This post was originally published on OPEN Forum.
Power comes in many different forms, and leaders need to learn how to handle each type.
“Power tends to get to people’s heads,” psychologist Nicole Lipkin tells Business Insider. “We’re not really trained to handle power well.”
Lipkin discusses the different types of power in her new book, “What Keeps Leaders Up At Night.” Her analysis uses the five types of power introduced by psychologists John French and Bertram Raven in 1959, along with two types that were introduced later.
Legitimate Power is where a person in a higher position has control over people in a lower position in an organisation.
“If you have this power, it’s essential that you understand that this power was given to you (and can be taken away), so don’t abuse it.” Lipkin says. “If Diane rises to the position of CEO and her employees believe she deserves this position, they will respond favourably when she exercises her legitimate power. On the other hand, if Diane rises to the position of CEO, but people don’t believe that she deserves this power, it will be a bad move for the company as a whole.”
Coercive Power is where a person leads threats and force. It is unlikely to win respect and loyalty from employees for long.
“There is not a time of day when you should use it,” Lipkin tells us. “Ultimately, you can’t build credibility with coercive influence — you can think of it like bullying in the workplace.”
Expert Power is the perception that one possesses superior skills or knowledge.
“If Diane holds an MBA and a PhD in statistical analysis, her colleagues and reports are more inclined to accede to her expertise,” Lipkin says.
In order to keep 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.
For example, a project manager may have all the information for a specific project, and that will give her “informational power.” But it’s hard for a person to keep this power for long, and eventually this information will be released. This should not be a long-term strategy.
Reward Power is where a person motivates others by offering raises, promotions, and awards.
“When you start talking financial livelihood, power takes on a whole new meaning,” Lipkin says. For example, “both Diane and Bob hold a certain amount of reward power if they administer performance reviews that determine raises and bonuses for their people.”
Connection Power is where a person attains influence by gaining favour or simply acquaintance with a powerful person. This power is all about networking.
“If I have a connection with someone that you want to get to, that’s going to give me power. That’s politics in a way,” Lipkin says. “People employing this power build important coalitions with others … Diane’s natural ability to forge such connections with individuals and assemble them into coalitions gives her strong connection power.”
Referent Power is the ability to convey a sense of personal acceptance or approval. It is held by people with charisma, integrity, and other positive qualities. It is the most valuable type of power.
“TPeople with high referent power can highly influence anyone who admires and respects them,” Lipkin says.
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