THE BLOG
09/03/2014 05:37 pm ET Updated Nov 03, 2014

Using Your Superpowers for Good, Not Evil: Positional Power vs. Personal Power

"Govern yourselves with love, kindness, and service to others." -- Wonder Woman

Ok, so I am not Wonder Woman. However, if there's one thing I've learned over the years, it is that you will only win the battle when your employees want you to. You do this through unpretentious influence -- not by the perceived power you wield in your position.

Great leaders exercise power by virtue of their passion and who they are. In short, this motivates associates to do their best work, offering leaders some measure of power through the empowerment of their people.

Although it is a given and is understood by all that to some extent a leader has a position of authority attributable to being "the boss," it is possible to be a bona fide leader, whether or not you are in a position of power. This is true personal power. It is a genuine power that is given willingly to leaders by their "followers" that does not come through organizational charts.

A leader who relies on personal power instead of positional power can persuade and galvanize others, sharing good ideas with them. They possess the ability to make things happen by encouraging and inspiring others and acting as a catalyst for change.

Positional Power vs. Personal Power: Positional power comes by the very nature of your title. It is understood by all and never needs to be stated. Throwing your title around or operating as if nothing else matters but your position ("I am leading this organization, so you have to listen to me.") will definitely come back to haunt you.

Personal power is reflected in the way you "show up" and treat your employees and customers. It is about building relationships that result in authentic engagement.

How you lead your team, how you treat people, has everything to do with personal power. Read on for six ways to use your personal power for good, taken from classic superhero tales.

1. "He was the student whom I taught the least, yet who taught me the most." -- Professor X

To be a great leader, you must be teachable. This is achieved through active listening--not just hearing--but truly listening.

2. X-ray Vision. -- a Superman superpower

Take great care to "see" what's going on outside your own four walls and show genuine concern for your employees -- the whole person, including their life outside of work.

3. "Heroes are made by the paths they choose, not by the powers they are graced with." -- Ironman

You are only as powerful as your people. Show appreciation for your employees by providing positive feedback, asking for their input and involving them in your pivotal decisions. This builds self-esteem and ultimately, loyalty.

4. "It's not who I am underneath...but what I do that defines me." -- Batman

Model the way. This means if you want your employees to care, show enthusiasm and appreciation, you must behave in the same manner.

5. The "Lasso of Truth." -- a Wonder Woman superpower

Be authentic and honest. When you are not at liberty to reveal something, explain why.

6. "The training is nothing, the will is everything." -- Henri Ducard, Batman Begins

Don't try too hard. If you work hard to gain acceptance and expand your influence, you likely won't. If, instead, you work harder at being yourself, telling the truth and investing in others you'll earn the ultimate superpower -- respect.

The original version of this article first appeared on
Inc.com