“What Will You Do When The Leader Is Powerless” – Negotiation Insight

“A leader is as powerful as his followers allow him to be.” -Greg Williams, The Master Negotiator & Body Language Expert (Click to Tweet)

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“What Will You Do When The Leader Is Powerless”

People don’t realize; they’re always negotiating.

Leaders possess power because others give it to them. And the power of a leader is continuously shifting, which makes the dynamics of a leader’s power something to note. While the shifts may occur over an extended time, if you observe the flow of its direction, you can insulate yourself from being on the wrong side of a leader’s waning power.

No matter what your title or function is, you’re a leader in some capacity. And that’s why you should be concerned about the flow of power below and above you. Those shifts impact the impact you have. Question – why might you not want to be on the side of a leader that’s losing influence, which is what power is? Answer – your power can decline when you’re associated with someone that’s losing his control.

The ensuing are insights about the sources of power and influence. You’ll also discover how to protect yourself when it stems from a more significant source, along with what you might consider when power is shifting.   

Leadership Style

It’s essential to observe the style of a leader. It lends credence to what he promotes, why he commits specific actions, and what activities and causes he may engage. For this purpose, I sort leaders into two categories.

  • Selfish

Self-interest is a perspective that all leaders share. The difference between some is good leaders balance self-interest against the needs of their followers. But exceptional leaders put the interest of their followers ahead of their own.

One way to assess a leader’s style is to note when he places the interest of others above his own. Conversely, if you observe an increasing trend towards his self-interest, that might be your sign to disassociate from him – his followers will eventually do so. At worse, you should become more alert to the length of time a leader’s downward trend continues. Your fortunes and future will depend on the time you’re connected to him.

  • Selfless

A genuine selfless leader tends to be more appreciated by his followers. And, when given the choice of whom to follow, all things equal, this style is what most people will embrace. Accordingly, if you attach yourself to this leadership style, you’re more likely to attract a more profound following. Then, when the leader becomes powerless, depending on the situation, you’ll be more likely to step up, or into the leadership void.  

Power Sources

It’s good to know the origins of a leader’s power. Once you’ve identified it, you can observe when that leader’s influence may expire.

  • Temporary Power

With temporary power, a leader can be in an ‘acting’ or trial bases position. No matter how long his supremacy lasts, in the overall scheme of time, all power sources are temporary. Therefore, when calculating the probability of a leader losing power, consider what he’s currently doing with it, and how people are responding. While addressing a leader that possesses temporary power can be beneficial to your cause, staying connected too long can become detrimental to your longterm goals.  

  • Positional Power

A leader’s positional power stems from current circumstances and environments. Thus, his influence can constantly shift, based on changing conditions. And that may expose him to becoming powerless sooner than later. Consequently, some people may forego extending their loyalty to him.

While you can lend support to a leader that has positional power, you should consider how long he’ll have his status, what he’ll do when his power is gone, and who’ll assume the leadership mantle when it occurs. While connected to one leader, always keep an eye out for the one rising on the horizon. The latter will be the future, and since the future will become the present, you can gain more power by helping a future leader amass more authority today.

Protecting Power

  • Manage Expectations

Regardless of a leader’s power, he should always manage the expectations of how he’ll use it. If he doesn’t, others will set the expectations for him. If their expectations are overblown, the leader has a problem. The question then becomes, when will it occur, and how will he deal with it? That could create an opportunity for you if you’re savvy enough to warn him and then protect him from potential blowback. That should ingratiate him to you, which can serve as your top power source for the time being.

  • Observe Sources Of Power

You can gain insight when it’s time to untie bonds with a specific leader, based on how he conducts himself, and with whom he’s attracting as his followers. Since the dynamics of a leader’s power is dependent on his followers, when that base begins to decline due to his ill deeds, that might be your signal to unaffiliate with him. Otherwise, you may fall as he descends.  

Leader’s Associates

  • Associate’s Goals

Understanding the goals of the leader’s associates’ will inform you of what they seek from him. That will allow you to gauge how long associates might follow that leader before disassociating. And that’ll be your tripwire as to when you might take action.

  • Controlling Your Power

Your power lies within the sources of a leader’s associates. Therefore, if you can impact a leader’s followers, you can have a degree of influence upon the leader. To maximize your efforts, stay close to the leader’s associates, but distant enough to avoid negativity once the leader’s power begins to wane. To do that, keep your ears and eyes open for a changing tide to ensure you’re not swept away by it.


Everyone should be concerned about the leader with whom they give power. Even when it’s a close friend or associate, when you give someone power, you provide them with dominion over you. That impacts your life. Because that person will influence the way you think and your opportunities.

Thus, to the question of what will you do when the leader’s powerless, observe when the leader is losing power and break when appropriate. That’s not to say, desert a leader because he no longer has influence. It’s to state when a leader engages in dastardly deeds, and he’s a negative weight on your success, consider lifting your anchor. That will allow you to find a better leader. And everything will be right with the world.   

Remember, you’re always negotiating!

Listen to Greg’s podcast at https://anchor.fm/themasternegotiator

After reading this article, what are you thinking? I’d like to know. Reach me at Greg@TheMasterNegotiator.com

To receive Greg’s free “Negotiation Tip of the Week” and the “Negotiation Insight” click here https://www.themasternegotiator.com/greg-williams/

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