An older and antiquated understanding of leadership considers leadership as involving what the leader does TO those he or she is leading. Probably more people believe that leading is about what one does to people, rather than what one does with people. The extension of this thinking is that leadership is about power.

The truth is that this outdated concept of leadership is based on an illusion, because power is something that is "given" to leadership by followers, not something that exists without the consent of those being lead. In other words the power of leaders is much more limited and illusory than it appears.

When followers refuse to recognize or care about the power a leader wields, the power disappears.

The implication of this is that the relationship of leader to follower is one of partners, and that effective leaders recognize they need to cooperation of followers to be successful. That doesn't necessarily mean that the use of power must be eliminated. It does mean that leaders recognize that they must lead and work with staff, rather than do things to them.

Leadership As A Partnership