The Power Trip Of Leaders

Most of us have heard the quote “Absolute power corrupts absolutely.” If you want to test the leadership of any leader, give them power and watch what happens. So it begs the question why and how does power corrupt leaders?

The answer is bit complex however, it’s fairly clear. At its center, Leadership is all about power and influence. A leader will use their power to get things accomplished. There are two simple forms of power. Power that is comes from collectively gaining the influence of others using their power to benefit others. This is called socialized power. This is the power most commonly attributed to our elected officials or “community” organizers.  Leaders in this role are primarily concerned with the best interests of those they serve not themselves.  At least we hope…

Two Types Of Power

The other form of power is called personalized power, and it is using power for personal gain.  The two forms of power are not mutually exclusive, however. A leader can use their power to benefit others, but the caveat to this is that they can also gain personally.  The biggest red flag with personalized power is that when this power dominates and leader gains at the expense of followers.

Some leaders can delude themselves that they are working for the greater good employing socialized power but they are really engaging in morally corrupt behavior.  When a leader is in this mode of operation, they can turn to making exceptions or excuses for their decisions. They make convince themselves that the rules do not apply to them because, well, they are bending these rules for the “greater good” – it’s a slippery slope to take.  Any time a leader decides to bend their morals or values that can only lead to a path of destruction for themselves and others.

Intoxicated By Power

Power can be the drug of choice for some leaders. They may become so addicted to power they engage in wrong behaviors because they empowered by their statue and “power” that they simply forget that with power comes great responsibility.  This is where many leader go on the long power trip. They simple abuse their power and take their followers with them on an abusive journey where the only destination is the leader’s gain. The more egocentric and narcissist a leader’s focus becomes the less they are able to see other’s perspectives. The fuel of these types of leaders is blind admiration for their power and position from those who fail to see their faults.

Questions to ask your team:

Q1: How does influence and power play a role in leadership?

Q2: When you serve others are you really serving yourself first?

Q3: We need power to move people to action, how do we ensure leaders are using it properly?

Q4: Do you believe that all power corrupts or it is that people corrupt power?

Q5: What is the purpose of power in your own leadership?

Q6: What power do you feel when leading others?

Q7: Position and Power are entwined – agree or disagree?

To #bealeader I let my power __________________

Jennifer Olney
Over the course of my career, I have been sought after by numerous organizations to bring my talents in the arenas of sales, marketing and business development. As the Founder and Director of Business BEALEADER, I bring my experience to the table to expand the knowledge base for those seeking to find their own leader within. In 2011, I created BEALEADER to be a platform for individuals to share their expertise and leadership to make others better by being a resource of business, career and marketing solutions for those who are just starting out or maybe have a “few” years under their belt and need keep their skills fresh. In addition to the BEALEADER platform, I have developed the business units BEALEADER Business Services, which provides marketing, business development and human resource management services and BEALEADER Executive Coaching Services, which provides one on one and group coaching services to executives and individuals. These business units expand our ability and brand to make others better as we reach out to our audience with these unique product offerings. In 2014, I was named to the list of Top 101 Leadership Speakers and I have written for several publications such as Yahoo! Small Business, Business 2 Community and others. I have also co-hosted several podcasts and in 2015 will be hosting the BEALEADER podcast for our audience as well.
Jennifer Olney
Jennifer Olney
Jennifer Olney

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  • November 5, 2013


    Hi Jennifer,
    Power points Power, true power that is, flows to the detached, confident person who never uses force to coerce. Powerful people are non-resistant. This crowd lets go any need to control to become that much more attractive.
    Thanks for sharing!

  • November 5, 2013

    Jen Olney

    RyanKBiddulph Thanks, Ryan. Confident power never forces itself on others – very good point.  Once a leader assumes their power is to control others that is where I think the wheels come off their bus. Power doesn’t give you the right to command and control others. It gives you the ability to lead and make things happens through the influence you have with others.