This is the 13th of a series of newsletters published on Business Management and Management Skills. Not all topics will apply to your business, but each section will be beneficial to establish company goals and objectives. By reading and studying these newsletter articles, you’re taking the first step in achieving your goals.

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Creative tension is the primary source from which effective leaders derive their power. One can compare creative tension to a bow and arrow. The bow is nonfunctional as a weapon until tension is applied. When the arrow is placed on the string and pulled, it increases the tension. The potential power of the weapon is then developed. Therefore, the power and effectiveness of the arrow lies in the tension exerted in the bow.

Leaders throughout history derived their influence and power through creative tension, not tension as in destructive stress, but tension as in potential energy - energy to achieve, to accomplish. This creative tension, unique to each leader, exists between love and fear, position power and personal power, success and effectiveness, and the current and the possible. To achieve, we must begin from the current conditions we face today if we are to ever achieve the possible future we hold only in our mental vision.

One form of creative tension exists between the use of love and fear as one leads. Leaders who use only fear to motivate their employees will find that it leads to hostility, retaliation and other negative feelings among staff members. Leaders who motivate totally out of love will also be ineffective. A balance must be found. It’s best to love one’s employees, but use discipline, authority or fear when handling them as the specifics of the situation dictates. Always let your employees feel that you have genuine care and concern about their well being, but that you have the final responsibility for success and failure of the company.

Power in the leadership position can be derived from personal power or position power or a combination of the two. Individuals who are able to derive their power from the loyalty and support of their employees have personal power. Those who are able to induce employees to do a certain job because of their position have position power. Position power stems primarily from the following two sources:

Reward influences are positive rewards the employee believes the employer can provide, and
Coercive influence is the employee’s perception that some type of negative response will follow if they don’t comply with the aims of the employer.

Personal power stems from the following sources:

Legitimate influence is the employer’s inherent right to lead,
Reverent influence is the respect employer’s receive because of past accomplishments, and usually strengthens over time, and
Expert influence describes how well employer’s “know their stuff.”

Another aspect of creative tension is the balance between success and effectiveness. Success denotes actual performance while effectiveness describes the internal satisfaction of an individual employee. For example, if you promote a field employee to a supervisory position and the employee does well, the promotion was successful, but if the employee is not satisfied with the new position, the promotion may prove ineffective and possibly detrimental in the long run.

A good leader must constantly be in the process of trying to be successful (external) and effective (internal). To balance these two factors, keep in mind one important principle - A good leader must bring together the goals of the employer, employees and the entire organization.

Balance the five sources of power in a way you’re most comfortable with. Build and develop the sources of power that can work best for you. With time and experience, you’ll become more knowledgeable and quickly be able to make decisions that are beneficial for your entire organization.

Mike Holt’s Comment: This newsletter article was extracted from Mike Holt’s Business Management and Management Skills’ Workbook. Watch for our next newsletter, and as always, we invite your comments and feedback. Send us your real-life experiences. We value your opinions and participation. Please respond to Barbara at And… be sure to visit Mike Holt’s Web site at

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