Monday, 6 June 2011

School Leadership and Power

As a leader, what type of power do you exercise: coercive, utility, or legitimate?

Power can be defined as having great influence and control over others.  Leaders gains it through positional authority and/or by earning respect and developing a following.  Regardless of how leaders gain power, they must use it appropriately and morally.  If they fall in love with the idea of power, they may end up taking actions that are in the interest of retaining their power, not in meeting their mission.

Stephen Covey (1990) identified three different types of power used by leaders.  When a leader uses coercive power, follower follow because they are afraid.  They will either be punished in some way or lose something if they fail to do what the leader wants.  For example, too often we see education leaders use accountability for student learning as a threat instead of as an opportunity to work together to solve problems.  When a leader relies on utility power, followers follow because of the benefits they will receive if they comply.  This model sees the leader-follower relationship as transactional - they follower will do something for some reward (for example, paycheck, bonus, or recognition).  This type of power is the most commonly used in organizations.  The third type of power - legitimate power - is focused on building commitment and trust.  Followers follow because they believe in the leaders, trust them, and want to achieve the same purpose.  This is the type of power that is the strongest and most effective.

From:  Leading Every Day by Joyce Kaser, Susan Mundry, Katherine E. Stiles, & Susan Loucks-Horsley
Published by: Corwin Press

1 comment:

  1. I'm really uncomfortable with the whole idea of the exercise of power; I prefer to think of it as influence. I think we are most effective as leaders when we can enlist others in our vision and make space in the vision for their contributions and shaping. My favourite quotation about this is from the Little Prince and on my email signature: "If you want to build a ship, don't drum up people to collect wood and don't assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea."
    ~ Antoine de Saint-Exupery
    This idea honours everyone's contribution and commitment to a shared vision.