A key area where management and leadership can differ significantly is in the use of power. It would be useful therefore at this stage to consider what ‘power’ means in an organisational sense and how it can be used productively and ethically.
Organisations need power to function well. Power influences the behaviour and attitudes of others and is an important contributor to change leadership and dealing with resistance. People need power to get their jobs done and to meet objectives. However, power is often confused with responsibility. Individuals may be given responsibility for a task but are not given the power and authority needed to execute that task.
An appreciation of how power operates in workplaces in general – and how it is applied in your workplace in particular – is essential for managing day-to-day as well as for leading change effectively. It is not intended to go too deeply into this area but to give you an overview of the types of power that have been identified in research carried out in recent years.
Power comes in many different forms, and leaders can benefit from being aware of and learn how to handle each type. However, power in any form should never be abused!
Five types of power were introduced by psychologists John French and Bertram Raven in 1959, along with two types that were introduced later.
Legitimate Power is generally where a person in a higher position has control over individuals in a lower position in an organisation. It is important to understand that this power is given (and can be taken away), so do not abuse it. It is also important to understand how other people might perceive the giving of legitimate power.
If it is believed by others that the individual who has been given that power, proves through their actions that they are deserving of it, they will respond favorably when that legitimate power is exercised. If they don’t believe they are deserving of it, they may resist or merely comply.
Coercive Power is where a person strives for conformity through threats and force. It is unlikely to win respect and loyalty from employees. A leader can’t build credibility with coercive influence. In reality it is a form of bullying.
Expert Power is the perception that an individual possesses superior skills or knowledge. They are credited with having unique expertise within the organisation and they are respected for that expertise. In order for them to sustain their status and influence, however, experts need to continue learning and improving.
Informational Power is where a person possesses needed or wanted information. This is a short-term power that doesn’t necessarily influence or build credibility. It can be damaging and frustrating when people deliberately do not share information.
Reward Power is where a person can influence the actions of others by being able to authorize or influence decisions made about salary, promotions, and other awards. This is particularly significant where performance appraisal systems and outcomes are directly or indirectly linked to reward.
Connection Power is where a person attains influence by gaining favour with or is simply acquainted with a powerful person. This power is all about networking and for example, if you have a connection with a person that someone else needs to get to, that has the potential to give you power. “It’s not what you know but who you know!”
Referent Power is the ability to convey a sense of personal acceptance or approval. It is held by people perceived to have charisma, integrity, and other positive qualities. It is deemed by many to be most valuable type of power. People with high referent power can significantly influence anyone who admires and respects them.
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What do leaders in organisations need to do to create a climate that enables Change to be effectively implemented and managed?
Please discuss your answer in the comment section below.