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The following article
was written by Coleman Patterson and
appeared in the Business section of the Abilene Reporter-News.
Leadership not limited to positions of power, November 4, 2007, 2D.
In American culture, the word
leader is used to mean many things. Many
people equate holding a position of authority with leadership. A promotion into a management position, for
example, is viewed by many as moving into a leadership position. If leader is meant to mean power,
influence, and control, then an appointment to a management position is a leadership
position. However, when the concepts of
authority, power, leadership, and management are broken down and analyzed, differences
between the concepts can be identified. Being
a team leader, for example, is not the same as being a team manager. A more thorough investigation of these topics is
needed to better understand their differences and similarities.
Leadership is a particular type of
authority relationship. Authority comes from
the power that one holds over followers or subordinates.
In some cases, authority comes from the position that one holds in an
organization, as described in the constitution or by-laws of the organization, and other
times it is willingly given to the power holder by the followers. The power gained from others arises from being
viewed as special in some way. Admiration,
respect, charisma, expertise, and other personal characteristics can all add to
perceptions of personal power and authority. Power
and authority gained from the position that one holds is termed position power
and that which is earned and gained in the minds of people is called personal
Amitai Etzioni, in his classic works on
authority, compliance, and organizations, made distinctions between what he called
officials, informal leaders, and formal leaders. He
said that those who gain their authority over others solely from the positions that they
occupy are called officials. Athletes comply
with the rulings of referees and umpires in athletic events because of the authority
vested in those positionsathletes and coaches do not comply because of personal
characteristics of the officials.
On most sports teams, there are
frequently players who arise as team leaders. They become team leaders not because of
positions that they occupy, but because they are viewed as special. Team leaders are the ones who inspire, motivate,
and guide their teams with their effort, hustle, and performance. Etzioni called those who influence others solely
through the use of personal power as informal leaders.
Formal leaders, as described by Etzioni,
are those who possess both personal and position power.
A well-respected and inspirational head coach would be a formal leader. Such a coach possesses position power and personal
power. Etzioni uses the term
leader to refer to those who possess personal poweras with an informal
team leader or a formal inspirational coach.
Promotion into a management position is
often accompanied by an increase in position power. However,
true leadership is not dependent upon positionit is related to personal power. A promotion into a new management position can
have the effect of turning an informal leader into a formal leader or adding more position
power to someone who was already a formal leader. It
can also create officials.
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