Got Power? 6 Types You Should Recognize

“Nearly all men can stand adversity but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” Robert G. Ingersoll (1833 – 1899, NY), orator and author of Some Mistakes of Moses (1879) and known as The Great Agnostic

“Power tends to get to people’s heads. We’re not really trained to handle power well.” Nicole Lipkin, Ph.D., psychologist and author of What Keeps Leaders Up At Night (2013)

Power is sexy, seductive and sometimes addictive. Power is heady, power is magnetic, power brings perks—money and sex, fast cars and prime real estate, fame, prestige and respect. Perhaps it is evolutionary imperatives that drive certain personality types to seek out power more than others: males, alpha personalities and extroverts.

Powerful people, whether they obtained power through achievement, birthright, marriage, or fortunate friendships are favorably positioned to acquire leadership positions, through which they acquire still more power. Yet not everyone knows what to do with power once they have it. In 1959, psychologists John R.P. French and Bertram Raven identified sources of power that leaders commonly gain.

Formal Power

This power is derived from holding a leadership position in a hierarchical organization, e.g., Admiral or General in the military, Mayor or Senator in the political sector, CEO, Executive Director, or President in for-profit or not-for-profit sectors. Individuals who wield Formal Power have considerable control over the lives of others.

However, Formal Power is in reality transferred to the individual. Formal Power resides in the title and such power will be lost when the title is relinquished, whether by choice or by force. Only the organization’s founder(s) truly hold power (of the Expertise variety) because they’ve earned it by inventing or launching a significant, long-lasting product, service, or organization that has impact and influence. Earned power cannot be completely taken away by force, even if the organization ceases operations or is the target of a hostile takeover. The founder(s) will forever own the achievement.

Kingmaker Power

Powerful people who desire to prolong or amplify their power by installing allies into positions of power are known as Kingmakers. These individuals are power brokers who sponsor and groom favored candidates for leadership positions, through which they will ascend to Formal Power. Kingmakers arrange for their protoges to receive training, high-profile assignments and other types of support that enable the chosen ones to receive credientials, experience, visibility and ultimately, inevitability.

The Kingmaker’s goal is to persuade both key influencers and rank-and-file members of the organization that their preferred candidate is deserving of a top leadership position. Developing trust and confidence in the candidate is essential, so that decision-makers will accept and nominate him/her for leadership and power.

Oftentimes, Kingmakers are themselves unable to ascend to the highest rungs of leadership, but they wield enough power and respect to influence decision-makers when future leaders are chosen.

Expert Power

In the 1970s, western societies entered the Information Age and in the 1990s entered the Knowledge Economy, both fueled by expertise and information. Expert Power is derived from the belief that others, especially thought leaders and powerful people, have about the superiority of a person’s capabilities. If enough of the right people feel that an individual has clearly superior knowledge and proficiency in a subject that society has decided is high-value, that person is considered an expert and s/he earns power.

Expert Power is held by architect Frank Gehry, whose talent for creating distinctive designs, in particular museum designs, has enabled institutions to become world-renowned attractions that have had game-changing impact on the communities, local and regional, in which they were built (see the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain). Bill Gates and the late Paul Allen, co-founders of Microsoft, are another example of Expert Power. Their development of Windows software helped spark the microcomputer revolution and Microsoft became the largest personal computer software company in the world.

Expert Power is the easiest power to acquire and because it is earned, it cannot be taken away. Study hard and it may be yours! However, its holders must continually study, do research, make process improvements, or operational efficiencies in order to stay ahead of the curve and maintain their power.

Charismatic Power

Here we have the cult of personality, rock star appeal. Their supporters are sometimes more akin to fans, if not disciples. Integrity, discipline, talent, trust and likability are its pillars. “People with high Referent (Charismatic) Power can highly influence anyone who admires and respects them,” Lipkin says.

Their associates/ followers are very loyal and happy to do their bidding. People believe in those with Charismatic Power and will strive, and sometimes compete, to please them, in order to win favor and approval. Charismatic Power holders are tremendously persuasive and they excel at rallying supporters around a cause. Mohandas K. Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King and Ho Chi Minh used their Charismatic Power to launch successful civil rights movements on behalf of those who were systematically disenfranchised and abused (by those who held Formal Power that descended into Coercive Power).

Charismatic Power is self-generated and cannot be given, but the discovery of unethical behavior will break the spell and power will be lost forever.

Relationship Power

This person derives power from whom s/he knows and to whom s/he has access. Relationship Power can be acquired from the powerful family into which one was born, marriage, or a fortunate friendship. Those with Relationship Power are wise to carefully nurture the relationship, to ensure that the gravy train continues.

The holders of Relationship Power are positioned to receive many benefits through their relationship(s). They glide through doors that lead to coveted business or employment opportunities. Proprietary information helps them find the house of their dreams or make the right investments. Introductions to still more powerful people amplify their benefits. They may use their Relationship Power to leapfrog into a position that gives them Formal Power.

Coercive Power

This individual may have acquired power by any means, but s/he abuses that power. Unfortunately, we’ve all witnessed this type of scenario and it is enormously stressful for those who must live or labor in proximity to its toxic presence. Coercive power is harmful according to any metric. Abusive parenting is the most tragic example of Coercive Power.

This power is enforced and maintained with threats, intimidation, lies, manipulation and sometimes actual physical or sexual violence. Shockingly, those who elect to wield power in this fashion can become enormously successful and even admired by their peers (who sometimes know of their transgressions but find it convenient to ignore the problem).

A recent example of the long-term and highly rewarding use of Coercive Power can be found in reports about the now-disgraced and unemployed co-founder of Miramax Entertainment Harvey Weinstein, who became the prime focus of the #metoo movement. For 20 years Weinstein basked in the fawning favor of two U.S. Presidents, dozens of members of Congress, Hollywood and television stars and leaders of Fortune 500 companies, the result of sky-high box office grosses and robust profits earned by films and television programs produced by Miramax.

It’s all over now, though. Dr.Lipkin cautions, “There is not a time of day when you should use it. Ultimately, you can’t build credibility with coercive influence—you can think of it like bullying in the workplace.”

Happy Halloween and thanks for reading,


Image: “Off with her head!” The Queen of Hearts, here confronting Alice, embodies Coercive Power. Illustration by Sir John Tenniel (1820 – 1914, UK) for Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (Lewis Carroll, 1865)

LEAD With Conviction

Those who misinterpret the role of leader often feel that exerting power over others is its purpose but that hypothesis has been revealed to be false. The most effective leaders recognize that the quality of leadership is greatly enhanced when they are liked and respected by those in the organization and/or on their team.

Bill George, Senior Fellow at the Harvard Business School and author of Discover Your True North (2007), encourages leaders to empower those whom they lead.  He asserts that the most empowering condition is when organization members align around a goal or mission and team member passions and purposes are complementary and synchronized.

Leadership Development expert Travis Bradberry, co-author of Emotional Intelligence 2.0  (with Jean Greaves, 2009), says that leadership is about emotional intelligence and that it is a flexible skill that can be improved with effort. Here are the behaviors and attributes that successful leaders develop and cultivate.

Form personal connections

The best leaders know that a successful life is built on good, mutually beneficial relationships. A true leader is not afraid to extend him/herself and get to know the people whom s/he leads, as well as others. Good leaders may be introverts or extroverts,  but they nevertheless enjoy connecting with people. They focus on the person/people with whom they are speaking and have personal conversations. They care and those they lead know this to be true.

Be approachable

Good leaders know how to maintain boundaries and still make it possible for others to reach out and talk with them. They believe that those whom they lead are valuable and worth their time.
Have integrity

Good leaders keep their word, to the very best of their ability. They do not say one thing and then do another. They respect those whom they lead.

Have substance

Leaders understand that expertise is necessary, the foundation of their stepping into the leadership role. They rose to the top because they possess superior knowledge and expertise and they are masters at leveraging it.

Be positive

Leaders encourage those on their team to be the best they can be. They believe in the abilities of those on their team or in the organization. They have faith in the vision and mission of the organization and communicate their enthusiasm for achieving the goals that express and promote them.

Be generous

Leaders share.  A superior leader gives those on the team the tools they need to achieve success. They support and encourage people.   Leaders empower, they do not micromanage.

Recognize and appreciate potential

Leaders are able to spot talent and they are willing to help you to develop and leverage yours.  A leader aspires to recommend you to a position where your strongest talents and competencies can be utilized and rewarded, so that you will operate at your best and derive satisfaction as you do.

Be humble

Arrogance and braggadocio are not signs of leadership and that includes the “humble brag”.  Leaders are usually quite happy to lead, but they are aware that leadership is about accountability and responsibility and not an excuse to boss others around.

Communicate well

Whether standing before a large group or chatting over coffee with one or two team members, leaders both have something to say and listen well. They are well-spoken and fluent writers, as well. They are usually good story tellers. Many leaders have a background in sales.

Good judgment

As the song says, you’ve got to know when to hold and know when to fold. Judgment entails many competencies, including the ability to prioritize.  Leaders are good decision-makers and they are guided by their personal integrity; respect for their team and the organization; expertise in their field; and understanding of human nature and motivations.

Former political adviser and CNN political commentator and currently a professor at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University David Gergen, author of Eyewitness to Power (2000) writes, “At the heart of leadership is the leader’s relationship with followers. People will entrust their hopes and dreams to another person only if they think the other person is a reliable vessel”.

Thanks for reading,


The Classic 6 Leadership Styles

The effective leader is flexible.  S/he is possessed of self-awareness and knows that the style of leadership must fit the demands of the circumstances. What methods can a leader use to persuade team members to give their best performance? How can a leader inspire trust and confidence, obtain buy-in on a vision and goals, encourage bonding and build a cohesive team, build skills where necessary, acknowledge and respect skills where present, create loyalty and produce extraordinary results? The leader must assess the staff with whom s/he will work and employ the most effective leadership style.

I.      Directive

No-questions-asked coercive style that demands compliance. “Do as I say” and controlling.  Motivation is “encouraged” via threats and discipline. Are you looking for a way to kill motivation, persuade the staff to lose commitment and enthusiasm and squelch any respect the staff may have had for you? Look no further.

Most effective:       In a crisis when decisive action must be taken ASAP and there is no room for deviation from a tightly prescribed rescue strategy.

Least effective:       With highly skilled team members, who will quickly resent micro-management and the disrespect of an authoritarian culture.

II.    Visionary 

Inspires the team. Employees come to feel that they are a team and understand how and why their work contributes to the realization of the vision. Moves people toward shared goals/outcomes through empathy and clarity.  This leader states the vision clearly and compellingly, gets buy-in and then steps back and allows the team to work, stepping in from time to time to reiterate the vision and reinforce commitment and enthusiasm.

Most effective:     When seeking to help the team create and achieve goals for the long-term.

Least effective:    The leader is not credible and employees do not trust the vision and goals proposed.

III.   Affiliative 

Creates harmony that boosts morale and resolves conflict.  Builds trust between the leader/manager and employees. People first, task second. The focus is on helping the team to bond, but there may be hesitation when it’s time to take charge and get down to business.

Most effective:     When stepping into an environment where conflict has damaged commitment and morale.

Least effective:     When producing results is imperative and where clear direction, strategies and action plans are needed.

IV.   Participative 

Superb listener, team builder, collaborator and influencer.  A primary objective is to build commitment through consensus. Employees know that their input is valued and this generates commitment.  However, constantly seeking consensus can impede progress toward completing projects.

Most effective:     The staff are highly competent and mutually respectful. Turnover is low and the team is cohesive.

Least effective:     Close supervision is required for the inexperienced. There is no time to build commitment and consensus.

V.    Pacesetter  

Leads through example, has great initiative and a strong drive to achieve through his/her own efforts.  This leader has high personals standards and high energy,  but little patience and can become a micro-manager.  The team is a meritocracy and only A + results are acceptable.  Anything less and the under-performing employee will be pulled off the project.  Nevertheless, team members are inspired and remain engaged and motivated by a leader who “walks the talk”.

Most effective:    Managing highly motivated experts.

Least effective:   When skills development,  coordination and coaching are necessary.

VI.  Coaching 

Good listener who helps employees identify their strengths and weaknesses.  Knows how to delegate,  which provides skills training for staff members.  Encourages peak performance by providing opportunities for professional development and building the employee’s long-term capabilities.

Most effective:     When professional development is needed and employees are motivated to achieve.

Least effective:    The leader lacks expertise and/or the ability to teach or coach. Results produced by highly skilled employees are immediately needed.

Thanks for reading,


A Politically Correct Skill Set

Besides the whims of fortune (and luck is an enormous force in the universe),  what differentiates a successful person from an unsuccessful person? What defines a successful leader?  According to Samuel Bacharach,  co-founder of the Bacharach Leadership Group,  successful leadership is defined by the ability to rally support for an idea and inspire others to collaborate with you and help bring that idea to fruition.  Regardless of the quality of the initiatives that you’d like to advance,   you cannot lead without possessing highly developed political skills.  In the absence of good political skills,  the most brilliant plans will die on the vine.  A good agenda will never be realized and a legacy will be greatly diminished.

Bacharach says that the essence of political competence is the ability to understand what you can and cannot control.  One must identify who will support the initiative,  who will oppose and when the time will be right to go public and move forward.  Those who possess political skills get things done because they take the time to think things through.  The politically skilled will not naively or arrogantly move forward alone,  but will instead win over the right people and build a coalition to take on the project. “Anticipating the obstacles your idea might face when you present it is a political skill that can help you get across the finish line”,  says Bacharach.  Politically skilled leaders will consult with a trusted ally or two to reality test their concept,  create a list of potential allies and detractors,  decide who to recruit for the launch team,  calculate the best time to move forward and create a roll-out strategy.

Political skill means knowing how to map out the battlefield terrain,  convince people to join your team and lead a coalition.   The best ideas do not always win out,  but the best launched ideas always have a good chance of seeing the light of day.  The highly respected movers and shakers in life are yes,  the luckiest,  but also they have political skills.

Some are born with a highly developed political skill gene,  but it is possible to improve your skill level.  As noted above,  taking the time to think through the arc of the initiative’s development and roll-out is a good place to start.  Who is likely to support you?  In whose interest might it be to see the project realized?  What can you do to make potential allies see that it will benefit them to support the project? Which of your allies has enough power to make things happen and bring other high-ranking players to your team?

Now who are likely to be detractors,  active or passive—who will feel threatened by a perceived  (or actual)  loss of power and influence if your plan is adopted?  Who might be able to withhold resources  (funding)  or start a whisper campaign to undermine you?  Can your team overcome these matters? Are there cultural,  historical or other barriers that you might face?

Assembling your winning coalition is the next step.  Work only with those whom you trust and respect and know that the feeling is mutual.  Be certain to compile a list of compelling benefits that will help you sell the merits of your idea to those with the power to make it a reality.

You may want to approach the mapping of the political terrain as strategic planning and conduct a SWOT Analysis (Strengths,  Weaknesses,  Opportunities and Threats),  to help you visualize the resources you hold,  any gaps in your war chest,  obstacles that you will likely face and opportunities that may strengthen your position along the way.  Anticipate the arguments that will be made against you.  Sell the benefits that will overcome those arguments and convince  (powerful)  allies to support your position.  Collaborate with supporters to bring your initiative to life.  Be an effective leader.

Merry Christmas,


Eight Leadership Styles. Which One Is Yours?

When assuming a leadership role,   one does what is required in that position at the time.   There is no road-map because leaders must respond to events as they occur,   as they simultaneously champion projects developed by members of their team,   push through selected personal initiatives and follow through with worthy projects that started before their regime.   Most of all a leader must be versatile,   possessed of good judgment and more than a little lucky.

Nevertheless,  we all have our strengths.   Some of us are super strategists,  or change agents.  Others are great with process and operations,  we intuitively know how to get things done efficiently.  Still others are master communicators: deal-makers,  negotiators or coaches.

How does one rise to leadership,  take the reins and succeed when certain key projects call for talents outside of the natural skill set? Good judgment will encourage the leader to recognize what is beyond his/her expertise and delegate such tasks to better qualified team members.   Further,  the leader is advised to acknowledge team members who step up,  because recognition builds loyalty and the productive can-do spirit of a high-functioning team.

Leadership development specialist Manfred F.R. Kets de Vries,   author of “The Hedgehog Effect: The Secrets of Building High Performance Teams” (2011),   has identified eight leadership competency archetypes for us to ponder.   Do you recognize yourself in one?

The BUILDER approaches leadership as an entrepreneurial activity.  This leader longs to create a tangible legacy.

The CHANGE AGENT loves to ride in on a white horse and clean up a mess.   Re-engineering is the preferred activity.

The COACH derives great personal satisfaction from talent development and knows how to recognize the strengths of team members and get the best out them.

The COMMUNICATOR,  like former presidents Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan,  loves being on stage and knows how to influence people.

The INNOVATOR is able to sort through difficult problems and devise creative,  yet practical solutions.

The NEGOTIATOR is highly gifted at recognizing,  selling and bringing to the organization lucrative new business opportunities.

The PROCESSOR is an operations expert who will make the organization run like a well-oiled machine.  This leader will institute systems that support the organization’s objectives.

The STRATEGIST has the vision to recognize which goals and strategies the organization would be wise to pursue to ensure its future growth and sustainability.

Merry Christmas and thanks for reading,


Leadership Starter Kit

Christmas Season notwithstanding,  I am busy this December and it feels so good! Catch my act on Wednesday December 4,  when Dalya Massachi of  “Writing Wednesdays” and I talk about the benefits derived when nonprofit leaders write a business plan for their organization.  3:00 PM EST,  2:00 PM CST,  1:00 PM MST,  12:00 PST. FREE! Register at

Readers in the Boston area may want to direct clients who are leaders at nonprofit organizations to get essential how-to information on business plan writing at my popular workshop “Become Your Own Boss: Effective Business Plan Writing”.  We’ll meet on three consecutive Wednesdays,  December 4, 11 & 18  5:30 PM – 7:30 PM at Boston Center for Adult Education 122 Arlington Street Boston 02116. Register at  or call 617.267.4430 class ID# 10190.

Congratulations,  you have been named project leader of a prestigious assignment.  You are thrilled to the gills,  but also apprehensive.  You have practical experience,  creativity and enthusiasm,  but you are not quite accustomed to such a front-and-center role.

You’ve scheduled a meeting to bring everyone together for the project kick-off,  where roles and responsibilities will be discussed,  timelines established,  milestones identified and important success factors and potential stumbling blocks will be acknowledged.  You know this is where you establish your bona fides and stake out your claim as the leader.  You are in charge and ideally you will project good natured authority and not arrogance or insecurity.  You are 20 years younger than several project team members.  How do you get this right ?

Introduce yourself

Welcome the team and thank them for participating on the project.  Express that you are very happy to work with such a talented and experienced group of professionals.  Without bragging,  state your professional experience as it relates to the project,  to let the group know that you are qualified and that they have every reason to trust your judgment and expertise.

Team introductions

Invite team members to participate in the standard round robin of introductions.

Confirm the project deliverables and due dates

Establish the expectations and begin to assign roles and responsibilities,  milestones and timelines.  Encourage team members to have a say in this process,  as they know more than you about how departments interact,  unspoken protocols and overall how to get things done.  Be secure enough to accept their suggestions,  as it will promote your credibility and earn you respect.

Ask questions

Pose questions that allow team members to contribute to the decision-making process and telegraph that you value their expertise.  Let team members share their knowledge.  Avoid being a know-it-all.

Listen carefully

Make team members feel heard and you will earn their confidence,  respect and loyalty.

Be humble

Team members must believe that you are qualified to lead the project,  but take care to portray yourself as a team player and a leader who wants to make everyone involved look successful.

Be empowering

Champion good ideas that are presented by team members,  and not just your own perspectives,  and you will build the team’s enthusiasm for and commitment to the project.  Respect and value the perspectives and recommendations that deep experience and long tenure bring.  Some ideas may fall by the wayside when explored in detail and others may turn out to be brilliant. Your tenured team members have the ability to make the project successful. Whatever happens,  empowering team members builds respect and loyalty and makes you look like (and be) a good leader. Remember also to be publicly generous with compliments.

Thanks for reading and Happy Thanksgiving,


Intermediate Expert  Ezine Articles

Ezine Articles Intermediate Expert

Presentations: Impromptu and Prepared

In June of this year,   I became president of a local membership organization that is primarily social.  I’ve been a member for 12 years and a board member for 8 or 9 years.  I find the experience to be very gratifying.  I’ve made friends.  I’ve continued to develop and refine leadership skills.  I am fortunate to preside over a board that is comprised of top drawer members who are committed to the organization and who work diligently to develop strategies and plans that will sustain the organization over the short- and long-term.  I do whatever I can to create conditions that enable board and committee members to do their best work and then get out of the way and let them do it.

To become an organization leader is to become its public face and unifying symbol to its members.  Public speaking is part of the job.  It is often necessary to offer words of inspiration and encouragement and verbally demonstrate that you embody the vision,  mission and values of the organization.  There are impromptu speaking  “opportunities”  that arise when you are half way through a second glass of wine and surprise! someone asks you to say a few words.  How do you successfully make an unrehearsed speech and manage to sound reasonably eloquent (and sober)?

There are also impromptu speaking opportunities that are professional in nature,  where one must speak ex tempore about business.  These speaking obligations are unscheduled but they are not completely unexpected,  since one attends certain events with the desire to meet and greet peers and prospects and talk business.  Finally,  there are scheduled speaking opportunities,  when one presents information to prospective clients.  Three types of speaking opportunities:  how can you stand and successfully deliver?

I.  Let’s start with the easiest,  the business meet and greet.  This is where your elevator speech is delivered.   You must decide which version you will roll out.   Are you being introduced to someone and asked what you do?  Keep your elevator speech conversational and limited to what the business provides,  your role or title and the name of the organization.  If someone asks what you do while in conversation,  give a vague but accurate description of the outcomes or benefits of the service you provide or products you sell.  Formulate a sentence that describes the business function and your role,  with a focus on benefits and outcomes.  In either scenario,  provide more information only if the person seeks more information.  Make the encounter a dialogue by asking questions of your own,  to establish whether this individual has a need for your products and services,  or is just making conversation.

2.  Twice,  I have been unexpectedly asked to address members of the organization for which I serve as president and twice I did a good job.  How did I do it?  Primarily,  I was fortunate to have a very good set-up introduction and I was smart enough to listen and pick out a phrase on which I could launch a quick little speech.  In the first,  I found a good tag line that I still occasionally use.  In the second,  I was able to find a theme and spin it into a good three-minute talk.  The moral of the story is,  a leader must anticipate public speaking obligations.  Keep your antennae tuned for anecdotes or observations made by organization members or others that can be used to develop an inspirational mini-speech.

3.  I pass along to you my interpretation of a Power Point presentation template developed by Bahar Martonosi of Princeton University.  You may find this template useful when auditioning for a prospective client or delivering a report of findings during a consulting assignment:

Your name and business name   (1 slide)

Project outline: work that the prospect would like performed   (1 slide)

Rationale: why is the project or problem important to the organization    ( 1 – 2 slides)

History: what has been done before   (0- 2 slides)

Method: your firm’s approach to the project or problem   (1 – 3 slides)

Results: this is the body of the talk.  Present the key results and findings. Do not present all results or findings.  (2 – 6 slides)

Summary:   (1 – 2 slides)

Back-up:  prepare slides that answer expected questions   (1 – 3 slides)

Keep things simple and focus on a few key points.

Repeat the key insights.

Know your audience and adjust the presentation as needed.

The post-presentation informal Q & A is very important.

Make eye contact,  be approachable and it’s OK to smile  (but this is business, not social, so know your role).

Make your audience want to learn more.

Thanks for reading,


Authenticity is the Only Personal Brand

The successful Freelance consultant is acknowledged as an expert and leader in his/her chosen field  by clients,  colleagues and competitors.  This Freelancer has superior skills that are accompanied by integrity;  s/he can be trusted to meet or even exceed expectations.  This individual commands respect because s/he is highly competent,  reliable and credible,  that is to say,  authentic.

Authentic is an adjective that’s thrown around a lot these days and perhaps suffers from overuse,  but I agree with leadership development specialists who assert that a truly effective leader is highly skilled,  trustworthy,  respectful,  communicates well and is unafraid to be him/herself.  A leader embraces the genuine self,  strives to develop and present  the best self and does not waste time trying to be someone else.  For those reasons,  leaders are often considered charismatic and they inspire great loyalty.

Les McKeown,  CEO of Predictable Success,   an adviser on organizational growth and author of  “Predictable Success: Getting Your Organization on the Growth Track and Keeping It There” (2010),  has shared three phrases that will telegraph your authenticity and leadership ability to others.   At some future meeting,  it will make sense for a leader to make at least one of these statements:

I have nothing to add.”  The confident leader is not in love with the sound of his/her own voice and does not feel compelled to weigh in on every matter.  A leader intuits when everything that is relevant has been expressed,  respects the well-reasoned opinions of others and allows others to take center stage and shine every now and again.

I don’t understand what you mean by…..”  Authentic leaders admit knowledge gaps and ask for information that will clarify,  so that they can grasp the subject under discussion and promote good decision-making.  They are not driven by a need to appear  expert in all things.

I recommend that we…..”  A leader recognizes when it is time to make a decision,  whether or not all the facts are in hand.  Usually,  all the facts can never be in hand,  but a leader knows when we must move forward and either take advantage of an opportunity,   head off a crisis,  or cut losses.  An authentic leader takes responsibility to put resources and reputation on the line and make,  or advocate for,  a decision or action.

Role models can be inspiring and show us the way,  but at the end of the day we must be ourselves.  We must be willing to embrace what we believe in,  acknowledge our priorities and articulate our values and vision.  To do so takes confidence,  which is yet another attribute of a leader.   An authentic leader has no desire to present a false  “personal brand”  that may seem trendy at a given moment.  A real leader knows that authenticity is the only worthwhile personal brand and that its value is timeless.

Thanks for reading,


Find the Leader Within

This is the last post in the leadership series and I hope you’ve found it beneficial.   I hope that you were moved to recall key moments in your professional and personal life where you’ve stepped up and revealed yourself as a capable leader and also moments where you could have handled things a little better.   Some are born leaders,  but for most of us,   honing leadership skills is an ongoing process.   According to Katherine Tyler Scott,   Managing Principal of Ki ThoughtBridge leadership development specialists in Indianapolis, IN,   “All things being equal,   the best of the best leaders will have emotional intelligence,   self-awareness,   self-management,   social skills and motivation”.

They Are Change Agents

A Senior Program Officer at the Ford Foundation for 10 years,   Linetta Gilbert has doled out millions of dollars to worthy causes world-wide.   Primarily responsible for grantmaking in Gulf Coast states,   the 62-year-old New Orleans resident helped fund the reconstruction efforts after Hurricane Katrina and spent significant time listening to what grantees thought about change,   at times provoking them to higher ideals.

“Sometimes people are in positions of influence because they hold certain credentials or know the right person,   but they are not necessarily committed to the mission”,   Gilbert notes.  “I try to get inside their heads about their own leadership.   I expose them to opportunities to refine their skills,   recommending books,   conferences and training sessions.   I urge them to think about who they are,   what’s next and who in their organization is being groomed to keep the agenda going”.

As a grantmaker,   Gilbert understands that judgment is a quality of leadership that must be honed.   “You have to learn how to read reality truthfully”,   she says.  “It is not something people are born with.   You have to have opportunities to develop and ask yourself,  Is this real? Or is it only real from my perspective’?

In 2010,   Gilbert was invited to co-lead the newly formed Declaration Initiative at  The Ford Foundation,  which aims to eradicate deep  poverty in the United States within the next 15 years.   “I believe that leaders must have a higher power call upon,   some larger connection outside of work,”.   That source,   Gilbert says,   is her power.

They Begin With the End in Mind

Six months into her job as Executive Director at Safe Shores–The DC Children’s Advocacy Center,  a not-for-profit agency that works with abused children,  Michele Booth Cole was tasked with negotiating with the District of Columbia to acquire a new building for the agency.  “We wanted a space that would serve families and be more child-friendly”,  says the 46-year-old.  “The idea was to own the building”.

But when DC officials told her that owning a building was out of the question,  Cole had to reassess.    As she weighed her options,   she realized that her ultimate goal was to secure a larger space and decided to make a counter-offer.  Her organization would lease the new space from DC,  but Safe Shores would have to play a central role in its design.

Cole’s proposal was the turning point in the negotiations.  “Taking a flexible approach allowed the project to move forward and demonstrated a willingness to cooperate on our part”,   commented Cole.   “We had our eyes on the higher goal of serving children in a facility that was worthy of them”.   In 2011,   Safe Shores moved into a newly renovated 37,000 square foot building.

According to Katherine Tyler Scott,  Cole’s ability to focus on the agency’s mission was a key factor in using her power.   “A leader who is self-aware and knowledgeable of the organization’s core values can successfully guide key decisions and enable that organization to be prudent under pressure”.   Cole adds  “Power is about sharing leadership and cultivating others to get things done with a real sense of excellence”.

Thanks for reading,


Leadership In Action

What does it take to be an effective and respected leader?  You must be willing to embrace your strengths,   account for your weaknesses,   believe in yourself and your ideas,  be resourceful and be humble.  This leadership series showcases women,  but the lessons revealed are gender neutral.

They Reinvent Themselves

Sheila Brooks,  56,  grew up poor in Kansas City, MO.   Her parents instilled in her and her sister a value for education.   Brooks admits,  “I’m very demanding of myself.   I set a high standard of quality and excellence”.   After starting out as a news reporter,   she became an Emmy Award-winning news producer.    She then went on to found a video surveillance company in Maryland,   where she won contracts with local police departments and high-level security agencies.   In 10 years,   her business had 73 employees and annual revenues exceeded $1 million dollars.   Then September 11, 2001 happened.

Brooks lost 60%  of her business as demand evaporated.   Clearly,  it was time for a new strategy.   In response,   she created a board of advisers for her company and drew upon her experience in broadcasting to redirect the business to web casting,   media placement and  advertising services.   “Strategically figuring out where we needed to go took courage and determination.  You have to be a risk-taker”,   Brooks says.

Today,  Brooks is once again contemplating her next move.  “My goal is to sell the business in the next seven years.  We must always know when to reinvent ourselves.   We have to be willing to re-engineer”.

They Collaborate

In 2010 Danielle Torain,  then 27,  was both law student and full-time employee.   One week before exams,   she was asked to coordinate the citywide response in her hometown of Baltimore to a national grant competition designed to provide educational services to low-income neighborhoods.   The timing was lousy,   but Torain nevertheless met the challenge and sprang into action by contacting private,  not-for-profit,   government and philanthropic institutions.  “The goal was to bring together organizations that don’t normally interact to share wisdom and resources and plan the course of action”,  Torain says.

As a result of her efforts,   49 public and private agencies collaborated on a proposal that was submitted with 58 letters of support from city and Maryland state officials.  Ginny Clarke,  President and CEO of Talent Optimization Partners of Chicago,   applauds Torain and describes her as a leader who has  “the ability to empower others,  get the best out of them and give them what they need to be successful”.

They Are Servant Leaders

Whether it originates from spirituality or a belief in the social good,  there is power in recognizing a purpose greater than oneself.   Elizabeth Horsey,  54,  is a social worker at a Philadelphia children’s hospital.   Being a social worker in a medical setting requires both resiliency and authority.  “I have to think of words of encouragement to ease the pain of the children and parents I work with.   I’ve learned to advocate in the midst of those who disagree.   I am able to point out people’s strength when others see weakness”.

Leadership development expert Katherine Tyler Scott,  Managing Principle of Ki ThoughtBridge,  the Indianapolis, IN based leadership development company,   notes that while technical skill is important,   it is not the ultimate characteristic of a good leader.  “It takes personal security to be able to stand in that place of conflict,  where people differ,   and still be able to listen respectfully,   question yourself,   and still come out whole”,   Scott notes.   She continues,  “Such leaders have done enough inner work to make their outer work effective”.

Thanks for reading.  To those in the US,  have a happy and safe July 4.