Use Your Personal Power and Lead Where You Are

I have written before about the idea of personal power and how vital it is for effective leadership.  You see, many people believe that you must wait until you get into a position of power to be a leader.  They believe in position power over personal power.  “When I get that promotion, I’ll be a leader,” these individuals say. Rather than lead right now, in the position they are in, they delay being a leader until earning a position of power.  These people erroneously believe that they need position power to be a leader.

What some fail to understand, however, is that leadership does not magically appear when you get promoted to a more powerful position.  Leadership is all about personal power. It’s about your ability, from any position in the organization, to support others, to serve others, to motivate others.  These are things that you control by the person you are, not the position you are in.

A wonderful example of the influence of personal power comes from Nelson Mandela.  Mandela actually had little formal authority, but certainly he was an outstanding leader who motivated and united many people.  Few people realize that Nelson Mandela only served as South Africa’s president for five years. He was imprisoned for 27 years! So clearly, Mandela did not have position power, but he still influenced others with his leadership.  Using Mandela as an example in an article for Businessweek, Nicholas Pearce wrote, “Admittedly, his influence was enlarged by virtue of the presidency, but positions and titles don’t define great leaders, great leaders define and leverage the power of their positions to have a positive impact.”

Pearce summarized the position power versus personal power issue eloquently as he wrote, “The capacity to integrate, motivate, and mobilize others to bring a common aspiration to life is what leadership is all about, not holding positions of formal authority.  This simple truth gives hope to the up-and-coming millennial generation that leadership isn’t an activity relegated to the seemingly distant c-suite; good can be done at every stage of one’s career……There is unique purpose and meaning in every season of one’s life – embrace each season and lead where you are.”

This week, try to lead where you are.  Think less about the position you want and, instead, focus on being a leader today.  Inspire, motivate, and influence others by using your personal power. Lead today, from right where you are, and show others that leadership is about personal power, not position power.  Embrace each season of life and lead where you are.

Thanks for reading,


P.S. – Check out my website at and keep me in mind if you hear of any opportunities to share my thoughts on leadership.

Ways to follow Dr. Jim Earle:
Twitter – @jvearle
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