We made with Heifetz the distinction between ‘authority’ and ‘leadership’. This distinction comes close to ‘transactional’ and ‘transformational’ leadership as explained by Bass & Riggio [i]. Authority or transactional leadership is based on a negotiation and an agreement between the ‘leader’ and ‘follower’. The employee is appointed by his boss. The mayor is elected by his constituents. The teacher has the assignment to teach. Authority and transactional leadership are bounded by this agreement. Leadership is unbounded by social agreements. Leadership is voluntaristic: it’a personal choice to makes things happen.
Leadership & auhority are not an easy marriage. Leadership challenges authority, the order. But both need ‘power’. Both need influence and use different sources to influence. Which are these sources of power? Nye [ii] inspires with his theory of smart power Obama & Clinton foreign politics. He makes distinction between hard and soft power. Soft power attracts and coopts. Hard power threatens and induces. Soft power works through charisma, persuasion and giving the example. Hard power works through sticks and carrots.
Both are needed. Leadership is not only soft power. Nye quotes Jeff Immelt, CEO of GE: “There are 7 to 12 times a year when you have to say, ‘you’re doing it my way.’ If you do it 18 times, the good people will leave. If you do it 3 times, the company falls apart.’[iii] Leadership is more than using the hard power tools that ‘come with the job’. People obey to hard power, but not with their hearts and minds. As difficult times need the hearts and minds of all, soft power is more at hand.
[i] BASS, B. & RIGGIO, R. (2006). Transformational Leadership. London: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 282 p.