Power dynamics of the boss

A series about the basics of management and more


This topic is related to the "elephant in the room phenomenon," where obvious facts and realities are in plain sight, sound and consciousness, yet the elephant is not acknowledged or addressed. This impotent action of placing important, even critical issues "under the table" - versus "on the table" - is often related to the power dynamics of the boss, owner, manager and/or leader.

The boss, no matter what specific role they hold, usually has the authority to make decisions that determine membership. They can hire or fire. Frequently, it is that power dynamic that instills fear. And that fear easily quiets, discourages and shuts down full participation of many, most or all of the membership. Recall and consider the meetings and gatherings you have attended where you know very well that you and others have not acknowledged or expressed things or participated fully because of such power dynamics.

This power issue goes to the heart of many values, including truth, honesty, equality and worth. It is a management basic that needs to be acknowledged and addressed at home, work, in our community and within our United States government. Sometimes, along with power, there is a piggyback, manipulative ploy labeled as loyalty with the unstated agreement of "I'll scratch your back if you scratch mine." This manipulative ploy is often of the flavor of protective loyalty, which is an example of a negative value.

This management basic is not easy to address, but it is easy to understand. It is about fear, dignity, power and greed. This is an important topic to ponder and then create ways to deal with it in all contexts, entities and organizations.

One source of insight is the book by Robert Greenleaf titled "Servant Leadership." Greenleaf includes the concept of, "first among equals." This idea is well worth serious study. "It is a form [of leadership] where the principal leader is primus inter pares - first among equals," Greenleaf writes. "There is still a 'first,' a leader, but that leader is not the chief. The difference may appear to be subtle, but it is important that the primus constantly test and prove that [kind of] leadership among a group of able peers. This principle is more difficult to find in practice, but it does exist in important places - with conspicuous success."

Greenleaf's intention and ultimate point in the book is that a primary value in life and work is "being a servant."

What do you see as the foundation of management? Is it about having power over someone or about being a servant?

As we observe and experience the power dynamics of the "boss" at work or anywhere, may we have the courage and conviction to recognize those power dynamics and stand up and raise questions regarding dignity, equality and the value of all people as individuals and a team, upholding and serving all humanity.

Linnartz - of Empowerment Experts - is a consultant, coach and facilitator of individuals, teams, families and organizations. Comments, questions and suggested topics are welcome. Call (575) 770-4712 or email bernie356@me.com.