initiate others’ action.

There are as many examples of this opportunity as there are organizations, people, and situations. Here are a few to get you thinking:

  1. A senior executive who is frustrated with residual resistance to an organizational  change requires new service and capabilities. His personal power of a crystal-clear vision, attitude of no-turning-back, doing whatever it takes for years, with deep respect from all—provides new energy to be far more demanding of staff.
  2. A technical leader has the charter to achieve a big outcome. However, the resources are tied up in approvals from other functions. The leader has made the business case multiple times. Then, the leader realizes a personal power in  an external reputation and with funding partners—the goal is unattainable without her. She begins to think about how to shift her “case” and with what players.
  3. A senior leader sees the organization dynamics that are in the way of the leadership group. The leader also knows what is needed to execute on the strategy. Not until a key executive committee is under the thumb of the leader does the leader see his influence emerging. Now, the leader looks for opportunities for influence with the right people.

One caveat, the finesse is in wielding the power without appearing to do so. In the three examples above, you might say “of course” and why didn’t leader just “spell it out.” But often, and the more senior the players, that direct approach causes unnecessary resistance.

Personal power arises out of who you are and what you accomplish. Use your power strategically and consciously.

Today, think about the outcome you are most concerned about What frustrates you or worries you about it’s achievement? What personal power might you have that you haven’t used so far?