A lesson I have learned about leadership and power

In 1985 I applied for a job with BHT. I did that job for a couple of years and thoroughly enjoyed it. Since then I have applied successfully for two other posts within the organisation. In 1987 I became manager of our alcohol, drug and mental health services, and then in 2003 I was appointed as chief executive.

I think I am incredibly lucky to have worked for BHT for almost 30 years. But for the last twelve years I can hardly describe what I do as a job. It is an obsession, a vocation, a passion, but not a job. There are many things that are great about doing what I do: the changes we bring about in people’s lives; my colleagues on the staff and on the Board; ideas being turned into practice; and being paid for doing it all.

There are, of course, some things I don’t enjoy, but they are few and far apart. Hardly a day goes by when I am not motivated, enthused, energised by things going on around me. I cannot imagine feeling bored. I just wish there was more time to do more stuff.

One of the greatest lessons I have learned about having the position of leadership that I have or any leader has, is the need for others to achieve your vision. The traditional sociological view of power is that people want power so that they can do things. The reality is that the best we can hope for is that we can get people to do things. Some try to achieve things through naked application of power, but it rarely works. How many a politician has failed by believing that merely expecting, demanding, insisting that something happens that it will happen and that it will work.

The role of a leader is to align, inspire and motivate others. But on our own we can achieve little.


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