On Sunday, I attended our local church for the Remembrance Day service on the Centenary of the Armistice. Remembering and honouring those who made this sacrifice is poignant and moving – no matter what your religious persuasion.
During the course of the service, the congregation sang a hymn by Ally Barrett – ‘Hope For The World’s Despair’. One lyric of this hymn really resonated with me and I have been reflecting on it ever since.
The lyric, ‘Inspire the way we spend our power’, struck more than a musical chord with me.
The notion that power is capital and that it therefore has a value that can be spent is interesting from a leadership perspective. As we go about our lives as leaders, we each hold a certain amount of power. Power comes in many guises – some of it imbued on us by the role and positions of authority that we occupy . Some of it is created by us, through our behaviours and our skill in influencing the debate.
For some of us, our power is closely linked to an ability to command, to control and sometimes to intimidate. At its worst, this power comes from the culture of fear that we create around ourselves (think ‘stick’ style leaders). For others, the power is in our ability to empathise, collaborate, connect, de-conflict, debate and construct.
In each case, power is a capital resource and a responsibility that we as leaders have a choice in how to spend. Do we spend it empowering others to perform well? Do we spend it on achieving clearly articulated, shared organisational goals? Do we spend it on creating the space for creative and challenging thinking that helps the business grow and perform even better? Or do we spend it on short term, self defensive, face saving measures that serve an individual agenda?
Considering power as capital, as part of our business budget is an interesting idea for me. If I have a million pounds to spend on a technical solution to improve comms across my organisation, I want to use that capital really carefully. I want a serious return on my investment and I won’t be spending that money without some clear measures in place by which to monitor that return. I want the investment to result in the very best solution for the organisation – I’m aware I have a responsibility to spend that budget carefully, to consider risks and some of the unintended consequences of my spending it in a particular way.
The same is true of spending our interpersonal power. Maybe we should be investing as much rigour in considering how we wield that power as we do in how we spend our IT budget. Maybe the right investments at the right point in time will pay dividends in the long term. Maybe, being as smart with the our power spend as we are with our pounds and pence can see even greater returns than we thought possible on the bottom line.