There are two kinds of power, writes Warren Bennis. There's "positional power," which is the kind of power that organizations confer on their leaders. And there's "personal power," which he defines as "influence based on voice."
Bennis was the long-time president at the University of Cincinnati, and he's quoted in a recent issue of Inside Higher Ed by Diana Chapman Walsh, who retired three years ago as head of Wellesley College. Walsh reflects that she learned to find her personal power by painstaking navigation through the challenges of presidential leadership.
"I knew I would have to make changes to survive in the job for any length of time," she writes.
And I knew one of the biggest changes I had to make, and fast, was to pull back from managing details so that I could begin to live into the wider arc of my role. . . . I would have to sacrifice the pleasure I had always taken in a certain kind of mastery -- the sense of intellectual integrity that came with delving deeply into an issue, ferreting about in the nuance and building a larger synthesis inductively from the data. I would have to claim the freedom not to have all the answers.
This is a hard lesson for competent people. And yet perhaps competent people are those who can exercise leadership without having the answer to every challenge.
Walsh's brief article on this topic is well worth reading. Find it here.
Thanks to Jon Hooten for pointing me to this article.