“Power…can be intriguing, because power can be surprisingly complex. It can be enticing because power can be seductive. But it can inspire and uplift and exalt because power can be used to help people accomplish marvellous things.” – Blaine Lee, The Power Principle: Influence with Honor.
People often think about power in negative terms. Your feelings about power are a result of how you see others use power, how power has been used with you and how you use it yourself. You might associate power with force but it is actually more complex than it appears.
Power in itself is not a good or bad thing – it’s neutral. Think of power as the ability to get things done, the capacity to act or the ability to influence what will happen. You cannot translate a vision into reality without some type of power.
Power can be either positively or negatively charged. The way leaders use power reflects their leadership values. Some people try to have power over others and give power to its negative connotations. Such power includes threats, demand or bribes to motivate people to do what you want. Power over is based on fear.
Other people have power with people. This is power in a positive sense. When you have power with people, you show them respect and offer them choices. People then feel empowered – significant, challenged and stimulated to make things happen along with you because respect is mutual.
Ten Sources of Power
- Positional power – you are in a position of authority that has been endorsed by a group.
- Personal power – you are deeply committed to a personal vision that serves to inspire others.
- Reward power – you can provide something others want or value – perhaps as simple as a smile or expression of thanks.
- Coercive power – you achieve compliance through arousing fear and guilt in others.
- Enabling power – you influence others to make good choices and facilitate conflict resolution.
- Expert power – you have expertise in an area that others depend on to achieve their goals.
- Information power – you have access to current information that others value.
- Resource power – you have access to resources – human, financial, technical and educational.
- Associative power – you have connections and relationships with many people; you build networks, alliances and partnerships.
- Naming power – you are able to identify what is important to a group and can express it in a clear and compelling way.
*you likely have power in several of these categories
Getting Things Done
To get things done, you do need other people and you need to work together. Knowing that you have abilities to affect others and to make things happen the way you want gives you the strength to move towards your goal. And drawing out the skills of those around you is a way of harnessing positive power to move your goal forward.
Identify those people in your community, network or organization who offer the various kinds of power you need: e.g, someone who knows people you need access to, someone who can talk clearly about issues, someone who can identify issues that will interest the media.
Enlist and work with these people to create a plan of action that begins to move in a mutually agreed-upon direction of positive change.
Being aware of the opportunities and limitations each type of power brings will help you choose the forms of power you will use or enlist as a leader. Clear leadership values enable you to use your power in an ethical, effective and caring manner.