3 Power Areas for Effective Leadership

We live in a world full of tensions – positive and negative. New things are created via positive tension, and desires are used to drive developments for the benefit of humanity. But some areas of tension can also destroy us. Social divisions are visible everywhere nowadays – whether on a small or a large scale.

To deal with tensions constructively, we need conscious, energetic leadership more than ever. Not just in top management or political leadership, but among all people who take on leadership roles or actively assume leadership responsibility. Competent and excellent leadership is about establishing connections, building new bridges daily, and synthesizing arguments and counter-arguments. The challenge here is to hold back one’s ego and put oneself at the service of the cause and the guiding idea of an organization. We all know leaders who are stuck in classic roles or have been caught up in the tensions of our increasingly complex organizations. In the same way, we experience leaders who feel perfectly at ease in their role, radiate energy and empathy, and are somewhat of a “natural authority.” What makes the difference?

Leadership means “to direct the attention”. What/who does not have my conscious attention cannot be led. But such attention is a rare commodity. Since we have limited energy, time, and emotional resources these days, the question automatically arises in everyone’s mind: What is really important to me?

There are three power areas that strengthen leadership. These help leaders to focus on their positive energy, to use tensions constructively and to continuously build bridges.

First power area: How I lead myself

Even if it hurts sometimes, as a manager, I have to continuously pay attention to my own areas of tension and learn how to deal with them. Relevant questions here are: How well do I know myself? What are the patterns that drive me? How successful am I in my efforts of self-inquiry and self-reflection along the way? What do I need to maintain my curiosity, how do I keep learning about myself and life? And very importantly, what keeps me as a successful leader from falling into the narcissism trap?

To further develop “self-leadership”, every manager must find his or her own way. Typical sources to strengthen self-leadership are professional coaching, places that encourage self-awareness, good conversations with friends, meditation, or retreats where I can be myself.

Second power area: How I lead people

Good relationships don’t happen automatically. So how well do I succeed in making authentic contact with people? How empathetically can I understand the interests of different generations, cultures, and motivations without being misunderstood?

Essentially, people management is always about trust, i.e. the question of how well I succeed in establishing “psychological security” within my environment. Equally important is the resulting question of how responsibly I deal with the trust that is given. Only in a trusting atmosphere can areas of tension such as differences of interest, content-related contradictions, or emotional “relationship crises” be resolved constructively. Additionally, for authentic leadership, there are some absolute no-go’s, such as micropolitics, blaming others, or complaining along in order to be popular with others.

Leading others is also about constant development. For this, open feedback is the key element – not superficial assessments, but informed reflections on the impact of one’s own leadership style. “What behavior should I demonstrate more of? What do I need less of?” are important approaches. Questions such as “What should remain the same because it has a particularly positive effect?” also help in the ongoing adjustment of my leadership performance. Even if critical feedback is not pleasant at first and can sometimes even be hurtful, outside views are important impulses for strengthening leadership impact.

Third power area: How I lead organizations

Leaders must often master the art of juggling when leading organizations. Every day, they have to balance the competing interests of three groups: Owners are interested in a good return on their invested capital, customers want to receive top value for their money, and employees expect a well-paid and fulfilling job. Not an easy task.

Strategically, leaders are shapers of corporate development and thus also change managers. As recent as 30 years ago, Peter Senge claimed: Developments in organizations need “creative tensions”. Leadership should therefore actively bridge the gap between a powerful vision and a realistic view of the situation in order to be able to develop from it.

Modern leadership also requires a conscious approach to organizational ambidexterity. It is about the best possible management of two contradictory organizational operating systems: On the one hand, operational excellence, which is primarily about optimization and focuses on efficiency – to achieve current results. And on the other, innovation, where the top priority is to discover what’s new – to achieve future success. The fine art of leadership lies in paying the necessary attention to both operating systems and combining their logic for success. To do this, leaders need sufficient “design spaces” (time, rituals, social settings), in which one can work “on the system and not only in the system”.

Leadership is not an easy job these days. Managers will find it easier to deal with the numerous areas of tension in their day-to-day work if they can repeatedly answer the three following questions:

  • My Purpose – What do I want to achieve?
  • My Values – What beliefs are guiding me?
  • My Resilience – How do I remain agile enough to adapt to new circumstances quickly without becoming trapped by overwhelming tensions?

What answers do you have to these questions? I am happy to receive your feedback.