Cultural Power Vs. REAL Leadership: Whose Side Are YOU On?

Kimberly Alyn focuses on the need of new recruits for strong leadership models and outstanding training.Be prepared for a new generation that will be entering the fire service in the next five to 10 years. This generation is inundated with music, movies...


Kimberly Alyn focuses on the need of new recruits for strong leadership models and outstanding training. Be prepared for a new generation that will be entering the fire service in the next five to 10 years. This generation is inundated with music, movies and television that all send mixed...


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Kimberly Alyn focuses on the need of new recruits for strong leadership models and outstanding training.

Be prepared for a new generation that will be entering the fire service in the next five to 10 years. This generation is inundated with music, movies and television that all send mixed messages about what it means to gain power and position. New recruits need strong leadership models, outstanding training and the real truth about leadership if they ever hope to emerge as effective leaders.

Robert Greene wrote a book called 48 Laws of Power. This book has made it to best-seller status, is huge in the hip-hop industry and is making its way into mainstream. In his book, Greene outlines the "laws" of increasing your power in life. I call these "Temporary Power Principles" because while they do increase your power in the short run, they will short-circuit your effectiveness as a real leader in the long run. Unfortunately, these Temporary Power Principles are gaining momentum in our increasingly self-centered society.

The truth is if you embrace and apply the laws in Greene's book, you will gain power. But it's the kind of power that breeds hate and mistrust. It's the kind of power that makes people want to bow to your power and position while in your presence and undermine your authority when you are not around. It's the kind of power that creates a cult-like following, but eventually blows up in your face. It's the kind of power many supervisors use in the fire service as well as many other organizations across the United States.

Below are just five of the 48 Laws of Power (or more accurately titled the Temporary Power Principles) that are perpetuated by this book with my corresponding "Real Leadership Principles."

Temporary Power Principle 1: Conceal Your Intentions

The idea here is to keep people wondering about your intentions, your vision and where you plan to take your followers. This helps cultivate an atmosphere of fear where people will feel more dependent upon you. This concept, in theory, gives the leader the upper hand as no one can prepare themselves for what the leader might choose to do next if the leader doesn't tell anyone.

The Real Leadership Principle: Reveal Your Intentions

When you are open and honest with people, they feel safe. When you hoard information, people feel unsure of themselves and what they should be doing. By creating a free flow of information, followers feel empowered to do their jobs and do it right! Real leaders let people know what their intentions are. This creates trust, and trust is imperative with real leadership. If you conceal your intentions, you risk breaking trust. An old Chinese proverb helps explain why that's dangerous: "Trust, like fine china, once broken can be repaired, but it is never quite the same." When you break trust with followers, it takes a very long time to rebuild that trust, and often times things are never quite the same.

Temporary Power Principle 2: Get Others to Do the Work for You, But Always Take the Credit

This law convinces people of the need to be in the spotlight. The idea is to get others to get all of the work done, but your name should be all over it. You will increase your power and position by taking credit for things you didn't actually do. Once the person manipulates others to accomplish the tasks, when it comes time for glory, the leader takes it. People who practice this principle are usually first to throw blame on the followers who did the work if something goes wrong.

The Real Leadership Principle: Share in the Work, Accept Blame and Give Away Credit

Real leaders understand the need to build competent teams. To do that, you need to share in the work as a leader. Real leaders will actually accept blame for team failures (since they are the one leading the team), and they will give away credit for team successes (since it really takes the whole team to succeed). By empowering others to succeed, you will succeed as well. When you make others look good, you look good.

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