Why Leaders Must Avoid the Unilateral Power Play

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This month I am traveling in Asia with Bill Hybels, who is coaching leaders in 7 different cities. During our stop in Manila, the Philippines, a question was raised during a question and answer forum that prompted Bill to respond with another huge leadership principle.

“I know that, as a leader, I need to build consensus. But sometimes I feel like I just need to declare a decision. Is it ever ok to do that?”

That was a question asked to Bill Hybels at a coaching event this week in Manila, the Philippines.

For some, Bill’s answer was a game-changer.

“Every time you make a unilateral leadership power play, you cash in some trust chips.” Bill said with great emphasis.

Bill went on to unpack the deeper leadership truths.

“If you have positional power and authority, you have the right to simply make the call. You can bypass the messiness of aligning people around a vision, or building consensus and so on. And if you do this consistently you will pay a price.

And the price you will pay is the erosion of trust.”

Was Bill saying that it is never appropriate for a leader to simply “make the call”?

Not at all. There are those occasions when the leader must step up and simply declare a decision.

However he was pointing out the leadership truth that you need to be very careful about how often you make a unilateral power play.

When Bill was making this point, I quickly jotted across my page these 5 problems leaders create when they make a unilateral power play too often.

1.  Your team will wonder if their contributions matter, or will you simply make the call regardless of their input.

2.  Your team will begin to doubt their own effectiveness.

3.  You will create unhealthy distance between you and your team.

4.  You will create a culture of followers instead of leaders.

 5. You will slow the pace of productivity. If you have to make all the decisions, you will create a production bottleneck.

Leadership requires the ability to make decisions.

But as Bill reminded these leaders in Manila, a little too much decision-making can get in the way of some big-picture team-building.

How do you keep from making too many unilateral power plays?


the author

Scott Cochrane

Lifelong learner, practitioner and coach of leadership, across more than 50 countries. Follower of Jesus, husband of Nora, grateful parent and grandparent.

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