Leadership and Power


By SkyeTeam on December 22, 2015

Posted by SkyeTeam | December 22, 2015Leadership and PowerThe word power has an interesting presence in our language. It can be thought of as something strong, action oriented, or the ability to influence others and have a positive impact on others. We use language such as “I felt empowered” or “she is so powerful.” The shadow side of power is thought of as controlling, demeaning, forceful, and manipulative. We usually hear reference to people having “power over” others; “They used their power to get what they wanted.” So what is power exactly?In 1959, social psychologists John R. P. French and Bertram Raven introduced us to “The Bases of Social Power.” They shared that power is divided into five separate and distinct forms. These five power bases were expanded on by Hershey and Blanchard in their text, “Management of Organizational Behavior” (1982) in which they added two more bases of power that are relevant to this discussion. Power can be defined as “the leader’s influence potential” – the resources that enables a leader to induce compliance from or influence others. There are two main categories of power: Position Power and Personal Power. In part one of this blog, we will explore Position Power.Position Power can be defined as a leader’s formal position in the hierarchy. The higher your position within the organization, family system, or social systems, the more position power you may have. Along with this hierarchical position comes the ability to provide rewards and punishments. This type of power is often given to others in the form of a promotion or certain designation based on your role within society.The four types of position power include:CoerciveConnectionLegitimateRewardJust because we are given these types of power does not mean that we keep them. As leaders, every action we choose during the day will either enhance the following types of power or erode them.Every action you take will either enhance or erode your reputation – Kelly Wyngarden #quoteClick To TweetCoercive power is based on fear. A leader high in coercive power is seen as inducing compliance because failure to comply will lead to punishments such as undesirable work assignments, reprimands, or dismissals. Although many leaders claim they don’t employ this type of power, in fact it is more commonly used than people care to admit. We often think “Coercive Power” leaders yell or demean publicly, but it can also come in the form of withdrawing into silence, criticizing instead of coaching, and talking poorly of other employees. Coercive power may work in short bouts but over time, individuals subjected to coercive power begin to push back. Interestingly, using too much coercive power actually erodes most of your personal power.Connection power is based on the leader’s “connection” with influential or important persons in or outside the organization. A leader high in connection power induces compliance because others aim at gaining the favor or avoiding the disfavor of the powerful connection. This one can be tricky. There are times when we need to use our connection power with someone else by name dropping. For example, I could say, “Dan is in favor of my plan.” If Dan is a high level leader, then individuals may adopt the plan based on my association with him. My audience wouldn’t want to look bad in Dan’s eyes and name dropping creates a connection to Dan. Using name dropping and your associations appropriately will enhance your connection power. Name dropping too much or making connections with leaders who are not well respected will erode your power. I often coach individuals to be careful to not borrow too much from other leaders’ power.Legitimate power is based on the position held by the leader. The higher the position, the higher the legitimate power tends to be. A leader high in legitimate power induces compliance from or influences others because they feel this person has the right, by virtue of position at the organization, family system or social position to expect that suggestions be followed. If we as leaders step into our legitimate power then we will make decisions, address conflict, give direction, solve problems, hold people accountable, etc. If we are not skilled at being a leader and / or manager then we will erode our legitimate power no matter how high in the organization we may sit. We can see this by observing leaders who either abdicate their responsibilities to address conflict or take action as well as leaders who take credit for others success, do not listen to others, make poor decisions, etc.Reward power is based on the leader’s ability to administer things that a person wants, or to remove / decrease things they don’t. They believe compliance will lead to gaining the positive incentives such as pay, promotion, or recognition. The more legitimate power you have the more reward power you have. If leaders use this well, individuals feel seen and valued, and potentially be more productive. If you do not chose to use your reward power or your hands are tied due to your compensation system, then reward power will be eroded. Although you may not be able to give people more money, this does not mean you cannot enhance your reward power in other ways. You still have the ability to give exciting / challenging assignments, small gift cards you may purchase yourself, take people out to coffee or lunch, etc.Leaders can exert power in many ways, in both encouraging and destructive ways. In my next blog, I will discuss the elements of Personal Power: how it can work for you, and how it can be jeopardized or lost all together.I was given a wonderful quote by a participant just this week from the book Business Unusual by Price Pritchett:Your job title is just a label. “Leader” is a reputation…and you personally have to earn it. When leadership gets killed, it’s through self-inflicted wounds. The things you personally do, or don’t do, determine what caliber leader you will be. Seize the opportunity! Good advice.Related ArticlesTags »leadershipleadership development denverpower Share
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