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Part 3: The Tensions of Leader as Facilitator

Power and Authority

The tension between power and authority increases when we do not understand where each comes from.

Parker J. Palmer in his classic work The Courage to Teach, exploring the inner landscape of a teacher's life, explains this so well.

"In a culture of technique, we often confuse authority with power, but the two are not the same. Power works from the outside in, but authority works from the inside out. We are mistaken when we seek authority outside ourselves, in sources ranging from the subtle skills of group process to that less than subtle method of social control called grading."

" Authority is granted to people who are perceived as authoring their own words, their own actions, their own lives, rather than playing a scripted role at great remove from their own hearts."

" Authority comes as I reclaim my identity and integrity, remembering my selfhood and my inner sense of vocation. Then teaching comes from the depths of my own truth - and the truth that is within my students has a change to respond in kind."

These quotes of Parker Palmer's are based on principles that apply to us in so many areas of life including how and why we lead the way we do.

If as leaders we seek power which comes from the outside we will be dependent on a role, a title, constant affirmation and praise to do what we do. We will lose our focus on our Mission and Values which come from the authority within. Our identity and the integrity we lead with is all a part of our character and its ongoing development throughout our lives. As we gain knowledge, experience, as we learn and better yet, we grow, we find wisdom and deeper levels of intuition developing and giving us authority. Through all of this we are invited in to be trustworthy leaders creating cultures of engagement, trust and commitment for our people to embrace.

Take some time to reflect on your leadership......would those you influence, those who follow you describe you as a leader of authority or a leader of power? Which do you want to pursue.

Parker J. Palmer, The Courage to Teach, Exploring the Inner Landscape of a Teacher's Life (San Francisco, CA: John Wiley and Sons,Inc, 1998, 2007, 2017; p 34

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