If you are currently sitting in a position of authority leading a business, whether you built it, acquired it, or worked your rosy little arse off to get there, you still have choices to make every day. In order to achieve the best possible results with your business and your team, there are a few key focus areas to think about.
The triad we will visit today is Power, Positioning, and Posturing. Each has a very positive possibility while also having a dark side that leaders must guard against falling into. We will try to unpack each part for you.
This one is the obvious element that is easily understood. The Boss has the power, right? Cross him/her/them and you won’t be happy or, if the boss is more enlightened, a spirited question from the team is welcomed.
The way someone wields that power is the key to long-term success. Great leaders use their appointed power as a last resort for influencing people. Instead, they turn to a well-practiced leadership toolkit and framework to leverage skills, both art and science, to guide their people. Respect for power is only secondary to the way the Leader makes people feel.
I’ve shared my story of experiencing the way power can corrupt someone’s thinking. As a young Lieutenant in the Army, I assumed command of a 450-person training unit. The CO had been sent to perform temporary duties away from the unit, so as its executive officer (2nd in command) I assumed the CO’s role.
With that came full power bestowed by the Uniform Code of Military Conduct (UCMJ). This was the governing document by which those in command had authority over the troops. Authority included prosecution, trial, and judgment for lessor infractions of rules and laws on base. Unlike civilian justice systems, this one gave the commander authority in all three phases; prosecution, judging, and sentencing.
It was not long before I had to perform duties under this code. We had several soldiers who got themselves in trouble, charged with various infractions. Without going into all the details, I had passed judgment on six of them with penalties ranging from restriction to quarters, loss of pay, and/or reduction in rank (which also impacted pay). I found myself intoxicated by the power.
It was surreal, but nonetheless, an experience that frankly, scared the heck out of me. I could easily see myself getting sucked into a vortex of power. I had to do a quick gut check of my principles and guiding beliefs about the leader I wanted to be. It was not a vision that needed the power bestowed by some code.
I was a young 24-year-old experiencing the delegation of power at its highest level. I had jurisdiction over 450 human beings. My authority could literally change their lives in an instant. But I had no desire to lead that way. Instead, I wanted the troops to follow me for better reasons.
When you look at your situation, are you becoming someone fueled by the power you were given by the organization or the power you created by founding the company? If the answer is YES, you may want to take a step back. Ask yourself whether this power is getting abused. Choose to park that “positional power” in the back seat. Use it as a last resort.
People in management and leadership roles are constantly faced with needing to position themselves, or reposition. Just because you achieved a certain level is not the final destination.
In my days working in banking, I had too many opportunities to deal with “Wall Street people.” I liked them, but I also was keenly aware of the phrase ‘It’s not personal, it’s just business.’ That was code for you’ll get screwed but we can still be friends. Yea, right.
The positioning was palpable. Just walking into a meeting you could feel the positioning going on. Sometimes it actually meant who was going to sit at what seat around the table.
If you run a company, you will be faced with meeting new clients/customers, working with bankers/investors, and of course, your own team. Positioning will happen whether you intend it or not.
My best coaching on this topic is to encourage you to stay connected with your own personal purpose and vision. You should be thinking about the kind of leader you want to be. This connection with those values and beliefs will be your foundation.
In working with executive coaching clients, I encourage them to think of three circles, a Venn Diagram. One circle is the leader they want to be. The next is the leader the company wants you to be. The last circle is the leader your team needs you to be. The question is how those circles align.
I’ve yet to have anyone tell me their circles are a perfect stack of pancakes. Usually, there is some form of out-of-balance that needs adjusting. And, this dynamic is constantly in flux. Leaders need to be aware and perpetually evaluate their positioning within those circles.
Positioning is about where to stand on decisions you need to make. It’s about strategic thinking. Consistency is key. People follow leaders who demonstrate confidence and steadfast commitment to the cause. If you are easily swayed and change your mind often, people quickly get tired of that.
Posturing can include many things. For me, posturing is like positioning but happens after the fact. Once something occurs, the posturing sets up the ability to move to the next step or not.
Posturing also has pluses and minuses. The way you react to a big win is one example. In sports, we talk about sore losers or arrogant winners. Instead of either extreme, why not be gracious in victory and humble in defeat?
This past season, the college football championship game was a blowout. Georgia demolished TCU. TCU had survived a hard-fought season and deserved to be there. But call it whatever you want to, Feorgia was clearly the better team on the day of the final game.
After the game Georgia’s coach, Kirby Smart was asked about the drubbing. Instead of boasting, he said this:
“The biggest challenge is the same as in the world we live in today, the society we live in – entitlement. The minute you think you’re entitled to winning games and you don’t have to work hard – Coach Dykes (the TCU coach) and I were talking about it; the uphill battle for those guys (football players) is you think that you just inherit success.”
Nice posturing coach. Great message to send his team about the work required to get to the national championship.
Think about these three things when you go about your day. Ask yourself key questions about your sense of power, your positioning as a leader, and your posturing for results.
As the Seth Rogan cult classic film suggests “Check yourself before you wreck yourself.”