Many people dream about being at the top, having a team to train, being in charge, having control over others, supervising somebody else’s work and making decisions. But if you don’t ask yourself this question first, you will risk losing your position (and your salary) surprisingly quickly.

There are two ways of being a leader, one is through power and the other one is through authority.

Power comes from your position. It comes from having your name on the door, a plaque on your desk. It comes from being the son or the daughter of the owner. It comes from your last name.
Mind you, these are not negative prerequisites. But too many people think they are enough to guarantee the right to have a say and be relevant.

People who base their leadership exclusively on power usually believe that employees should listen, obey, comply and execute automatically. They think that because the company profile says that they are the CEO and their headshot is on the front page of the Company magazine, leading and supervising is a divine right.

The bad news come when they realize that there is no real leadership without authority. And authority comes from competence and expertise. It comes from internal factors, and your last name or formal position is only an external factor. Authority comes from living up to your position by possessing actual skills.

Leading by authority produces RESPECT, leading by power produces RESENTMENT.

Without expertise and skills, you will have to resort to bullying the people below you into doing what you want them to do for you. And even if you are the CEO or the CFO or a hold a very high position, you will never be able to win the battle against bullied and resentful employees. It is simply impossible to lead and manage a team of people who might fear you but don’t recognize your value as a leader. That fear will force them to obey you for some time, but these kinds of employees are time-ticking bombs who might explode when you least expect it.

A true leader leads by example, not by cracking the whip. Barking out orders is a short-term strategy that will end up destroying the relationship with the people working for you and, ultimately, it will make you utterly incapable of getting anything done, because overpowering and humiliating will only bring about their inner desire to sabotage you and your company.

If you only crave power, power is exactly what you are going to lose, because no-one will execute the orders of someone who is not competent, someone who looks and acts insecure, and who clearly has no idea of what should be done. Arrogance is never acceptable, but you can get away with it if you are good at what you do. Arrogance and incompetence? No-one will let you get away with that. Ever.

Ruling by power is the easiest choice, but it is a very dangerous temptation. If you inherited a company, or if you are in charge because of your connections, make sure you update your skills, take courses and build that competence and expertise that will give you a TRUE right to sit at that desk. Otherwise, every day at work will be a living hell. Literally.