“Power, authority, persuasion, influence, which of these words describes your leadership?”

“Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” 
Abe Lincoln

Mr. Lincoln had the largest shoe size of any American president so far, size 14. His shoes have been hard to fill, not because of their size, but because of the size of his personal humility.

When Lincoln was killed at the Ford Theater, he had in his pocket a news clipping of the unrest in the Confederate Army. On his very last day on earth, he carried the news of his enemies close to his side.

To President Lincoln, the power of the presidency mattered, but the need for equality mattered much more. His vision of justice was a cause he thought was worth living for. However, it was the cause he and many others had to die for instead so that many others could reap the benefit.

As a leader, it is very easy to confuse power, authority, persuasion, and influence. Poor leaders exert position, power and authority over those who are powerless or fearful to disagree. Great leaders use influence and persuasion that produces admiration, respect and inspiration in those who want to follow, not because they have to follow.

Do people want to follow you because of the opportunities you provide for them to grow as a person and improve their gifts and talents? Or, do they have to follow you to maintain their position and/or paycheck?

Learning to lead by serving through persuasion and influence moves you from being a boss to being a leader. Bosses are weak pseudo-leaders who use power and positional authority to move unwilling and fearful people.

Great leaders never forget what it was like not having power and authority. Poor leaders find it hard to remember. How you are perceived by those following your leadership determines not only the quality and quantity of their efforts, but also their attitude and longevity.

Great leaders take responsibility for the energy and engagement levels of their team. Poor leaders assign blame for the lack of it to their team members who are powerless to make any significant changes because of your leadership.

The greatest leader who ever lived once said, “I didn’t come to be served, but to serve…” Mark 10:45

What words would those following you use to describe your leadership? When was the last time you asked them?