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Using Power for Positive Influence

by Kathy Cooperman

Powerful leaders get results. Some use their power for strong positive results, while others use their power for strong negative outcomes.

According to French and Raven, social psychologists who released a well-known study in 1959, leaders draw from various sources of power to influence others.

Sources of power
Consider the sources of power available to you in your current role:

1. Legitimate power

- This is power granted to you by the organization. By having a title or position of leadership, you automatically have legitimate power over people who report to you. If you have the right to hire or fire someone, you have legitimate power over them.
- An example is having the title of “manager” as opposed to “ individual contributor.”

2. Reward power
- You have reward power if you control valued rewards in the organization. This includes both giving and withholding valued rewards.
- An example would be awarding a bonus for exceptional performance. Another example would be denying an employee’s vacation request because he/she turned down a recent overtime request.

3. Coercive power
- You have coercive power when you control punishment. Even threatening punishment is an example of coercive power. Does it work? Most of the time, yes, but only in the short term. This type of power should be used sparingly.
- An example would be threatening to fire someone or docking someone’s pay.

4. Informational power
- You have informational power when you have control of or access to valuable or much-wanted information.
- An example would be having access to who is on the layoff list coming in the next quarter.

5. Referent power
- Referent power is often called charismatic power. This is based simply on a person’s “likeability.” A leader with referent power typically has strong interpersonal skills. Other people have a desire to be with or support that leader.
- An example would be a celebrity. Celebrities are often respected and admired.

6. Expert power
- You have expert power if you have mastered a skill or possess specialized knowledge that few other people in the organization have.
- An example would be a highly specialized physician whose expertise is in high demand and short supply (scheduled months in advance).

How to choose your source of power
Which is the best for influencing others? Most leadership experts believe the two most important for leadership effectiveness are expert and referent power. Neither of the two can be taken away from you. They are not dependent on a particular role or title.

The least effective is coercive power. Use this source of power sparingly. Employees everywhere may comply when forced but will almost never commit to a task or directive when threatened with punishment.

Most leaders routinely rely on only one source of power. All six of the power bases are available to you in your leadership role. Consider carefully what your desired outcome is and draw from a rich pool of influence tools: your sources of power.

Kathy Cooperman, an executive coach and leadership expert, is the president and founder of KC Leadership Consulting LLC. For more information, contact her at kathy@kathycooperman.com, www.kathycooperman.com or 720.542.3324.
Submitted 181 days ago
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