The Tension Between Power and Leadership

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A little bit of power can go to your head.

Give some people a uniform, a title, or a little bit of authority and they can become a little overbearing and overzealous (the movie Mall Cop comes to mind).

People often confuse power and leadership.

I get it. By perception, leaders have all the power and leaders often misuse power. But, it is extremely important to note that leadership and power are not the same thing.

Here are 4 things that I’ve learned about power:

1. Power Doesn’t Make You a Leader

Just because someone has a little bit of power does not mean they’re a leader. They may have a title, the authority to tell others what to do, or even decision-making responsibility. But, that does not qualify them as a leader. I’m sure we’ve all had experiences with small-minded people who throw around their power and authority in a manner that repels everyone around them. No one is motivated or compelled to follow someone of that nature. That’s because they’re not a leader.

2. Power Reveals Character

I’ve heard people say that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. I don’t buy that. Rather, I subscribe to the idea that power simply reveals the character of the person wielding it. Regardless of the amount of power you have, it is what you do with the power that is a reflection of the who you are.

3. Power is a Tool

Power is simply a tool – nothing more, nothing less. Some use this tool well, others not so much. It can be used to build up or tear down. It can be used to serve others or serve yourself. With it, you have the ability to empower others or be suppress others through control.

4. Power is a Last Resort

Making a power play to get people to follow you should always be a last resort. While statements like, “I’m your boss,” “I’m your parent,” and “because I said so” may work from time to time, they don’t endear followers to you.


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About Author

Paul is a Ministry Consultant with The Unstuck Group. Paul has more than 20 years experience serving in the local church, the last 15 of which have been on the Sr. Leadership Teams of some of the nation’s leading mega-churches. Currently, Paul is serving as the Executive Pastor at Sun Valley Community Church, a large multi-site church located in the Phoenix area.

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